Monday, August 1, 2011

Wild Beasts: live in Melbourne 2011 (review)

Venue: Corner Hotel
Date: 28/07/11

Good news, music lovers! The lost link between XTC, Friendly Fires and Crying Light-era Antony and The Johnsons has finally been found… about bloody time, you might say. Wild Beasts - as it is they - bring together the power of a stadium rock show, and the intimacy and heart of a folk festival, which although sounds atrocious in print, the Leeds based neo-psychedelic rock/soul act, saw to it tonight at the Corner, that fans were unanimous in their agreement – the combination somehow works.

The very, very indie, mostly male crowd found themselves robbed of a whole two hour’s composure, on this second visit by Wild Beasts to our shores, as part of the amazing Splendour 2011 line-up. On record, these guys impressively strain and simper over rolling percussion and strings, favouring unstructured spacing - as is the will of bands in the post-Sigur Ros world – only much like Mariah Carey’s urge to use every fucking note on the octave scale - just because she can - Wild Beasts perhaps could do with reining in a bit that ‘desire to dazzle’ so much on stage as they are quite clearly gifted musicians, and have a solid cannon of songs working in their favour. 

To give an example of just how well versed and ‘in control’ they were in setting up the right vibes, the band managed to drink enough alcohol between them to dull the pain of three Christmas’s, and although they were, “still really, really jet lagged”, as co-lead singer Tom Fleming states, nobody dropped a single musical baton in their multi-multi-instrumental set-up. These guys are switching instruments in every direction tonight, and taking to it like it ain’t no thang. But hey, if any one of the four guy/one girl team were slackin’ off – guitarist Ben Little did spend a considerable amount of time on the floor - drummer Chris Talbot proved a sensational distraction for them to catch a break. Holding a steady gaze throughout, Talbot played his enormous kit – which included a timpani – as though he were leading a charge into battle.

Despite the drummers commanding presence however, it was all eyes on Wild Beasts’ remarkable lead vocalist, Hayden Thorpe and his roof-raising falsetto. A lot was made of the fact that Brett Anderson (of Suede) and Jeff Buckley sang in falsetto because ‘it just wasn’t done’ in the days of flannelette-shirted rawk, otherwise known as the ‘90s, and I wonder if it’s because of those two artists that more and more male singers are finding their inner eunuch now? Or is it all down to Justin Hawkins from The Darkness? Probably. But whatever the cause, Thorpe is a magnificent on the ‘shrinking balls’ choral vocalising, but not as high pitched live as on the band’s three albums, surprisingly. But Thorpe, as unique as his voice is, has found a wonderous foil in co-lead singer, Fleming. The duo, who are positioned either side of back-to-back keyboards, never outshine, but virtually match one another note for note, and it hits me that I never knew it was two guys I was hearing all along on those tracks.

Of the band’s back catalogue, their set is a pretty generous serve of second album, Two Dancers, which clearly pleases the crowd, who get rowdiest during We Still Have The Taste Dancing On Our Tongues and Hootin’ & Howlin’. Although the stand-out performances were of The Devil’s Crayon and Brave Bulging Buoyant Clairvoyants from their debut release, Limbo Panto by far. To these most festive of Wild Beasts’ songs, a core group of fans gather on the smaller side stage to dance. “Hey I love the Top Of The Pops thing you guys have got going on over there!” Thorpe cracks, only to be met with confused expressions from the ‘too young’ invaders.

Maybe it was a little harsh to say the band over do the ‘dazzle’ in a clear desire to go against typical indie band clonery, but on reflection, their show would simply have worked better in a stonking big arena. In other words, Wild Beasts were a jet engine blasting in a two-car garage in this setting, and their performance was far from ‘considerate of the neighbours.’ If my prediction’s anywhere near right, we were lucky to see them in such an intimate venue tonight because somebody soon is gonna see what these Beasts are capable of if let out to play, in which case it’ll be ‘watch your arses, Muse’.



Play Thing
Loop The Loop

The Devil's Crayon
We've Still Got The Taste Dancing On Our Tongues
This Is Our Lot
Bed Of Nails
Hooting and Howling
Reach A Bit Further
Lion's Share
Brave Bulging Bouyant Clairvoyants
All The Kings Men
End Comes Too Soon

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