Live Review: Night Moves
The Mic went along to Rock City Beta to witness Night Moves deliver a haunting emotionally charged performance to a small, yet devoted audience.
Some genres immediately evoke a time and a place. Night Moves' blissed-out 70s rock is one of them. Straight away, you can see vocalist John Pelant sat in a dive bar somewhere in the Midwest, lending his particular brand of Americana to the ears of disinterested locals. It’s the type of music that sounds like it could’ve been found in a discarded sleeve in some dusty record shop. The thought of seeing them in the environs of Rock City – a venue which, for all its merits, couldn’t be further from Minnesota – was slightly disconcerting. But I needn’t have worried. They carried their set off with grace and delivered a blissed-out hour and a half of gorgeous shoegaze.
They were opened for by three-piece Wovoka Gentle. Clad in matching white jumpsuits and surrounded by analogue synthesizers and drum machines, they could hardly have a stage setup less akin to Night Moves’. And yet, there was a similar thread between the two acts; a kind of earnest emotional edge to the material meant that Wovoka Gentle were actually an ideal opening act. Their set began with synth lines and programmed drum beats, slowly joined by vocals evocative of alt-j, and gentle guitar. Throughout their set the arrangements were flipped on their head several times, with use of acoustic guitar, violin and even wind chimes. The result was a quite unique sensory experience, and the fact that there were just three people on stage made it all the more enthralling. It was difficult not to draw comparisons to outfits such as LCD Soundsystem, or perhaps The Japanese House – all in all, they were a fascinating support.
'There’s something so honest about their ballads and Pelant’s yearning melodies, and nearly every song feels like it could quite easily have been a classic if it had come about in the late 70s'.
Then came a frankly dreamy offering from Night Moves. Perhaps they’re simply not as well-known over here as they must be back in the states, but they seemed slightly disquieted by the size of the audience (barely 30 or 40 patrons filled the Beta Room). Nonetheless, they launched into Angelina, from their latest album Can You Really Find Me, and all was forgotten. Despite utilising sounds that are far from innovative, it’s impossible not to be totally anchored by their songwriting. There’s something so honest about their ballads and Pelant’s yearning melodies, and nearly every song feels like it could quite easily have been a classic if it had come about in the late 70s. Particular praise also has to be given to bassist Mickey Alfano – a man possessed of understated basslines and a fantastic moustache – and drummer John Evert for holding down the spaced-out arrangements.
Despite the low turnout, those who had come out knew every word. You could feel that there was a deep emotional connection to these songs for each and every person listening, and indeed it’s hard not to feel that way when every song is a heartfelt love song. The band’s stage presence remained fairly constant, with little in the way of audience interaction, and the only changes being Pelant moving from keys to guitar and back again. But this played into their hands; any banter would have felt like it cheapened the emotional candour of the lyrics, and besides, the show was running behind schedule and they didn’t want to miss any tracks.
'You could feel that there was a deep emotional connection to these songs for each and every person listening, and indeed it’s hard not to feel that way when every song is a heartfelt love song'.
Their set was a mixture of some older, perhaps more well-received material and newer cuts from their latest album, which push the envelope slightly while still retaining that classic Night Moves tone. The guitars soared through clouds of exquisite reverb, the bass cut through the mix with ease, and Pelant’s vocals had a frankly inordinate amount of emotional weight behind them. Night Moves took every opportunity they could to prove that traditional songwriting isn’t dead, and they hammered their point home with elegance. Indeed, the only downside of the evening was the disappointing turnout, as a show as polished as Night Moves’ deserves a far bigger audience. An achingly beautiful set, from a very accomplished band.