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I AM KLOOT Buxton Opera House, Derbyshire, UK 19th January 2011

There is a provincial gaudiness to Buxton Opera House; the foyer ceiling, a gilt and white confection where some neo-classical broad defies gravity, floating on garlands and clouds above the heads of the incoming crowd. An air of plush grandeur pervades, and tonight this assemblage of souls are present to witness I Am Kloot -- the Mercury Award-nominated, Manchester combo who are riding the crest of one of the most constant, but slowly rising waves of recent times.

Respectability is sometimes earned, occasionally gifted, and often arrives as a surprise. Kloot have become an ever-evolving and unfurling best-kept-secret; a vintage of a dozen years and seven albums. They continue to buck trends and influence people, and tonight is another first in their far from natural history. This is their first ever seated gig. Riding on the coattails of their recent success and in such plush surroundings, it is a far cry from the usual booze-fuelled chattering, as a reverential sense of anticipation greets their casual arrival on stage.
 
This year's model of Kloot is more fluid, flexible, and relaxed. John Bramwell writes louche, confessional songs. One-size-fits-all maladies of madness, hope, and despair. Going nuts in a sublimely drunken style as revealed by "Lately," a song that grapples with, and encapsulates the fear of losing what's left of the plot. There is a continental edge to some of the songs, embellished by accordion, and their presentation is perfectly assured. The version tonight of "Hey Little Bird" -- one of their finest -- has a Tim Hardin-esque jazziness. And when Bramwell asks for the house lights to come on so he can capture the audience for his personal posterity, his digital camera fails. This hiccup results in a cheekily affectionate exchange with his mother who is suitably ensconced aloft in one of the gaudy boxes, a merciful escape from being shunted and pushed in the swaying throng on some beer-spilled floor.
 
"Favourite Sky" remains a divine crowd pleaser; beguiling without being arch, sincere whilst never bordering on the mawkish. Proceedings deftly plunder their excellent back catalogue, whilst showcasing songs from their chart placing, Elbow-produced Sky At Night collection that features a full moon over bare trees on its sleeve. In this evening's celestial canopy there is, appropriately, a silvery orb above the Opera House that Bramwell informs the audience he has had installed purely for their pleasure.

"I Still Do" is perhaps his most achingly, eloquent madrigal of hope and resignation, which always leaves a lump in the throat. And "Twist" infers that a stripper should nakedly jiggle across the stage in perfect syncopation to the song's innate sauciness. The sax jabs in "Gods And Monsters" sounds like Lene Lovich in collusion with Madness, while Bramwell still has a subtle Patti Smith resonance to his voice.
 
As the night draws to a close the eerily epic "Radiation" packs a dizzying punch. A vast song, and somewhat insane, it proves to be a perfect marriage of their baroque settings, the scope of their capabilities, and the immense cohesion that Kloot effortlessly harness. Such feats reward them with a standing ovation; a genuine response to an emotional and rewarding experience, be it Bramwell providing a solo selection, the trio proving their unique worth, or the enhanced punches with brass and keyboards. Vignettes they would never have dared to dream of being viewed through opera glasses, though it is simply another worthy progression via which their rough gem eloquence has never been better served. - Robert Cochrane

I Am Kloot

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Mr. Cochrane is a poet and writer living in Manchester, England. His work has appeared in Mojo, Attitude, and Dazed & Confused. He has published three collections of poems, and Gone Tomorrow, his bio on rock singer Jobriath.