LIVE REVIEW: The Coral at London, O2 Forum Kentish Town

The Coral
Credit: Kevin Power

The Coral's self-titled debut LP contains the top 20 hit single "Dreaming of You", which was nominated for the Mercury Music Prize turns twenty in August. Ahead of this significant milestone, the Skelly brothers and their band took to the road to commemorate this LP's poignant anniversary.

With a giant backdrop of the original LP artwork by drummer Ian Skelly (who has designed all of the bands' artwork to date), the live seven-piece took to the stage to perform the albums' tracks chronologically. Despite being under two minutes, the album opener "Spanish Main" is instant, upbeat and catchy with a marching band drumming whilst also containing a cacophony of organs and non-ubiquitous sounds, making it almost like a prog record without the need to concentrate or be patient and hope that the song grows on you. Ironically, the sophomore track "I Remember When" has a mellower psychedelic feel before exploding with an ebullient and jumpy pop chorus where James Skelly sings the ponderous lyrics: 'Cause I'm better than him and I know where I've been. You know where I've gone, and I'm bound. And I lie, it's a sin, but don't we all sin. If that is the truth, then the truth is grim".

"Shadows Fall", with its ska-like intro, which unexpectedly goes into an upbeat jazz riff, continues to excite and stimulate as it did back in 2002. Likewise, "Simon Diamond" still keeps the listener second-guessing with its mysticism sounding opening which becomes interpreted with vociferous drums and organ alongside subtle saxophone chords. "Waiting for the Heartaches", with its chilled ballroom opening, also pleasantly catches the listener out by surprise with an infectious and upbeat chorus. The LP playout track "Calendars and Clocks" (excluding the hidden bonus track "Time Travel") also unexpectedly and continuously changes course as if several songs rolled into one.

What truly demonstrated how great The Coral's debut was that the above tracks were just as well received and earned crowd applause just as much as the more consistent and upbeat tracks such as "Skeleton Key", "Badman" (which undoubtedly influenced The Zutons "Havana Gang Brawl") "Goodbye" and "Dreaming of You".

Following "Calendars and Clocks", there was an encore where the audio version of the debut LP bonus song "Time Travel" was played. Following the encore, two lead singles from their sophomore number one LP Magic and Medicine followed: "Pass it On" and "Bill McCai". The lead single from their fourth LP, The Invisible Invasion "In the Morning," was recited back verbatim, including voluntary "do, do do do do, do" to fill in for the xylophone before James Skelly came in singing "In The Morning".

The majority of the other songs played in the second half came from the Roots & Echoes (2007) and Butterfly House (2010) LPs. Surprisingly, few songs were played from their newer LPs post-2014 since their latest LP (2021's Coral Island) was well-received, entering the album charts at number two.

Whilst a cross-section of their material was not played live, the songs that were played were all different and diverse with twists and exciting turns, which continue to thrill and enchant as they did when they were initially released. This skill that James Skelly has in his songwriting has made him an in-demand producer where he has been involved in working with artists from Blossoms to The Lathums. Furthermore, The Coral knows how to play out a show with an extended rendition of The Invisible Invasion's penultimate track, "Arabian Sand". The enhanced strobe lighting rocked up guitars and organs as James Skelly sang and whispered: "The mad man's in the desert" provided the perfect finale which will guarantee sustained interest in The Coral for many years to come.

Fans will also undoubtedly be hoping that with Magic and Medicine turning 20 next year and with only two songs being played live from this LP, it will also receive the live chronological playback treatment within the next year.

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