Midlake, 93 Feet East, London

93 Feet East, London

Midlake's unofficial sixth member is a little different from the rest of the group, who form a united front, with their neatly trimmed beards and disarmingly plain shirts. Propped up at the front of the stage alongside vocalist Tim Smith and guitarist Eric Pulido is a metal projector that puts in just as much effort as the undoubtedly hardworking Texan five-piece do throughout tonight's blissful show.

If we hadn't already understood from their music that Midlake are, well, a touch different, their neat and effective fusion of sound and vision confirms it: quirky, four-minute movies are flashed on to the wall behind the band for most of the show. The yearning glory of Young Bride is accompanied by a film that seems to have been lifted from some existential German short, with snowy hills hidden behind bookshelves, while the bouncing Some of Them Were Superstitious, from first full-length album Bamnan and Slivercork, sees a man chasing after a tin-foil spaceship. This is all well and good but, thankfully, these are songs that could also be listened to in a pitch-black room.

The crowd shouts continually for current single Roscoe, but when at last it's delivered, awed enjoyment is the favoured method of appreciation. This is a chugging southern-fried peek at the band's new direction, which seems to have a taken a further turn towards 1970s America rock with the recent release of their second album The Trials of Van Occupanther. Roscoe's glorious harmonies are repeated on Head Home; more amped-up flashback folk from the midst of the stage cluttered with a tonne of equipment and amazed-looking band members who, basking in the whoops of joy from down the front, have realised the best way to go forwards is to look backwards.

· At the Life Cafe, Manchester, tonight. Box office: 0161-833 3000. Then touring.


Leonie Cooper

The GuardianTramp

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