Panic Room, The Borderline, 18th Sep 2011

Panic Room are part-way through an extensive tour covering the length and breadth of the country, and on Sunday their tour came to London, in the famous and prestigious Borderline in the heart of the West End. For a Sunday night they certainly managed to attract a decent-sized crowd, with a good turnout of the regular faces from prog gigs at The Borderline and The Peel.

The evening started with a very short set from acoustic singer-songwriter Sarah Dixon. I tend to find acoustic acts a bit hit and miss, without the backing of a full band the vocals and songs need to be really good to make an impression. Sarah Dixon certainly had the voice. Second support was trio David R Black, who have supported Panic Room many times, but still don’t do an awful lot for me. On the plus side they were tight and played with a lot of energy, but their brand of indie-rock did feel rather one-dimensional. I can’t help feeling they really need a proper lead guitarist to add some dynamics to their sound.

With two supports and a strict curfew Panic Room played a shorter set than at some other dates on the tour. This meant the band could really go full tilt without having to pace themselves, but also meant there was no room for songs like the entertaining “I Am A Cat”.

The two new songs, “Song for Tomorrow” and “Promises” are fast becoming crowd favourites and show all the diverse musical influences of the five band members; the instrumental break in the latter is a duet between Gavin Griffith’s drumming and some very funky bass playing from Yatim Halimi. I love the imaginative reworking of “Exodus”, a song that originally appeared on Anne-Marie Helder’s solo EP “The Contact”. Originally a very simple piano and vocal ballad, it worked well enough in that form. The full band version with a great solo from Paul enhances the song without ever threatening to swamp things with too many layers of instrumentation. Like all of Panic Room’s music it’s the perfect marriage of superb songwriting and expert musicians who know as much about what not to play as what to play.

The set ended with really powerful versions of “Dark Star”, “Satellite” and the encore “Sandstorms”. On form like this Panic Room really deserve to break through to a far bigger audience. If you get the chance to see any of the remaining dates on this tour, go and see them, you really won’t regret it.

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