Kat Brown

10:43 20th September 2006
There’s not many bands that Gigwise could stomach seeing twice in 24 hours, but when it’s a five-piece band with a dedicated tap dancer providing the percussion, we’ll always make an exception. Fresh from a sterling performance at End of the Road festival (where you couldn’t move for other performers cheering along to their bubble machine fuelled set), tonight even Natalie Portman has turned up to watch them at the Luminaire: indeed, Nebraskan five-piece Tilly and the Wall are so lovely you could pour them into a cone and serve them up to small children as a treat.
But before they and their delirious pop-folk anthems sweep the crowd into the Rapture, we get the thoroughly unexpected thrill of XL-signed singer-guitarist Adele. Armed with a voice that could unzip a dress at 50 paces, she keeps her guitar tunes pared down to subdued simplicity, giving her sweetly raw vocals free rein to soar and dance around the melody like a deranged bee that’s been at the vodka. All this and she’s only 18 – expect to hear more from this one.

You’ll undoubtedly hear more from three-piece Fear of Flying: they do very competent artrock that, while sounding exactly the same as everything else currently bothering the boy-guitar scene, wouldn’t sound out of place on the radio. Realistically, this is also because their influences run very close to the rip-off wind. One song pretty much channels ‘PDA’ by Interpol, while elsewhere we get liberal dollops of Franz Ferdinand and Muse, with Futureheads-style duetting for good measure. It’s a handy thing that the radio doesn’t like change: this is more like a tribute act than an original band.
On to the Hollywood-approved sounds of Tilly and the Wall, who clamber onto the Luminaire’s stage and proceed to blind everyone with the enthusiasm and wideness of their grins. Belting out the sort of joy that would reduce even the most cynical mind to hand-clapping sighs, the sweetness of the songs (mostly from new album ‘Bottoms of Barrels’) belie the sharpness of the lyrics. They’re good lyrics as well: “So puff out your chest in some weird dusty fight / we're taking no part in your cracked antique life” announces Neely on ‘Sing Songs Along’, with such fierce conviction it makes you want to sweep up a flag and join their cause – just as soon as you can figure out what it is.
“Let us be free!” goes Tilly’s call and response demand, and if people aren’t shouting, they’re clapping. “ We say ‘Fuck it’, you say ‘UP’!” goes the next one, and by now we’re all lost in the Tilly whirl. When Neely’s microphone packs up, they switch on one of the keyboard’s pre-sets and dance around until it’s fixed. How can you not love that? And later, in the hotly-demanded encores, when bassist and co-singer Kianna is hiding in the shadows at the back of the stage and letting her voice go wild, it’s the sort of euphoric feeling of sharing in something truly special.
‘Sometimes you just can’t hold back the river’, shrugs the refrain on the all-guns-blazing life recount, ‘Rainbows In the Dark’. Tilly won’t save your life – they make it clear you’ll have to do that – but they’ll sing about every bit of it and, with their tunes, make you realise that life is so bloody precious you should never settle for anything less than right.