There are few enough people gathered at the stage to watch Meadowlark at any given point during their set that I find myself keeping a headcount. At its busiest there are 33, though the number fluctuates depending on who needs another drink and whether someone decided pause for a moment on their way back or forth to the toilet, located stage left. Suffice to say, The Record Factory is an awkward venue that encourages a distracted kind of listening. The stage, where Bristol-based Kate McGill and Daniel Broadley stand in small pocket of darkness lit only by an array of those exposed filament bulbs you get in upmarket cafes, occupies a small alcove to the side of the room filled with chairs, tables, benches and sofas. To the patrons reclined in leather seats at the far end of the space, who presumably paid to be here, the live music we’re enjoying seems like an afterthought.
And yet the fans at the barriers, who’ve already internalised just about every word to the duo’s atmospheric electro-pop debut Postcards, treat the performance with the reverence of a stadium gig. “You guys up for singing?” asks McGill, introducing a number towards the end of the set, to which someone drolly replies, “obviously!”, one of a handful who’ve hardly stopped since the first line of opening cut Paraffin.
That Meadowlark are such a hit with these folks, who look to be in their late teens to early twenties, isn’t much of a surprise. McGill and Broadley’s moody, sensual R&B influenced pop is very much of the current vogue, cut from the same cloth as the likes of Shura and Chvrches and sitting a couple of branches down the family tree from The XX and James Blake. It’s a sound that’s at once both minimalist and maximalist, where sparse piano chords ring out beneath big rubbery throbs of digital percussion and multi part vocal harmonies; spacious, spartan compositions beefed up with dramatic, club-oriented production. Prior to forming Meadowlark, McGill garnered a sizeable following for her covers of Adele and Mumford and Sons on Youtube, and her own music angles for a similarly broad emotional appeal.
Tonight, the pair’s performance is tight and professional. McGill’s vocals seep from the speakers like mercury from a test tube while the floor and surrounding fixtures thrum along to the deep bass hits. Their setup isn’t exactly conducive to adventurous choreography, sequestered as they are behind their respective banks of gear, but they move around enough to keep things interesting. They share drum duties too, each holding a stick in one hand and taking alternate whacks at the drum pad positioned between them.
That’s Life, a quiet song we’re told was written “to highlight the contrast between adulthood and childhood”, underwhelms, perhaps because Broadley’s guitar isn’t sufficiently turned up – he strums furiously, eyes scrunched closed in concentration, but we hear little. Closer Headlights, however, is an easy highlight, its doubletime swagger and chirpy synths suitably conveying the ecstatic relief described in its lyrics about letting your feelings known.
“Glasgow I fucking love you, you are always without a doubt the loudest crowd” said McGill at the the start of the set, and by the end it’s clear Glasgow loves them too.
For more on Meadowlark and their tour click here.