In the time it takes many bands to make a single album, Midlake have made one, scrapped it, fallen out with their frontman and made another. It seems that the rest of the Texan folk-rock group tired of former singer Tim Smith’s paralysis by perfectionism.
Guitarist Eric Pulido, newly centre stage, appeared nervous between songs but his singing voice was sure. Backed by three-way harmonies, the old favourites weren’t lacking. If you squinted, there were still enough beards up there to make it look as though nothing had changed.
What has emerged is a sprightlier group with a welcome lighter touch on new songs such as the pacey Provider and a standout, The Old and the Young, boasting something simple that they’ve lacked for a while: a catchy chorus. They were also more confident with volume, closing that song with a gripping guitar solo from Joey McClellan.
However, fans of the most pastoral aspects of their sound will be reassured that there is still plenty of flute afoot from Jesse Chandler, who kept his tucked under his arm like a newspaper while he flitted back to keyboard duties.
As they closed with Head Home, it was clear that this is not an Oasis-style lopsided split, where one faction gets to keep all the good songs. If Smith’s absence makes them more prolific, Midlake’s loss is our gain.
Feb 26, O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire, W12 (0844 477 2000,o2shepherdsbushempire.co.uk)