Hoxton Square Bar and Kitchen – April 19th

An appearance from Jakob on our shores is a rare event. Their shows have become something of a pilgrimage for fans of the New Zealand trio’s expansive post rock, and their stops in modest venues in London, Cardiff and Brighton on their latest swing through Europe provide an intimate setting for Jakob die-hards.

ALMA are an interesting choice of support, providing a melodic singer-songwriter counterpoint to the instrumental heft of the headliners. Pete Lambrou is a practiced frontman and executes his cues artfully. Simple guitar melodies are layered to create ghostly soundscapes and the Gregorian chants of his looped, escalating vocals reach for a scale beyond their humble on-stage manpower. They’re more Keaton Henson than Sigur Ros in scope, but deliver emotional pop sensibilities with a familiar sonic texture.

On record, Jakob strike a balance between chilly detail and searing vistas, evocative of and influenced by, no doubt, the rolling landscapes of Hawke’s Bay. Live, they’re a different proposition all together. Jeff Boyle’s tremolo takes a backseat to Jason Johnson’s urgent drum tattoo, imbuing the noise with a dramatic tension absent in the glacial tone of their studio output. ‘Blind Them With Science’ provides an intense staccato attack, while ‘Malachite’’s swell is an assertive, borderline-aggressive interpretation of the Solace opener. The lighting is minimal, placing the focus of the performance on the pure pursuit of gratifying crescendos and decaying soundscapes. Material from Solace survives the transition best, particularly the barrelling downhill chorus of ‘Oran Mor’, frenetic beside the stoic ‘Controle’. ‘Safety In Numbers’ is the real highlight of the night, however, and is saved for the encore. It is a demonstration of Jakob at the peak of their powers; lofty scope, bristling escalation, and with a payoff that provides the surge of life-affirming elation that only those with a deep understanding on the post rock genre can produce.

@GrantDBailey