Into the Pit: 159: Bitter Ruin – Live at The Borderline – 11-February 2013

Concluding three gigs within a week of up-and-coming acts, all three of which I’ve been following for a while now, was Bitter Ruin’s return to London for their first show in the city in 2013. 2012 was a good year for the duo, with a new EP (The Rocket Sessions, released late in the year), a high-profile new manager (Matt Lucas), and a string of well-received gigs, including a support slot to big crowds on the Ben Folds Five reunion tour last December.

This show, the penultimate of a short UK tour, appeared to be more than anything an opportunity to hone new material in the run-up to another release (a full album, apparently, this time), and so it was notable that a fair proportion of the set was composed of said new songs. Opening things this time around was one of the new songs that has been played at most shows in the past year, and continues frankly to be one of the most striking songs the band have yet written. Gentle Man places Georgia’s extraordinary vocal range centre stage, and by the time the song ends, it is hard not to gawp in awe.

Bitter Ruin setlist

Gentle Man
[untitled new song]
Just A Book
The Vice
Tom Thumb
Child In The Sea Cave

A Brand New Me

It wasn’t all new songs, mind, but a comment about the original EP no longer being available (once the last handful are sold) suggests that they are tiring of their old songs, and want to move forward by not playing many of them in future. This has already been obvious in recent sets, with certain old staples (Chewing Gum in particular), seemingly omitted for good. Even songs like Trust and The Vice – taut, bitter songs that went a long way to garnering the band the attention they now get in the first place – were played early and with little fanfare.

This is a debate that is probably had a lot, and sometimes bands in thrall to their fans aren’t allowed to move on, cursed to remain cycling through the same old songs every gig. But Bitter Ruin have taken things the other way, instead refining and progressing their sound, with often extraordinary results. And indeed closing the set was a song that they have been playing for some time now, but I hadn’t noticed until now that it hasn’t been released yet. Another song showing their dramatic, tightly-coiled spite and fury to spectacular effect, Relief sees the use of minimal percussion and stamps of feet to provide a powerful climax to the song, and once again Georgia’s voice reaches jaw-dropping extremes.

The forthcoming album really will be quite something if they manage to harness their live power – here’s hoping that they do.

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