Crowd pleasers or seductive teasers? Getintothis’ Sean Bradbury on the beguiling Wild Beasts.
An O2 Academy crowd of hooting, howling hipsters – top buttons done up, heritage elbow patches and/or sockless pumps as standard issue – could only mean one thing; somewhere through the palpable fog of pretentiousness, Wild Beasts were on stage.
The new challenge for the Kendal quartet after the release of last year’s critically acclaimed Smother is to meld the consistent, smooth perfection of that release with the theatrical whimsy of Limbo, Panto and Mercury-nominated melodrama of Two Dancers in front of an audience.
They chose an interesting course. At first everything seemed to be Smothered: not just by understandably featuring more than half the tracks from the album; also in tone and delivery.
Bed of Nails began proceedings and old favourites We Still Got The Taste Dancin’ On Our Tongues and The Fun Powder Plot soon followed – but in more mellow and downbeat form than can be heard on record.
At this point Getintothis will admit my eyebrow was raised. Was this their live sound – devoid of inter-song dynamics, an art gallery crowd nodding in appreciation rather than moving in adulation?
It soon became apparent what they were up to. The momentum was there, the dial gradually cranking up throughout the performance in irresistible, inexorable fashion.
More tracks from Smother came thick and fast – each song sounding thicker and faster than the previous one – before they unleashed Hooting and Howling, with its insistent refrain and sense of chaotic euphoria, to end the main set on a high.
The encore repeated the process but in condensed form – four minutes of simmering build up on Lion’s Share, next All the King’s Men straddling the line between a Bundesliga crowd chorus and Kate Bush, then finishing with a synth-drenched prog wig out on End Come Too Soon.
Lesson learned – never doubt Wild Beasts, just let them get on with it.
Earlier in the night, hosted by EVOL, Johnny Sands delivered an assured set of understated melodic winners before Leeds-based buzz band Alt-J (or ∆ if you’re of a particular persuasion) added to the treat of promising support.
A few tweaks in their live set up are required to give their musical range – nostalgic yearning on Matilda, pulsating basslines and cascading drums on Breezeblocks – clear expression and to really fill a room with sound.
It all came across a little one-paced until they grabbed everyone’s attention and left ears ringing with potential when ending with the thunderous rumble of Fitzpleasure.
Pictures by Marie Hazelwood.