I must admit I never thought I’d be seeing Arab Strap live in 2022, but here they were, playing to a sold-out Whelans. Hell may not have frozen over, and these days it comes with a side order of not-so-cheap lager rather than Buckfast. Support came from Scottish singer Iona Zajac, who played solo on electric guitar. She created quite a haunting atmosphere for songs like Rubbish Jubilee and Red Corn Poppies.
It was soon time for the main event, and Aidan Moffat and Malcolm Middleton were joined by a full band, which made for a visceral, full sound. Opening with the immortal line “I don’t give a fuck about the past” from Turning of the Bones, they played a mixture of newer songs from last year’s As Days Get Dark album and older favourites. They really kicked into gear with a powerful version of Fucking Little Bastards and contrasted Compersion Pt. 1 – ” a song about shagging” with New Birds – “a song about not shagging”. Here on this latter song, the band dialled up the tension, drawing out every detail of the lyrics, while Middleton got the opportunity to let loose briefly on guitar in the outro. His guitar playing is an under-appreciated asset, and he used it to devastating effect on Piglet and Blackness. Moffat also got in on the act with some keyboards on Girls of Summer and provided occasional percussion to accompany the programmed beats.
The band make darkness, for want of a better word… fun, Moffat’s dark humour had many in fits of laughter. They reached back to their debut album for Blood before rounding off with The First Big Weekend, to disappear backstage briefly before returning for an encore. Here they dusted off Packs of Three, and their tale of “the worst hangover I ever had” on I Would’ve Liked Me A Lot Last Night, finishing off with a lovely, stripped-down version of The Shy Retirer, rendered by Moffat and Middleton alone. It seems there’s plenty of life in the old Arab Strap songs yet…
The Turning of Our Bones
Fucking Little Bastards
Girls of Summer
Compersion, Pt. 1
Tears on Tour
Here Comes Comus!
Fable of the Urban Fox
The First Big Weekend
Packs of Three (Just Aidan and Malcolm)
I Would’ve Liked Me a Lot Last Night
The Shy Retirer (Just Aidan and Malcolm)