review by Miriam Lamey
photos by Thana Taliep
It was a freezing Sunday night in Cambridge, MA. And the Patriots were playing. And The Scotland Yard Gospel Choir were slated to play at TT The Bear’s Place, the last stop on their East Coast Tour. The six-piece Chicago band numbered more than half the audience, but the band were so friendly and natural, it was like they were performing in someone’s living room, albeit a chilly one. “I’m not wearing this sweater and jacket to look cool,” singer Elia Einhorn announced, “It’s f-king freezing in here!” Despite the cold and the sparse but intrigued audience, ( a group that at one point went up to 20 spectators) this compelling, energetic band performed a brilliant set. It’s easy to write off Scotland Yard Gospel Choir as Belle and Sebastian sound-alikes, but really, they present a different, crunchier vibe and an exuberant, dry sense of humor that invades their indie-folk-pop music. Clearly, it’s even difficult to pigeonhole Scotland Yard Gospel Choir, and their wide-ranging set was clear proof of this.
One of the best things about The Scotland Yard Gospel Choir’s performance had to be the fact they were just so relaxed onstage. It must have been discouraging to yet again play to a small crowd, especially since they’d played with a member of The Ramones the previous night in New York, but this didn’t stop them from putting amazing effort into each song. From the gorgeous, lilting “I Never Thought I Could Feel This Way For A Boy,” a naturally relaxed track, to the more punky Britpop of “Aspidistra,” each song resonated through the venue. Elia enjoyed chatting with the audience between tunes, throwing out comments concerning their present tour, and the belly dancers performing at the Middle East next door. The venue was so empty, he noticed Thana photographing the set. “Are you doing this for Youtube?” he asked. When she shook her head no, he called everyone up to the front, saying, “We need a good picture for the press, come on!” and had everyone pose for a dramatic shot.
The band ran through an intense selection from their latest, self-titled release from Bloodshot. “Broken Front Teeth” sounded misty and introspective, with chillingly beautiful vocals and lyrics. The aching “In Hospital” seemed to capture a difficult experience, yet the band presented the track in a fairly matter-of-fact manner; they cleverly refrained from making the song seem dramatic and cheap. Then Scotland Yard Gospel Choir surprisingly changed up their style and pace with the raucous, almost angry “Tear Down The Opera House” sounding more like the Dropkick Murphys than the Beautiful South. Yet they really shoved the track in the faces of the audiences, blasting out fuzzy guitar chords, jumpy drums and cutting vocals. Somehow, they still seemed to present their “go-with-the-flow” persona and legitimately charming manner. Even though the audience was sparse, the band shone and, most importantly, let their personalities speak for themselves â€“- a vibe that extended through all their music. The Scotland Yard Gospel Choir are probably one of the most pleasantly honest bands you could hope to see live.