This is a review of "Live at the Met" recorded by Uma. The review was written by Sam Saunders in 2003.
Recorded onto a minidisk with the live mix uncooked this does sound very good. 40 minutes of cunningly made songs, played faultlessly. My fears at the concept (not a good idea, I thought) were immediately dispelled.
UMA are mature musicians with a well balanced and economical band sound. The five piece are relaxed enough together not to have to play everything in every song (if only that were true more often!) There's a Paul Weller jazzishness about it all, without the relentless anal gaze. Cool is a word that works pretty well for describing Uma.
"Adding to the Fire" is a good opener, with a dramatic structure and plenty of interesting noises and harmonic shapes. Maybe the song itself is a bit less than the anthem it wants to be. But we can't all be writing classics all the time, and this is well better than your run of the mill "number"
Paul Harper has a good strong voice that fits well into the band's restrained groove. "Down" is a big emotional belter that lifts the set number four, with some spacey noises and a George Harrison-like guitar episode.
Some of the intonation is a bit club-singer-Americanese with reverb (an easy habit when your voice is naturally rich and your mates have a place in their hearts for League of Gentlemen and Mary Poppins) If I was the evil manager, I'd send him to elocution and singing lessons to make him practice sounding more the guy that says "We've bin OOma, thanks fer list'nin' " at the end of the show (Paul impersonating his Yorkshire self very accurately?).
The full set is consistent and self assured. Uma know who they are and what they're playing, and once you've heard the openers you have a pretty good indication of how it's going to go. A bit more up, a little down. But relaxed, tuneful and glitch free. Sprinklings of rockishness. Quality stuff.
In the comparison game Four Day Hombre and Parisman come to mind, but then go away again. Uma have a monopoly on this particular sound, firmly rooted in pop, with guys who could play sessions at the Wardrobe or the HiFi Club if required. They will decorate your life, not change it.
Buy the CD from the website. Go to their next show and expect a chance to get friendly with someone cute in the audience. It's that kind of deal.