If there's a band member sweating on stage during Philip Selway's sets, how is it not going to be the drummer? Selway's work with Radiohead through the late 90s, 2000s, and even the 2010s continuously reinvents how we see and hear the art of drumming in the modern rock and electronic atmosphere. The man paints textures and atmospheres with a drum kit that no one else could dream of. So that being the case, here tonight when Selway switches to front and center to perform tracks from his two fantastic solo LPs (2010's Familial and last year's Weatherhouse), how drummer Chris Vatalaro isn't having an anxiety attack blows my mind. But after seeing him play some truly jaw dropping material throughout the set at hand, I can understand why he and I don't have the same reaction to the present situation. Assurance from the man himself has to help, too - before the band breaks into a brilliantly transformed rendition of "Patron Saint", Selway introduces Vatalaro, along with multi-instrumentalists Adem and Quinta, and commends them all for their work. But no one at Columbia City Theater needed to take Selway's work for it. Between the four of them, the solo work of Philip Selway was brought to brilliant life on Wednesday night. And with an excellent opening set from Adem's own reportoire to start things off, the night was truly a remarkable treat.Philip Selway doesn't bother with bringing deadbeats on tour with him. This truth couldn't ring more true for Adem Ilhan, who opened the evening up with his own material before returning to the stage with Selway to play guitar, bass, and a variety of percussion instruments for the headlining set. Adem has almost as lengthy of a track record as Selway does. He's played with Kieren Hebden (Four Tet) in Fridge since the 90s, written his own music since the mid 2000s, and collaborated with Johnny Lynch as Silver Columns for about five years. Adem's many projects reflect his individual skill and musicality in massively different ways. Even on his solo records, his choice of instrumentation and arrangement varies widely, showing off a boatload of skill that can't stay in a single lane for risk of spontaneous combustion. But here tonight, Adem simplified all of it down into a simple, bare-bones setup to showcase nothing more than his own fantastic songwriting. At times, Adem showed off some new material, which he plans to put on an LP that will hopefully see the light of day in the next year or two. Other times, he pulled from his back catalogue, including the title track from his excellent concept record Love and Other Planets. Adem warmed the crowd up wonderfully and exited gracefully, taking a 30 minute breather before returning for another hour and a half of flawless performance about three feet back from his original spot on stage.
It should be no surprise at all to any Selway fan that drums and bass take precedent at a live Philip Selway show. As the lights go down and Quinta starts in on the organ for Weatherhouse cut "Miles Away", Vatalaro's drums split the air with a piercing crack and Selway just looks over and smiles. Adem soon adds to the foundation with a riveting bass line, before Selway himself adds to it with dual shakers underneath his vocals. With Weatherhouse, Selway upped the scale of his solo work, taking the muted, living room feel of Familial to grander heights. But in the live setting, the ceilings only get higher, and the sound gets bigger and bigger until it feels like an arena show at a venue ten times the size. Selway is refreshingly comfortable with a stage of any size (he's been at Coachella both weekends playing the same material as well), and he does it all with a brilliant humility, just loving the performance and loving the warm reactions from a head-over-heels audience.
For this tour, Selway chose to retrofit selections from Familial with the new, gigantic Weatherhouse sound. The mixture of Selway's spacious vocals with the impossibly big drum sounds and the lush bass and organ gave the whole thing a bit of a trip-hop feel. Later, more organic Massive Attack efforts like Heligoland felt like they might sandwich some tracks nicely. Elsewhere, the sound maintained a wonderfully British air about it. Playing bountiful, lush chords on a beautiful Gretsch over the churning brightness of "Coming Up For Air", Selway chuckled. "I feel like Noel Gallagher playing that one", he laughs. But it all feels appropriate, somehow. Between the ghosts of a country home on Familial and the introspective city wanderings of Weatherhouse, Selway brought us a wonderful and expansive taste of the London trademarks in brilliant form. And not only that - he does it with brilliant instrumentation. Quinta played the saw on numerous occasions (always a crowd favorite). Adem alternated between a number of instruments and percussion pad setups. At one point, Chris played live drums with both feet and one hand, while setting off more drum triggers with his free hand on a laptop to his side. All as humble as can be, Selway's band wowed anyone in the crowd with their eyes open. With an incredible band giving him support and a catalogue that only a veteran instrumentalist and songwriter could provide, Philip Selway made his solo Seattle appearance a timeless, priceless blessing.
Philip Selway's new LP, Weatherhouse, is out now on Bella Union! It follows the fantastic Familial, out in 2010 also on Bella Union. Adem is hard at work on his follow up to 2006's excellent Love and Other Planets. He also has an album of covers called Takes in 2008.
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