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Gig review: Celilo at the Bull and Gate, Kentish Town, London

November 7, 2010 Comments: 0

Celilo provided a small audience at London's Bull & Gate with a confident and assured – if somewhat short – performance, showing signs that they are a band destined for bigger and better things. The band – whose name is pronounced “suh-lie-low”  – are from Portland, Oregon and are nearing the end of their very first UK tour.
A packed bill meant the audience faced no less than four support bands over three hours before Celilo even hit the stage. This was undoubtedly a factor explaining their fairly short set, comprising 10 songs over almost 50 minutes.
Sloan Martin is the main songwriter, and the only remaining original member from a band that has had its fair share of personnel changes. Martin, on acoustic guitar and vocals, is the main focal point of the five-piece band.  Their pedal steel player is next in importance in defining their sound, with the remaining three members contributing electric guitar, bass and drums.
Most of the songs came from their last album, Bending Mirrors, including strong performances of “Sunken Ships”, ”Cigarette Blues” and “Clatter of Hooves”, all of which gave opportunities for electric guitar and pedal steel to exchange licks and stretch out. “Street Sweeper”, a new song, showed some nice changes of tempo, and an excellent version of “Easter Lily”, the standout opening track from Bending Mirrors, was a good choice to close with.
The only criticism is that the performance would have benefited from more light and shade. So, for example, the delicate acoustic guitar picking of the recorded version of “Piñata” was lost, replaced by less distinctive electric guitar. And at times the band could have eased back a bit to allow Martin’s clever lyrics – on “Pink Sofa” for example – to come through more clearly.
The venue was disappointingly less than half full, so Celilo are clearly still in the process of making a name for themselves in the UK. But both live and on CD, they’re definitely worth checking out, and if Martin continues to develop as a songwriter, they surely have a talent that marks them out for a bright future.

Of the support acts, James Walbourne merits mention. A guitarist who has played with The Pretenders among others, he demonstrated what an accomplished acoustic guitarist he is, singing songs from his forthcoming solo album, which on the basis of this outing, should be worth a listen.
Celilo on Backroads

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