Who: Midlake with Sarah Jaffe Where: Shepherd's Bush Empire, London When: 18th February There are not many things that get me to willingly trot all the way across London in the midst of a deluge, however that's exactly what was done on Thursday night to bear witness to the aural loveliness that is Bella Union's latest exports Midlake playing live. Proceedings kicked off with a short set from Texan singer-songwriter Sarah Jaffewho performed admirably under a set of circumstances that seemed to be plotting against her. Looking a little nervy, she went through a half hour set of pleasant, if not awe-inspiring, soulful songs that were a little drowned out at times by the chattering masses on the floor and at the bar. Swapping guitar and bass throughout the set, her songs were melodic enough but just seemed to be missing the killer something to get the growing crowd on side. In all honesty, she seemed to get a little swamped by the hulking venue that is Shepherd's Bush Empire. The clear highlight of the set saw Jaffe joined onstage by members of the headline act who instantly captured the baying crowd's attention and finally saw the entire place stand silent in appreciation. Jaffe closed her country tinged set with a sweet song and a smile on her face. You can't help but feel that given a more intimate venue, this set may have worked a lot better. Following a brief changeover and a massive influx in the audience numbers, Midlake took to the stage for the final date on their current tour. By this point we had been forced back from the front of the pit favouring oxygen and the protection of a pregnant belly over a vantage point. Their two hour set drew heavily from both current album Courage of Others and their much celebratedTrials of Van Occupanther record much to the delight of the Shepherd's Bush crowd. No sooner had the band completed a terrific version of 'Winter Dies' which saw the stage come alive with the energy of seven men possessed that all went quiet. They had managed to blow the power of the Empire, much to the delight of the band themselves - "No longer will we be called a soft rock band - we've just blown the power at Shepherd's Bush" they beamed. During the ten minutes or so of relative quiet there was a rush to the bar whereby I had the pure joy of hearing a portly gent ordering a "Large red wine". At this the barmaid turned, pulled a puzzled face, and muttered "Do you mean two?". She subsequently dumped the contents of a couple of mini bottles of red into a pint glass. Classy stuff... Anyway, following a liquid interlude, the band returned to the stage, accompanied by power to perform some sumptuous string laden songs. It was the first time that I have witnessed the swapping of a flute for acoustic guitar mid-song. With everything that was happening on stage, the performance became almost hypnotic. Like being stuck in the eye of a storm, there was a calm in the venue with a whirlwind of energy being expended on stage. Set highlights were a stunning version of'Fortunes''Acts of Men' and finally, fan favourite 'Roscoe' which was met with huge applause from the baying punters. It was impressive how successfully they were able to fuse together two very different records into one virtually seamless set. Merging the chamber folk cosiness of Courage of Others and the prog-folk noisiness of Trials of Van Occupanther they came up with a set of real depth that was most definitely worth trekking across the city for.