Shearwater, St Giles Church, London

In total the band use over twenty instruments in tonight's performance, several of which are clearly built by their own hands.

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Date: 20 Nov 2008 | By Chris Cummins | Rating: 4-5
Shearwater, St Giles Church, London

On a cold and windy winter's night, the last place you would expect to find refuge from the elements is in a 400 year old church. The church in question is St Giles in the fields, hidden behind the garish neon signs of Tottenham Court Road, this stunning venue with its lofty ceiling and wooden pews, does little to warm the frozen bones. Yet tonight it is crammed with couples and indie diehards hoping to catch a rare live performance from the celestial Shearwater.

Crammed inbetween the choir's pews, Shearwater begin the evening with the sombre 'On The Death Of The Waters'. Jonathan Meiburg's poignant, melancholic vocals begin to sooth, before the rest of the band shatters the atmosphere with crashing drums and visceral guitars. Their ethereal music begins to blend well with the setting, the arresting vocals of 'Red Sea, Black Sea' and the beautiful multi-layered 'Mountain Laurel' create an intense and celestial ambience.

Before title track of new album 'Rooks' is played, Meiburg offers a much needed refrain from the intense performance with some light hearted banter about George W Bush. Thankfully they do not talk for too long and continue with '74 - 75' and 'The Snow Leopard', which testify how diverse and musically intricate Shearwater are. On the latter the drummer walks to the front of the stage and plays a crudely cut piece of wood with eight guitar strings stretched across it, to great effect. In total the band use over twenty instruments in tonight's performance, several of which are clearly built by their own hands.

Proceedings are brought down for the beautifully moving 'I Was A Cloud', before the more direct 'Century Eyes' sees the band once again employing visceral guitars and crashing drums, as Meiburg laments "we stare straight ahead for the rest of our lives". They finish on the uplifting 'Hail Mary' and are accompanied off the stage with rapturous applause before returning for a three song encore, which culminates with 'Home Life'.

The band receives a deserved standing ovation for an absolutely awe-inspiring performance. Their musicianship at times is sublime and Meiburg's vocal range is astonishing. They managed to deliver what their two albums have promised and don't fall into the trap of sounding over-polished.