It is just over a year since The Red Triangle’s previous incarnation, the fantastically-monikered Red Triangle Circus Gang, played at Wellingborough’s Retro-Beat night. On that occasion, their festival-perfect gypsy folk soul had the audience up and dancing with abandon as then-vocalist Anya and guitarist Marcus revved up their hometown crowd. A name abbreviation and a line-up change later, vocalist Anya has been replaced by Elle Delaney and with her comes a significant shift in sound. With The Horseshoe rapidly filling up and the crowd for this Retro-Beat looking even more eclectic than usual, the late stage times meant anticipation to see what TRT would show us was simmering away nicely. And tonight patience is a virtue.
The wait is extended by a surprisingly lengthy support set from Houses In Motion, who have had to restructure themselves for the evening to accommodate the absence of their drummer. Their set of blues and soul-tinged original songs and covers (Tom Tom Club, Deee-Lite, Stevie Wonder) suffers from the lack of beats or bass, although there is some standout guitar moments and vocalist Jackie has some real power to her voice, especially on the bluesier songs. A scaled-down performance may have been better suited to their situation, as there are moments when the energy of Jackie’s performance jars against the lack of a rhythm section, leaving you with the feeling that she can hear what is meant to be there, but the rest of us can’t. Like watching people at a silent disco.
With time rapidly becoming an issue, the six members of The Red Triangle are ushered onstage, introductions are quickly dispensed with, and they launch into their opener ‘Cosmic’. Immediately, the contrast with their previous incarnation is clear: with much more of an acid jazz/neo-soul sound that instantly harks back to bands like Brand New Heavies and a unleashes a real 90s R&B nostalgia, with Elle’s light and sweet vocals trilling over the solid, polished sound of the guitar, bass, drums, keys and violin behind her. This is boosted further when Marcus’ backing comes in, their voices working perfectly together to bulk out her delicate sound. TRT’s relaxed, natural vibe runs through their set, with lyrics touching on the metaphysical and spiritual just this side of the full patchouli. Trippy ‘Eden’ feels like the perfect festival soundtrack, leading you down an urban Alice’s rabbit hole. The intricate but strong ‘Had About Enough’ evokes memories of Massive Attack and Madonna’s version of ‘Love Don’t Live Here Anymore’. There are even hints of the old Circus Gang in the violin-led ‘Wooden Heart’. Tribute to mothers, ‘Momma’, is the only number that feels unworthy of the set, conforming to my long-held rule that you should always skip the cheesy album tracks where any band start getting saccharine about their parents or their religion. As Retro-Beat overruns its allotted time slot, no one is complaining as the final songs treat us to a variety of chilled-out soul, touches of drum & bass beats, and seemingly effortless flights of musical fancy that are definitely best experienced live.
With the name and line-up so similar, comparisons were always inevitable, but in this incarnation The Red Triangle are very different but no less impressive. They are a collective of musicians who are going to constantly evolve their sound with the ebb and flow of their varied influences, so I don’t think they do permanence. Whilst their current direction may lack the immediate impact of the warm, high-energy originality of the Circus Gang era, it is sincere, crafted, and well worth a little patience.