Nightingales The Nightingales | Rats On Rafts
The Railway, Winchester
28th April 2022 

The pairing of the Nightingales and Rotterdam art-rock band Rats On Rafts, with a short, surreal set from Ted Chippington in between, made for a stunning double-bill. Ged Babey was dumbfounded, but sadly not ‘lost for words..’

Winchesters Railway is one of the best small venues in the country – but never seems to host bands that I, with my niche taste, want to see somehow. So this was a real treat and probably the smallest stage on this ‘Gales tour with Fire Records label-mates Rats On Rafts.

They are a curious band Rats On Rafts: very ordinary-looking but very unusual musically. A kind of European anti-rock’n’roll art-school vibe that sounds at times like a Krautrock B-52’s jamming with Franz Ferdinand.

There is a real precision to what they do and every song sounds different to the last. The drummer is a hard-hitting metronome but also creates washes of noise on the cymbals. The guitar interplay is an intricate web and the bass-player is incredible.  They defy categorisation as they are too progressive to be labelled ‘post-punk’ and too much fun to be dismissed as art-prog. They are just a great band, who need to be seen live before you listen to them and really appreciate their studio output.

The ‘tick-tock’ of A Trail of Wind And Fire reminded me of the ‘stairway to heaven’ section of the 1946 movie A Matter of Life and Death – so of course I had to tell the band afterwards – they studiously wrote down the name of the film and assured me they would check it out. Once I got home I watched it – and there’s no real similarity at all…. Rats On Rafts are a celestial soundtrack all of their own.

The Nightingales / Rats On Rafts – the Railway, Winchester – live review

They went down a storm with the attentive Winchester audience and seemed to win over practically everyone who was there for the ‘Gales – and their ever-present good-luck charm Ted.

It was only November 2021 when I saw them both last in Portsmouth and everything I said in that review applies to this gig.

To say the Nightingales are ‘on fire’ and have never been better is an understatement. They are the most professional and accomplished they have ever been. Fliss, Jim and Andreas are so incredibly in-tune with each other musically it’s just a delight to watch. It gives room for Rob Lloyd to prowl and growl and croon and bellow his tragic-comic verse to the assembled faithful and new-found followers.

There is an almost Ramones like pace and no gaps between songs. Nightingales mean business. Jim and Andreas are positioned on opposite sides of the stage with Fliss central (in more ways than one) a mass of flailing black hair and sticks.

It can never be said too many times that Fliss Kitson is the most awesome drummer in the country.  She has heard it many times and aw-shucks and waves the statement away with a hand gesture when I bump into her outside the beautiful Winchester venue.

They remain one of the best live bands in the country… watchable, weird, wired and rockin’.  The Nightingales have reached a peak.  They are unmatched…. on their own terms….

The-e-e-ey are no-ow Aaaa-pre-shee-ate-ed. To paraphrase a late contemporary.

But that’s not to say that the highlight of a ‘Gales gig isn’t still when things go awry.  A heckler taking over on Well Done Underdog meant Rob Lloyd shrugs and glowers and says  ‘I can’t be arsed now’ and refuses to start the song again. Jims guitar packs up after he squeezes out one of the most violently very-metal solos ever.

Starting with Born Again in Birmingham and ending with Gales Doc – it was a magnificent, sprawling set taking in all the reformed line-up favourites from the back catalogue.

Mark Jones, the long-serving ‘Gales tour manager and merch guy had tapped me on the shoulder at the start and said ‘This set-list, the running order, really is the absolute best that they’ve ever put together’.  And he was dead right.

Too Posh To Push, Dick The Do-Gooder, Diary of a Bag of Nerves, Top Shelf, Thicko Rides Again ... somehow these songs seem to be episodes in the story of my life!

An absolutely great gig. Lovely venue. Phenomenal bands. I needed that.

Tour Continues 

30 April – Birmingham O2 Academy 2
2 May – Bristol Thekla
3 May – London The Garage
5 May  -Leek Foxlowe Arts Centre
6 May –  Hebden Bridge  Trades Club
7 May – Nottingham Bodega
(last three dates just ‘Gales & Ted)

Nightingales Website / Facebook /  Bandcamp 

Rats On Rafts  Bandcamp

All words Ged Babey Photos – Steve ‘Chunky’ McCathie

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Ged Babey is 56. from Southampton, has written since 1985 for Sound Info, Due South, various fanzines and websites, contributed to Record Collector magazine and was sole author of 'Punk Throwback' fanzine -the name of which was taken from an insult hurled at him by the singer with a young band he managed for a while. Ged believes that all good music and art has a connection with punk rock.

1 COMMENT

  1. The absolute greatest! Thank you Fliss for keeping this magic band on the road.

    What was that ape song (I think Robert said it was a cover) that you played in Edinburgh a few years back?

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