Broken Records @ Summerhall, 20 Aug

Live Review by Will Fitzpatrick | 23 Aug 2016

Like returning comets, Broken Records shows don’t come around so often these days. Perhaps it’s the lesser-spotted nature of their live appearances, perhaps it’s the general festival atmosphere in Edinburgh… or maybe, just maybe, it’s something to do with the quality of their songs; either way, there’s a lot of love in the room tonight.

Oft dogged by comparisons to Arcade Fire, they open with a succession of pacy numbers that admittedly share Neon Bible’s evident cap-doffage to Bruce Springsteen’s heartland rock, albeit with a few healthy nods to a certain type of appropriately Scottish folk. As the first bout of dancing tentatively breaks out at the back of the room, everything feels pretty nice. But there’s much better to come.

See, aside from a very superficial sonic similarity, the main thing that Broken Records share with Win Butler’s lot is strength in graceful drama; they’re at their absolute best when they throw caution to the wind and give in to bombast. The first real sense of that comes in fan favourite A Promise, which begins life as a beautifully tortured piano ballad before unfolding into full-blown grandiosity, all hammering pianos and frantically fluttering violin. It cracks open the atmosphere and turns simple enjoyment into euphoria – meanwhile, frontman Jamie Sutherland spends the instrumental build lost in thought, only to break into an exhilarated grin as the crescendo nears its peak. It’s like watching someone’s dreams realised before their very eyes – a surprisingly touching moment.

From then on, it’s basically a party: Nearly Home, I Won’t Leave You In The Dark and Ditty (We Weren’t Ready) see glasses raised amidst gusty singalongs, as the vibe becomes more celebratorily raucous. Rightly so too – as Sutherland explains, their forthcoming fourth album (from which we get several neat preview cuts) will mark the band’s ten-year anniversary. If this is the birthday bash, it’s a fine way to paint the town red, as Broken Records deliver a vital lesson in doing hometown shows right.