Kindness – XOYO, London 21/03/12

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Kindness at XOYO / Photo by Sara Amroussi-Gilissen

You’d be forgiven for thinking that the answer to the following question is ‘nothing’.  But what has Adam Bainbridge (AKA Kindness) actually been doing in the apparent downtime since the release of a few well received singles in 2009 and the March 2012 unveiling of his debut album?

On this evidence, the answer is practising.

For musicians whose music is based as much in electronica as it is in analogue instrumentation, the problem of how to translate the delicacies and good humour of one’s early recorded output in to a live setting – especially when you didn’t ever necessarily envisage performing the songs in front of an audience in the first place – has long been something with which bands far more established than Kindness have struggled (even national treasures like Hot Chip have arguably never played a gig that sounds as good as hearing ‘Over And Over’ come on over the speakers of a club with a really decent sound system).

Bainbridge had a choice; either strike whilst the iron of ’09 was hot and get his face on to a stage, or to wait a while, risk the notoriously traitorous hype machine moving on to the next Next Big Thing, and re-emerge once he and a newly put together band were definitely definitely sounding the bollocks.  Being a brave boy, he chose the latter.

And as if to prove that the universe will always allow for good things to happen to brave (or at least good looking) people, Bainbridge’s gamble paid off – this gig is, frankly, amazing from beginning to end.  And whilst the ‘amazing’ tag is one I’m happy to also ascribe to the wonderful World, You Need A Change Of Mind, I’d leave off the ‘from beginning to end’ bit.  There are tracks on it that I skip, moments of placidity that drag on just that little bit too long, and a cover of Anita Dobson’s ‘Anyone Can Fall In Love’ (aka the theme from Eastenders).  Even despite these slight missteps, it’s still the best pop record I’ve heard in years.  But tellingly, none of these missteps feature in a Kindness gig.

That means that every song here is totally superb.  Bainbridge knows it, too – so certain is he of the fact that, just as he did at his recent album launch at the Arcola Theatre Tent in Dalston, he nonchalantly chucks breakthrough number ‘Cyan’ away as the very first tune of the set, his signature cover of The Replacements’ ‘Swinging Party’ swiftly following it.  It’s becoming clear that bravery is one of the gentleman’s defining features.  Bravery, yes, but not cockiness – he’s extremely personable, laughing and joking, his face always sporting an endearing, toothy smile.  There are a few aspects to the record that might have you slightly uneasy about Kindness – the aforementioned curious moments, the slight air of ‘cooler than thou’ exuded by its straight off a fashion mag cover, or its potential to be perceived as a project that’s more style over substance.

A Kindness gig has none of these aspects to it.  A Kindness gig is a swinging party.

It’s a party swung all the more vigorously by his powerhouse of a funk band, who are often gifted the star turns by their surprisingly, lovably humble frontman.  The backing singers coming to the fore as Bainbridge hides amongst the drums as set highlight ‘That’s Alright’ becomes the greatest moment in a gig full of them, the kind of tune that Prince would have handed to The Family in a moment of madness (it’d be one of his best).

True, it would have been great to have had the years between 2009 and today filled with singles of the quality of the tear-jerking ‘Swinging Party’ and ‘Gee Up’ (which tonight condenses all good up-beat Jacko numbers in to under two minutes before mutating in to a cover of ‘Teardrops’ by Womack and Womack – yes!), but the decision to spend as much time making the live show as impressive as the songs has afforded Kindness the one thing that the hype machine can never provide – longevity.

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