This was an evening fans had been antic­i­pat­ing for a few years – the return of Mon­tre­al psy­che­delia-lean­ing band Ele­phant Stone to UK shores. This, their only show here, took place at char­ac­ter­ful music venue The Shack­lewell Arms, mean­ing fans coun­try wide had no option but to trav­el to the Lon­don venue, a fact that Rishi Dhir, the force behind the band, apolo­get­i­cal­ly acknowledged.

Just a word about the sup­port – Baby Van­ga, who were absolute­ly inspired and, like Ele­phant Stone, bring­ing some­thing unique to the table. Their dance­able Latin / jazz fusion (includ­ing flute) explod­ed onto the stage and, com­bined with the six mem­bers on-stage chem­istry, will have won them many new fans.

Ele­phant Stone began with a sitar intro – undoubt­ed­ly one of the most thrilling aspects of the band’s music are the moments when Rishi heads over to the sitar bench. The audi­ence was hushed, respect­ful… maybe too respect­ful, as Rishi com­ment­ed toward the end of the gig. I briefly reflect­ed on the sub­ject of ‘irri­tat­ing gig talk­ers’ – a top­ic yet again being dis­cussed on social media, but the same could not be said for tonight’s crowd, who were total­ly focused on the music unfold­ing on the stage.

Rishi swapped sitar for bass gui­tar for the major­i­ty of the set, start­ing with Set­ting Sun and the wist­ful Heavy Moon from 2013. He intro­duced Lost in a Dream, the recent­ly released sin­gle, a first taster from a new album to be released next year. Heard straight up against the more jan­g­ly mate­r­i­al of their ear­li­er out­put, this track is the clear­est indi­ca­tion of a fur­ther shift in the band’s sound. The stac­ca­to gui­tar notes to open, the promi­nence of Miles Dupire’s drums, it’s all been sharp­ened up and giv­en more of an edge. Changes, well tweaks any­way, are ahead. 

Pro­duc­ing an album in French was a Covid project for Rishi and the result was the quirky EP Le Voy­age de M Lone­ly, from which the band played La Fusée de Cha­grin (The Rock­et of Sor­row), a con­cept album that fol­lows the sto­ry of M. Lone­ly who boards a rock­et ship to the moon. The fact it was in French was a bit lost as the vocals were rather low in the mix. 

The setlist was a thought­ful­ly bal­anced jour­ney through Ele­phant Stone’s pro­lif­ic out­put and it high­light­ed just what an incred­i­ble and abun­dant­ly rich body of work the band have put out there. I was hop­ing for a few tracks from one of my favourite albums, 2020’s Hol­low, an inspired con­cept work and indeed they cov­ered a run of tracks includ­ing the prog­gy Land of the Dead. It would be good to hear the album played live in its entire­ty some time, but I fear that will have to remain wish­ful thinking.

A high point was the moody Look­ing For Baby Blue, its insis­tent, cool open­ing riff played with flu­id­i­ty by gui­tarist Rob MacArthur. Rob was in the UK with The Besnard Lakes’ 2022 tour. The evening was punc­tu­at­ed with sitar moments, dur­ing which an almost vis­i­ble rip­ple of excite­ment seemed to flow through the audience. 

Despite admit­ting to feel­ing tired, Rishi com­ment­ed that this has been his favourite tour so far, and as the evening pro­gressed he became increas­ing­ly chat­ty, shar­ing more sto­ries with us. 

For Ele­phant Stone fans this appear­ance was a tri­umphant return and it’s wel­come news that the forth­com­ing album will have a Feb­ru­ary 2024 release, which should be fol­lowed by a tour in May. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *