Photos by Sarah Dorman

King Creosote (aka Kenny Anderson) has had quite a week. On Monday, he popped up as a guest at an intimate Kid Canaveral gig in the Wilmington Arms and on Tuesday night himself and Jon Hopkins were tipped as one of the favourites to win the Mercury Music Prize with their collaborative album 'Diamond Mine'. This Friday night show still has an air of celebration about it, and despite Kenny's deprecatory comment “thanks for coming to see a couple of losers”, we all know that this 900 strong audience is probably the largest show they have played to date.

Before the main act take the stage though, Francois and the Atlas Mountains delight the early crowd with a set that mixes indie-pop with Gallic charm and ethnic rhythms. They are poised to travel to Bordeaux immediately afterwards, so their early stage time suits them although some latecomers miss them completely. At the heart of their sound they have strong melodic tunes which they create with a complex percussive set up and a mix of analog synths and digital trickery. They win a lot of new fans and Francois himself gives each band member a congratulatory kiss on the shoulder as he leaves the stage. On this showing, their debut on Domino due early next year will be well worth investigating.

After a short interval the hall fills up and King Creosote and Jon Hopkins take the stage accompanied by Lisa Elle and three other musicians previously unknown to me - in fact the drummer (Sarah Jones) seemed unknown to KC which raised a few laughs when he introduced them! Jon Hopkins remains in the corner behind the QEH's Steinway piano for most of the set with Kenny initially nervous centre stage, barely uttering a word for the first half hour.

The hushed tones of 'First Watch' bring an almost reverential air to the proceedings, the audience slightly unsure if they have even started, with Hopkins adding some plaintive piano chords over his own field recordings of the chatter in an Anstruther tea shop.


They've already established a sense of place within the first minute, and they deliver Diamond Mine in its entirety, in order. Jon's harmonium and Kenny's acoustic guitar dominate 'John Taylor's Month Away', and just like the record it gradually overwhelms you with it's beautifully sad tale of a life at sea. 'Bats in the Attic' builds on simple piano chords while Kenny and Lisa's voices combine magically.

'Running on Empty' is equally lovely, though its tales of constant arguments make it more subdued. Its closing droney section is louder and more significant than on the album and it crashes straight into 'Bubble', which is both a great song and the one that showcases Hopkins production work most effectively.

Apparently 'Your Own Spell' is the oldest song that Creosote and Hopkins have collaborated on, and the version tonight is simply stunning, ending with Emma Smith's beautiful violin playing.

The extra band members leave after this and Kenny finally breaks the ice by quipping to the audience "that's them gone" and also dropping in the first mention of this week's Mercury disappointment. Diamond Mine delivered like this, in this setting, makes us realise it is a great album, and no industry prizes or lack of them can alter that. 'Your Young Voice' features just the two of them and the arrangement becomes more and more minimal, ending with an acoustic guitar refrain that is barely there.

Diamond Mine is a hard act to follow, and it is testament to the strength of King Creosote's lengthy back catalogue that the rest of the set is both equally as good and equally well received.

The rest of the musicians return for the relatively uptempo 'Homeboy' which Kenny jokingly introduces as an Elton John song, and then 'Spystick'. It's clear that the mood has changed and the band seem more relaxed, although they play 'And The Racket they Made', which is just as stunning and beautiful as anything on Diamond Mine.

Kenny jokingly tries to sell his accordion before he plays 'Leslie' before he and Hopkins create more magic with 'Cockleshell'. Supposedly one of Jon's favourite Creosote songs, this is another one that reaches the heights they hit on their album.

Perhaps the best news of all is that it seems that there is life after Diamond Mine as they finish with a track from their brand new EP Honest Words. Kenny playfully teases Jon for being a 'musical genius' before this, making him guess the key. It's just onstage banter, but it's clear that there is a lot of mutual respect between them as well.

For the well deserved encore they both take centre stage – Kenny with his acoustic guitar and Jon with his harmonium – and play an HMS Ginafore song supposedly written about KC and a lovely version of My Favourite Girl.

Tonight was an opportunity to hear one of the albums of the year, to appreciate the talents of Jon Hopkins as a producer and arranger, and to celebrate the songs of King Creosote – a songwriter who has proved himself as one of the finest around today. It lived up to all expectations.



Francois and the Atlas Mountains