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(Image: © Katja Ogrin)

Kaprekar’s Constant at the Water Rats, London - live review

From studio to stage, roll out the Kaprekar’s Constant live show with multi-instrumentalist David Jackson

As guitarist Al Nicholson explains between songs tonight, Kaprekar’s Constant started life purely as a studio project. In the same bit of stage banter, Nicholson confesses that trying to coordinate all of the seven members’ schedules just so they could arrange rehearsals was a tricky prospect, and unfortunately it shows as they make their live debut in the intimate surroundings of The Water Rats in King’s Cross.

Vocalists Bill Jefferson and Dorie Jackson both have to read their lyrics from sheets, which makes it hard for them to forge a connection with the audience since they’re always looking down. The players often appear tense as they navigate their charts, worried in case they miss a cue, and Nicholson’s guitar solos frequently wander out of tune. Only ex-Van der Graaf Generator veteran David Jackson looks at ease on the stage, throwing himself into every solo, whether he’s playing flute, piccolo or alto, tenor or soprano saxophone.

The audience seem to be a mixture of people who’ve travelled from Holland for the occasion, plus friends and family of the band, and together they’re never less than enthusiastic.

Most of the set is drawn from the Fate Outsmarts Desire album, which has a preponderance of medium-tempo songs. Jefferson’s voice can at times recall Nik Kershaw, and of the two singers, it’s Dorie Jackson who has the richer tone, which helps carry Pearl Of The Lake and the folky ballad The Night Watchman. Blue Bird tells the story of the men and machines who raced to break the world land speed record in the 1920s, although it seems incongruous to set a tale about the pursuit of velocity to such an unhurried tempo. The busiest sections of the music get a little untidy, though, again reflecting a lack of rehearsal time.

Houdini (King Of Cards) is the only song in the set to make use of the screen at the back of the stage, as this shows a film about the legendary escapologist – although unfortunately the video crashes before the end of the track, leaving a Windows Error message hovering over the musicians. Hardly ideal. Technical and musical bugbears can be forgiven on a first outing. Hopefully further performances and greater preparation will iron out the kinks.