Live Review: TENDER with LANNDS at Songbyrd Music House, Washington, DC – 24th September 2017

By on Tuesday, 26th September 2017 at 1:00 pm

As you read my continuing coverage of BIGSOUND 2017, you’ll see that electronic music in Australia has been evolving and the lines between electronic and other genres have become blurred. Naturally, we’ve been observing this phenomenon in the UK as well, the birthplace of synthpop in the late ‘70s and popularisation. The number of UK acts in this category is now astonishing. Is it their track record in synthesiser-led music as a country that cause us to run to their music in droves? Or do us Americans subconsciously favour our cousins across the water? I’d like to believe streaming services and blogs like TGTF are the reason Sunday night at Songbyrd saw a good turnout of music fans interested to see what North London-based duo TENDER and their live band were all about. Those who made the trek to Adams-Morgan were not disappointed. At this point, TENDER had been touring our continent for over 2 weeks and so far had not succumbed to homesickness.

The opener for the night was another all-caps wonder, LANNDS. Originally from Memphis, it sounds like Rania Woodard’s move to the far sunnier climate Jacksonville did her good. Like a lot of story-driven, synth-driven music, hers is a solo endeavour that comes alive in a completely different way live. I’m going to presume she didn’t want anyone to comment on her fashion sense. Seriously, who wears a winter hat when it’s 90 degrees out? Look at the photo on the top of her Spotify profile, it’s all part of her image.

LANNDS Washington DC September 2017

And yet, this knit hat somehow made her performance all that more precious, as if we’d been invited into her living room. On her single ‘Hourglass’, she emotes with a powerful sadness in the booming chorus, “if you were only mine / if I were only good enough”, echoing the pain of losing a connection to someone once loved. Electronic bedroom producers, yes, they are a dime a dozen. But LANNDS’ relatable tales of love and love lost are set to a seemingly effortless dream pop backdrop, the perfect thing to sway along to with a loved one on an unseasonably balmy, supposedly autumn night in the Capital.

The Sweet have a song of theirs one of the best descriptions on why it’s human nature to be addicted to love: “Love is like oxygen / you get too much, you get too high / not enough and you’re gonna die”. On their debut album ‘Modern Addiction’ (I reviewed it here) that was released at the start of this month, singer James Cullen of TENDER tackles the various stages of a break-up of a relationship. Why is it such a compelling listen? Because as painful as heartbreak is to the person experiencing it, the release of deep emotions, whether they are those of joy or sorrow, is a beautiful thing. Cullen and his bandmate Dan Cobb have figured out how to convey these feelings with slinky electronica, accented with wailing guitar and funky bass and percussion.

TENDER Washington DC September 2017

Much like a silk negligee, their songs ooze with mood and eroticism. There’s bursts of bombast, sure, but they’re used effectively to punctuate their sultry, yet uncluttered melodies that won’t leave your mind anytime soon. With its driving chorus, recently released single ‘Machine’ was a clear crowd favourite; as I scanned the room, fans sung back the words as their heads bopped, mesmerised by TENDER’s rhythms. ‘Nadir’ leading into ‘Erode’, placed smartly near the end of the set, was like a one-two punch of perfection. On ‘Nadir’, the combined force of Cullen’s emotional voice and the instrumentation at the defining lines in the song, “who are we kidding? / this is our divide!” translate to a incredible crescendo in the midst of a catchy melody. These are the kinds of moments you will remember from shows, when punters raise their swaying arms in solidarity with the artists on stage playing the songs they love and connect with.

TENDER play tonight at World Cafe Live in Philadelphia. Shows at New York’s Public Arts tomorrow (the 27th of September) and Boston’s Great Scott Thursday (the 28th) will follow. To catch up on our past coverage of the act here on TGTF, including my interview with them from the road in North America, go here.

James Cullen TENDER Washington DC September 2017

After the cut: TENDER’s setlist.

TENDER Setlist:

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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

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