Ten days after the release of their latest EP, The Circus, folk-pop band Paper Aeroplanes soar onto the dimly-lit stage at Edinburgh’s Cabaret Voltaire. Despite a full day of driving from their native West Wales, they were feeling pretty good about the first show in their 18-date tour. “We’re fresh as daisies, believe me. We’re like, it’s like we’ve got up at midday at a Travelodge. That’s how good we feel.” Lead vocalist, Sarah Howells declares while guitarist Richard Llewellyn tunes his guitar. “Do you know that Travelodge’s now have new comfier, thicker mattresses and thicker quilts? Just so you know, they’re now an actual choice, no desperate measures.”
Serene and with an unfaltering sense of congeniality, Howells graces the stage with a confident and relaxed presence. The other half of the duo, Llewellyn, mirrors her tranquillity, erasing the barrier between the performers and their audience. Accompanied by John Parker (double bass) and Ryan Aston (drums), this is only their second time performing in Edinburgh as a full band. Talented keyboard player and singer songwriter, Jez Wing (formerly of Echo & The Bunnymen), having openined for Paper Aeroplanes as his ‘solo’ project, Cousin Jac, offers his incredible piano sound to the band for several tracks, including ‘Red Rover’ and a combination of the original and piano version of ‘Same Mistakes.’
After a few songs, the band launch into the title track for their 2011 album, We Are Ghosts, introduced by Howells as; “…the title track our album that still sells the most copies of all the other albums even though it’s, in my opinion, not the best one.” The band play several songs from The Circus EP including the title track, and ‘Ribbons.’ While some songs are played with modesty and grace to reflect the emotional outpourings of their lyrics, others are embraced with bubbly dancing and hopping around the stage. “If you ever want to sing along, feel free. I could tell you were dying to sing along to that one,” Howells prods. The crowd seems to consist of a more mature audience than Cabaret Voltaire would normally see on a week night, and despite the melancholic theme of their music, there is an overwhelming presence of starry-eyed couples.
At the end of the set, Howells surrenders the guitar in exchange for drums sticks, and the band launch into a passionate performance of ‘Little Letters’; a definite crowd pleaser. The energetic performance is followed by a two-song encore. First, a stripped piano version of ‘Multiple Love’ performed only by Howells and Jez Wing on the keyboard, reading the music as he plays. The rest of the band join them for a last song, the title track from their EP, ‘Circus,’ after inviting the crowd to come closer.
“This has been a really nice way to start off our tour. Edinburgh’s always a good one and this has been our favourite one yet, I think.” After a moment, Howells clarified herself chuckling, “Not of the tour obviously, because it’s the first date! But I meant it’s my favourite Edinburgh gig so far.”