The Perfect Gift For Eurosonic Noordeslag
A row of journalists talking about how The Gift managed to have music maverick Brian Eno, not only co-producing and co-writing their album, but also playing and singing on few of its songs welcome us into one of the last shows of Eurosonic's opening night. This is the second time the band - considered Portugal’s biggest music export performs in the Dutch city of Groningen - no longer a new act in need to break on the European live circuit the pioneering alt-pop outfit plays one of the biggest and most beautiful venues, the ‘Grand Theatre’. Portugal is this year’s featured country and they are the most talked about band to represent the countries.
Despite a few technical issues with the microphone challenging front woman Sónia Tavares’ on the opening track ‘Butterfly’, the band is still able to deliver a piece of theatrical chamber pop at its best, and the rocky start of the set only helps to show the band’s technical skills and strong chemistry. Even if we are not familiar with the band’s back catalogue, we find ourselves drawn in by one of the most amazing singers and front women we have seen in a very long time. While ‘Music’ - taken from their 2004’s album ‘AM-FM’ - is a lyrical testament to their love for being a perfectly functioning independent machine, who have been at the fore front of the Portuguese DIY movement for over twenty years; “I'm doing it for music, I'm doing it for love, I'm doing it for everyone around me,” sings Sónia.
The band’s idiosyncratic songwriting is what makes the first single - taken from their upcoming fifth album - such a complex piece of music; ‘Love Without Violins’ features Brian Eno on vocals, as well co-production and co-writing. The British producer also co-wrote the lyrics and spent three years’ working with the band’s keyboardist Nuno Gonçalves and the rest of the band on an album that we cannot wait to hear in its entirety.
New single ‘Clinic Hope’, is our favorite track both on record and live. Electronic sounds pulsate throughout the track at 189 BPM, and we now understand why the mighty Flaming Lips asked The Gift to open their US tour.
The difficult start of the show is now only a faraway memory and the band carries on the set with another hit, ‘Driving You Slow’, which warm mix of electronics and alt-pop is accentuated by Sónia’s contralto vocals.
“11:33” is a funky, R&B-tinged number; Sónia’s vocals are reminiscent of Macy Gray , while Miguel Ribeiro and John Gonçalves guitars drive the song through a series of electronic sounds and synths which we would never think could fit so well with what we initially thought was a funky jam song.
With only three songs before the end of their late-night set, the band finally plays ‘RGB’ from their previous album, ‘Explode’ - produced by Paolo Nutini and Coldplay collaborator Ken Nelson - which debuted at #1 on their own nations charts. Their most mainstream track so far, is radio appeal is indeed evident from the sing-along of the crowd during the show.
Keyboardist, synths genius and multi-instrumentalist Nuno Gonçalves shocks the crowd on the prog-pop ‘In Repeat’ when unexpectedly steps out from the keyboards and starts to play one of the best Theremin solos we could hear any contemporary musician playing in the context of a pop song. Playing now in front of a smaller crowd – with the clock ticking 2AM – the last track on the set ‘The Singles’ sees Nuno joining Sónia on vocals for the end of what is a 12 minutes long eclectic mix of genres and sounds that can are evocative of the best alt-pop band of the past ten years, Arcade Fire. Like the Canadian outfit The Gift tight live performances and chemistry are what makes them a joyful experience to watch live.