Review: Lambchop, Waterfront, Norwich, a musician prepared to take risks in search for moments of beauty

Kurt Wagner who brought a slimmed down version of his band Lambchop to Norwich. Photo: Joanna Bongar

Kurt Wagner who brought a slimmed down version of his band Lambchop to Norwich. Photo: Joanna Bongard - Credit: Joanna Bongard

Laconic, cap-sporting Kurt Wagner brings his orchestral country-pop outfit, here slimmed back to a trio, back to play from their latest album, For Love Often Turns Us Still — officially titled Flotus.

Kurt Wagner's band Lambchop has taken various forms over the years. Tonight the ensemble was slimmed down to a trio with a bassist and pianist joining the prolific singer/songwriter.

The group drew on jazz, folk, country, soul and several flavours of electronic music in an experimental set which had mixed results.

At times the drum loops and heavily processed samples sounded coarse in contrast to the acoustic arrangements from the group's earlier work. Wagner's voice is naturally tender and exquisite and feeding it through an effects unit tended to spoil it.

But there were times when the elements came together in a bold and distinct new style, especially on tracks from last year's album Flotus.

Meandering piano melodies blended with multilayered vocals and samples on set opener Writer. The musicians revelled in bursts of avant-garde improvisation on Jfk until sweet melodies grew from the chaos. In contrast, The Hustle was classic Lambchop with Wagner's unadulterated voice delivering soft poetic lines over simple, beguiling accompaniment.

The group experimented with older works too. A hip-hop beat on Garf was an interesting but not entirely successful reworking of the early acoustic number. In the encore, My Blue Wave with its slow jazz flourishes suited the minimalist line up perfectly.

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Support came from Roxanne De Bastion, a dynamic young singer and worthy opening act. She joined the band to duet on the last song, a warped folky cover of Prince's When You Were Mine.

It was a refreshing performance from a musician still full of ideas and a group prepared to take risks in the search for new moments of beauty.