Meursault @ La Belle Angele, Edinburgh, 4 Oct

Meursault’s performance at La Belle Angele sees impassioned bursts of exasperation, humbling humour and a general air of pure enjoyment

Live Review by Bethany Davison | 11 Oct 2019
  • Meursault 10th Anniversary live at Summerhall, Edinburgh

With a new release under a new label, Neil Pennycook's Meursault return for an Edinburgh headline slot to perform a record strikingly different to previous feats; dispelling tales of characters from fictional town Crow Hill.

Jonnie Common’s Mike Skinner-esque spoken word offers a welcome start to the evening. Melding candidly human lyricism with slick bass solos and awkward anecdotes, Common performs with a self-aware non-seriousness that makes his set more forgiving of little mistakes throughout. A highlight, though, is found in Pennycook joining him onstage for what's best described as an ‘ode to the unemployed’, seeing the latter fervently play the air-trumpet, sharing in this joyous lack of sincerity.

Enjoyable as this is, it's the intensity and passion that guide Meursault’s set that really stands out this evening. Playing his most recent record Crow Hill in full, it becomes immediately clear the essence of Meursault is best captured live. Interspersing spouts of gapless playback with pauses for brief vignettes about more complexly inspired songs, the set opens up an opportunity for greater understanding of the background of this year’s release.

Introducing Run, Harmony, Run! with an explanation of how it's “about a sex robot who lives in the woods”, jokingly exposing that Common unknowingly Photoshopped his face over this image for the gig poster, Pennycook dedicates the song to Common. Through this, he develops some sense of intimacy in the room, as if we're all in on the joke.   

Through most of the set, though explicitly in his performance of Nakhla Dog and Beaten, it becomes clear that returning to performing as Meursault is intensely cathartic for Pennycook, as he performs with an impassioned sense of exasperation, again hyperbolising this sense of intimacy. With effortless cadence Pennycook shifts from intense heartfelt performance to even more comical vignettes, introducing Beaten with: “One thing we have learned about this album is that there are not enough songs about people turning into sea lions.” This disparity between emotional intensity and relaxed humour is endearing, and essentially renders such a messianic performance as one undoubtedly human.

Ending the performance with a cover of Adam Faucett’s Day Drinker – with a can of Red Stripe suitably in grasp – Pennycook’s return with Meursault is nothing short of special.