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13th March 2015

Live: The Chief Of Seattle

The Chief of Seattle are surprisingly, bafflingly good

28th February

Deaf Institute


I headed along to the Deaf Institute having deliberately never listened to Manchester-based The Chief of Seattle—the intention was to shape an opinion around their live performance. The only prejudice I had formed was based on the name, which refers to the red Indian founder of the settlement now known as Seattle, so I expected folky Western guitar music and potentially denim and plaid.

I took my seat in time to catch the tail end of the weird, weird support act. There were: two keyboards; crazed musical theatre singing through clenched teeth; strange, frozen smiles; and the bands collective face was tilted upwards, as if to some great power above, throughout the few songs that I watched.

In a complete juxtaposition, The Chief (or should we say Chiefs?) of Seattle walked on stage sedately, lead singer Anne-Marie Gibbins shuffling ahead, eyes floorward. The musical style of the band is unreadable from the range of member ages and nondescript clothing.

“Right, thank you all for coming,” nods Gibbons gruffly, still avoiding eye contact, and they start playing abruptly. And they are surprisingly, bafflingly good. Gibbins’s singing voice is far from gruff and sails over songs that serenade the Chief. Central themes are freedom, feeling out of place in the new world, ‘that you discovered’ and adventure. The concept, like the band, is a bit off beat but I like it; it’s clever and unexpected. There is often a twee Western element to the guitar which adds a layer of instrumental interest. They really have created a sound that is interesting and offbeat. Gibbins’s performance style also has this distinct offbeat charm: gruff, unshowy and humble, it is remarkably refreshing. The Chief of Seattle are an unexpected treat.

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