When certain songs play underneath certain scenes in movies and television, they serve to help us understand how that scene should make us feel. This rang especially true for me when a song called “Letters From the Sky” played on a little show called “One Tree Hill.” The song was perfect – completely relevant and just stirring enough in the opening verses before exploding at the height of the song. I had to find out who that band was, and it was Civil Twilight.
Hailing from Cape Town, South Africa, but now residing comfortably in Nashville, Tennessee, Civil Twilight grabbed my attention with that one song and my love for them only increased when I caught them opening for another band just a few years ago. Brothers Steven and Andrew McKellar hold down their duties on guitar and lead vocals, keys and bass, respectively. Kevin Dailey handles backing vocals and keys, and Richard Wouters lends his expertise on percussion and drums. Their sound, likened to U2, Radiohead, and Muse holds an ambient quality, but has chest-thumping drums, and impassioned vocals and songwriting.
Performing last Wednesday at Rough Trade NY, Steven did most of the talking for the band between songs, commenting on how respectful the crowd was, and enjoyed that everyone knew all of the lyrics to the songs. Now, having seen them before, I thought I knew what to expect. I remember them being good back then, but they were flat out great during this performance. One minute they were crooning to the audience, breaking everyone’s hearts with lines like “my heart is driftwood floating down your coast…” during “It’s Over,” and the next minute; Steven’s voice was dripping with reverb, while Kevin poured his efforts into a blistering guitar solo on the sexy “Please Don’t Find Me.” Other highlights include a cover of Massive Attack’s “Teardrop,” Steven jumping down into the crowd to belt out a song, the up-tempo “River,” and “Fire Escape,” that got the crowd moving, and the two songs that earned the most requests during the night, “Human,” and the aforementioned “Letters From The Sky.” The former Steven performed on piano, with sparse guitar effects. The latter closed the show, and their hour and a half set seemed far too short. Their songs transitioned easily into the next, each one sounding warmer and more inviting than the next. After their set was over, I was wondering why they aren’t more of a household name, and why aren’t they headlining huge stages yet.
Openers Zeke Duhon and Knox Hamilton did a great job warming up the crowd. Zeke had fantastic stage presence, easily getting the crowd to clap along and cheer along so he could take a selfie with everyone. His songs were solid as well, and I especially enjoyed that he switched between both electric and acoustic guitar. He even took the time to perform a mash up of Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” and Kanye West’s “Can’t Tell Me Nothin’.” Easily switching between rapping and singing, he totally won the crowd over.
Knox Hamilton’s songs, full of catchy choruses, intricate bass lines, and rhythmic drums served up on songs like “Rightfully So,” and “Work It Out” earned everyone’s attention immediately. Sadly their set was cut a bit short due to technical difficulty, but that didn’t stop them from filling every moment with killer songwriting and full-on jams. All in all, a solid lineup that formed a magical night for everyone involved.
Article by: Lesley Keller