Nieves, Akela at Tut’s, 18/12/15

Thanks to a typically manic last Friday before Christmas, I’d pretty much resigned myself to missing out on Nieves’ second sold out Tut’s gig of 2015.

Unwilling to admit defeat, I decide an eleventh hour dash through to Glasgow is worth a punt, and, with a little Wacky Races-esque driving, I arrive just in time to catch final support act of the night Akela.

A somewhat lack lustre set, played to a half empty and fairly subdued Tut’s has me briefly questioning if it has all been worth the effort, but the band pull it together in time for their last track, and with the venue filling up, a definite buzz is beginning to build.

During the following hiatus I have the unexpected pleasure of chatting to some of the main act’s family, who are understandably delighted by the Glasgow alt-folk four-piece’s burgeoning success.

Sleep deprivation and too much Red Bull leads to me getting ever so slightly carried away, and, somehow, I wind up enthusing on Nieves being “better than the Beatles”.

Happily, the band waste no time in getting things started, saving me from any further wild postulating.

Killing the lights, Nieves saunter on to the faintly ominous ‘Carol of the Bells’, setting the tone for this alternative Christmas party.

After opening with bittersweet ‘The Knot’, the set is disrupted by technical issues as drummer Ross Forsyth rips a massive hole in his snare.

Completely unfazed, the band fill the ensuing space with easy banter and, after a speedy re-ordering, lead vocalist Brendan Dafters and Herre de Leur on piano perform a beautifully stripped back acoustic version of ‘Legs and Arms’, effortlessly charming the crowd.

Fixer-extraordinaire Ryan receives a massive, and well deserved, roar from the room as he appears brandishing a new snare, and normal service is quickly resumed.

Rattling through recent EP Matriarch, in addition to their self-titled 2014 release, Nieves are composed and confident, and despite the often emotionally brutal nature of their lyrical content, the performance is unexpectedly upbeat.

Musically tight, the set showcases each member’s considerable talents in equal measure.

Blessed with an unforced (and very Scottish) brand of patter that more experienced artists struggle to achieve, Dafters is a natural frontman, as well as a skilled lead vocalist; his near painfully raw tones lending depth and sincerity to each new offering.

Recent drafts Forsyth and Martin Murray on guitar prove worthy additions to the original line-up, while de Leur’s intricately layered piano eloquently drives on tracks such as ‘Sirens’ and ‘Legs and Arms’.

Mixing things up with ‘The Cure’, quite possibly the world’s least Christmassy Christmas song, Nieves then close with ‘Empty Book’, a riotous burst of noise and energy. Thanking the crowd for their ongoing support, the band promise “big things” for 2016, and I have no doubt that they will deliver.

Words: Kat McNicol


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