Mesh – Live at Neues Gewandhaus Leipzig

Posted: 21 December 2017 in Albums
Tags: , , ,

Dependent

Christopher Nosnibor

Bristol synth-pop duo Mesh are a classic example of an act underappreciated in their domestic territory but who have found a fan-base in mainland Europe and who are particularly appreciated in Germany. It may be that there’s a sense of the grass being greener, but even taking into account scale and catchment, I can’t help but feel that Germany has a better appreciation for certain strains of ‘alternative’ music. For example, can you think of anywhere else that The Sisters of Mercy still regularly headline festivals? And so it’s in this context that Mesh performed a one-off with the Philharmonie Zielona Gora to a sold-out audience at Neues Gewandhaus in Leipzig. Live at Neues Gewandhaus Leipzig is a document of the occasion, augmented with three new orchestral-based compositions

‘Just Leave Us Alone’ from 2013’s Automation Baby is the first song of the orchestral set, and it’s striking just how Depeche Mode it feels. The soulful richness of Mark Hockings’ voice is the key, but what’s equally striking is just how subtle and nuanced the arrangement is. The 65-piece orchestra contrive to build drama without at any point overstretching into extravagance.

They reach further back into to catalogue for ‘Only Better’, here led by a skipping piano and plucked strings, and the vocal harmonies work well alongside the layers of brooding theatricality, while ‘Save Everyone’ is simultaneously deep yet sparse. The fact the live orchestral show featured just five songs and ran for half an hour – and is captured in its entirety here – is admirable. So many acts, when presented with the opportunity to perform with an orchestra, will splurge, with overblown renditions and overlong performances. That Mesh keep it concise and keep a tight rein on the material, which, if anything, intensifies the effect and the emotional layers imbued therein. ‘Taken for Granted’ is the last of the live songs, and it broods through dark tension and builds to a soaring finale which utilises the dramatic and layered instrumentation to the max.

As a necessary aside, the audio quality is exceptional, and does the performance justice. Every detail is perfectly captured, as it should be. And there is a lot of detail; the songs are played with real nuance, and while the performances are powerful, there’s a palpable emotional depth that’s intrinsically linked to the subtlety and multi-dimensionality of the instrumentation.

The three new studio tracks compliment the live set very nicely indeed: recorded with a stripped-back orchestra, they still explore the same emotional terrain as the material chosen for the live set, and because the sound quality of the live recording is so god, they flow into one another rather than feeling like appendices which have been bolted on.

There isn’t a weak song in the new recordings, although ‘Can You Mend Hearts’ is a standout, being delicate and fragile, the surging builds bringing depth and resonance to Hockings’ affecting vocal delivery.

Live at Neues Gewandhaus Leipzig is one of those albums that could so easily be a drag, and fall to cliché, but instead offers a set of strong reworking of songs which lend themselves to the orchestral treatment, and as such, it’s not only successful, but an impressive release.

AAA

Mesh - Live

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