The Coral
Live @ Bristol Carling Academy
November 22, 2003
Review & Photography: Steve Bateman

Having been fortunate enough to attend The Coral's triumphant homecoming gig, A Midsummer Night's Scream, held inside a Big-Top, at Wirral, Merseyside on June 21, 2003,I was really looking forward to seeing the band once again, on their Magic And Medicine Tour.

For me, Magic And Medicine is one of the albums of the year - it is brilliantly accessible and
reveals a prodigious band, who are rapidly improving / striving for greatness. The Coral are
renowned for their creative minds / prolific output, and have recently finished recording
Nightfreak And The Sons Of Becker, which is due for release on January 26, 2004 (only a mere 6 months, after their second LP was issued).
Produced by lan Broudie again, this mini-album was recorded live in just 1 week, at Bryn Derwen Studios in North Wales, and is limited to just 75,000 CD copies. It is simply intended as a stop-gap, until the band's third album proper, and has a more spontaneous / lo-fi direction. James explained "We just had a load of songs, recorded it, did the cover and then it's done. Some of the songs we just wrote on the day."

The Coral are: James Skelly, 22 (guitar / vocals), lan Skelly, 19 (drums / percussion), Nick
Power, 20 (organ/vocals), Bill Ryder-Jones, 19 (guitar/trumpet), Lee Southall, 19 (guitar/
vocals) and Paul Duffy, 19 (bass / sax).
Described by the music press in 2002, as "weird and wonderful" - the mesmerising Skeleton
Key, was the first song that introduced me to this youthful Liverpudlian sextet, and their
distinctive retro sound. However, the exuberant eclecticism found on The Coral's self-titled
debut LP, has since been restrained, in favour of a more focused and melodic song-writing
approach, i.e. the classic Pass It Orr; for which the catchy Dreaming Of You, was undoubtedly
a blueprint.

As a music fan, it's always a great feeling, to follow a band right from their inception, and I
truly believe, that The Coral are heading for dizzy heights! In the current climate of Indie
bands making 'the past fashionable, they are one of the few, who at the same time, still
manage to remain innovative, ambitious, fresh and fun.

On stage as on record, the band's sound has sometimes been described as the "clashing of
instruments" - even "raucous", perhaps because every member, brings so many diverse
musical styles and ideas to the melting pot.
Yet their skilful playing and chemistry, blends every song together flawlessly and effortlessly -
in turn, capturing / assimilating the energy of folk, psychedelia, rhythm 'n' blues, country, sea-
shanty, jazz, reggae, ska, gypsy, skiffle and much more. To quote James, "Inspiration is
absolutely everywhere - the way I think of making music is that it has no rules. If it sounds
good, it is good."

Tonight is all about the performance, as the band has little time for on-stage banter with the
crowd. Fusing new with old, The Coral begin with the wistful Bill McCai, followed by an old
favourite, in the form of Goodbye - which features the now customary, extended mid-song tempo change, before bursting back into the chorus. This also demonstrates some of the band's extraordinary musical arrangements, and creative exploration.
James's soulful voice has a soothing warmth, which ultimately lends itself to the band's favoured Sixties sound - an era from which their image is also consciously styled. Another key element of the band's retro sound, is the organ, which adds texture to the drums, bass, guitar hooks and harmonies. The song lyrics, range from heartfelt and dreamy - the sweet and tender ballad, Liezah - to stoned and humorous - the quirky and offbeat, Simon Diamond.

But there are plenty of highlights throughout the set - Don't Think You're The First, Secret
Kiss and a new song, entitled I Forgot My Name, which has James's deliberately raspy
vocals, resonating through a megaphone and fuelling the band's scratchy wall of sound.
Interestingly, many of the songs tonight, sound much more stripped down than on record,
which could be a direct influence from the recent recording of Nightfreak And The Sons Of
Becker. As Paul's jaunty bass, signals the start of the undeniably upbeat and excellent Dreaming Of
You, fans jump up and down - in a scene reminiscent of my local Indie club, on a Saturday
night! The penultimate song of the set - the subdued All Of Our Love - is cleverly juxtaposed
with current set-closer, the frenzied Migraine. Resembling an impromptu jam and featuring
the lyric "Think I'm infected with a social disease / migraine / migraine" - it's raw, it's noisy and it's down and dirty, yet is delivered with such confidence, that everyone is left wanting more...

If you haven't already entered the "weird and wonderful" world of The Coral - then what are
you waiting for?

A very special thanks to Rob @ Pomona, for all of his help, and to The Coral + their
management / security.