Live Review: A Silent Film with Anchor & Braille at Rams Head Tavern, Annapolis, MD – 23rd July 2012

By on Friday, 3rd August 2012 at 2:00 pm

Mark my words, A Silent Film is going to hit it big in no time at all. For whatever reason, this Oxford band has gotten some serious traction in the United States that, as of yet, eludes them in the majority of the UK. I saw them play last week at Rams Head Tavern in Annapolis, MD. It’s a bit of an odd venue choice for a band such as this, because it’s all seated. At tables. Serving dinner. In my opinion, it’s a rare gig that is suited to the dinner theatre style, but it’s the right size for many an up and coming band. Sadly, this night, I was forced to suffice with some very serious chair dancing, as I have been told by management to *sit down* here before.

Starting the night off was the side project of Anberlin lead singer Stephen Christian. Hailing from Nashville, Tennessee, Anchor & Braille regaled us with songs much different from the fare offered up by Anberlin. More toned down and acoustic, Anchor & Braille allowed for the quiet passion that infuses the music. Christian moved from acoustic guitar to keys and back, but I thought the stronger songs had him sitting at the keyboard. Likewise, the music grew in strength as the set progressed with ‘In With the New’ and ‘Goes Without Saying’, both songs from their newest album being the strongest of all the songs. For only being the third gig they’ve played with this line-up, Anchor & Braille played a tight set and delighted the crowd with a sound that built to a satisfying close. The new album ‘A Quiet Life’ is out now on Tooth and Nail Records.

A Silent Film are currently touring America to support their new album ‘Sand & Snow’, which was released in June. However, this album won’t be released in the UK until next year. My interview with them from earlier this week here explains why. Several of these new songs, however, will be familiar to fans since they were in rotation at their gigs a year and a half ago, such as ‘Let Them Feel Your Heartbeat’ and ‘Reaching the Potential’.

The band have become incredibly accomplished with their performance style and stage presence. Lead singer Robert Stevenson, pleads and reaches and succeeds in making you a part of the story he tells with his words. Drawing you in, Stevenson implores, “Do you remember what you wanted to be? Do you remember how you used to feel?” And you know instantly what it was you wanted back then. Moving effortlessly from keys to guitar to mic-in-hand frontman, Stevenson easily fills the space at the front of the stage specifically left clear for him to maneuver. And strut he does, every outstretched hand, every piercing gaze into the audience connects you all the more.

‘Story songs’, as Stevenson calls them, are a favorite with the band. This is most clearly illustrated by the album’s lead single ‘Danny, Dakota & the Wishing Well’. Recently voted as the mtvU’s Freshman Video of the Week, this sweeping Grand Canyon-focused video is currently in rotation on MTV. Still focused on the center of the stage, drummer Spencer Walker is both the backbone of the band and a seriously fun drummer to watch. Playing one of his favorite live tracks, ‘Firefly at My Window’, he had the entire audience nearly bouncing out of their seats with that infectious beat. Animated as he is talented, Walker makes every attempt at stealing the show from Stevenson. But in reality, they are simply a well-oiled machine playing off each other to the delight of front row punters familiar with their repartee.

Flanking the showmen at the center of the stage are Ali Hussein (bass) and Karl Bareham (guitar) providing balance and weight. Being sat on the left, I got to experience some of the strongest bass lines I’ve heard. Songs like ‘This Stage is Your Life’ and ‘Queen of a Sad Land’ really highlight Hussein‘s skill and brilliance. Boring bass lines can make you forget a bassist is there, but not Hussein. He may have a low key presence on stage, but his influence is well evident. Karl Bareham, just as sedate in his playing style, makes the music soar. Equally happy to leave the spot light to the frontman, Bareham attacks his guitar with talented intensity. His strong presence in ‘Sleeping Pills’ remind you this is not a piano rock band, guitar is of utmost importance.

For the encore, they thrilled us with the highly-sought after b-side ‘Snowbirds’. “How pretentious are we that we only have it on vinyl?” quipped Stevenson. After another few songs, they wrapped up their set and left nearly everyone breathless for more. Luckily I get to see them play one more time before they disappear back across the Atlantic. So my advice to all of you when they do get back home, make the effort to catch one of their shows. You won’t regret it!

After the cut: A Silent Film’s set list.

A Silent Film Set List:
Reaching the Potential
This Stage is Your Life
Sleeping Pills
Let them Feel Your Heartbeat
Driven By their Beating Hearts
Julie June
You Will Leave a Mark
Thousand Mile Race
Queen of a Sad Land
Danny, Dakota & the Wishing Well
Harbour Lights
Firefly at My Window

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