Filed under: gigs | Tags: ellie goulding, kentish town, little death, passion pit, the forum
Passion Pit were not a band I was familiar with when a friend of mine asked a few months ago whether I wanted to see them with him at the Forum. I decided to take a punt and agreed to go along and got myself a copy of the album shortly afterwards so I knew what I was letting myself in for. The album wasn’t too bad I thought and I was intruiged as to how they would be live as I had heard a lot of good things about their shows.
In the end, said friend couldn’t even make it so I ventured off to Kentish Town on my lonesome for yet another previously unvisited venue. I got there easily enough and was mildly surprised at how big the venue was but I had arrived a little later than I wanted so the first support band, Little Death, had already taken to the stage so it was a quick jog to the front to see what they had to offer. They had a sound that reminded me in places of The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart but with a bit more of an indie rock edge to them than the ‘dream pop’ sound of the aforementioned band. The one thing they were though was loud. And as I had taken up a position next to the speakers, this wasn’t overly welcome. They were alright overall but didn’t do too much for me to be honest.
The second support act on the night was to be Ellie Goulding, who won a Brit Award apparently. As you may be able to tell, I’d never heard of the lass before but seemingly most people in the crowd had. Her set ended up being a pleasant surprise to me having never heard any of her work before and it was the perfect set to come just before Passion Pit as well I felt. Her shameless electro indie-pop sound really got the crowd in the right mood and she had one of the strongest vocal performances I’ve seen in a while. Her backing band were really tight, allowing her voice to take control of the sound and as well as singing, she also played a bit of acoustic guitar and joined in with a bit of drumming too (by the way, is this some new musical fashion to have a second drum on stage as this was the third gig in a row where someone did this..)
As I said, I was really surprised with her set and the fact she seemed so humble on stage only added to the charm. I can safely say it won’t be too long before she’s headlining venues like this.
Then it was time for the main act to take to the stage. As Passion Pit took to the stage, the pyramid of screens/lights behind them launched into some sort of fireworks display which was the beginning of a rather aesthetic gig. They started with a song that I didn’t recognise, which I later found out was ‘I’ve Got Your Number’ from their debut EP. A couple of other old songs made it into the set but it was definitely the album tracks that got the crowd going.
The first album track was the album opener ‘Make Light’ which definitely sparked the start of their gig properly as it sounded absolutely great. My favourite tracks off the album, ‘Moths Wings’ and ‘Swimming In The Flood’, also sounded absolutely superb with the sound being almost perfect at the venue, only being a bit distorted because of my proximity to the speakers.
The whole set was backed up by some rather classy lighting which flitted between all out bright colours from the screens mentioned before to dark and moody and this only helped enhance the gig further. The band were spot on as well and the frontman, Michael Angelakos, bounded around the stage, singing into the crowd and occasionally taking his place behind one of the many keyboards/synths littered around the stage. The crowd themselves also helped make the gig so good with plenty of dancing and jumping and singing along too.
The closer of the main set showed the crowd in fine form with chants of ‘higher and higher’ to the chorus of ‘Little Secrets’ which may have been one of the highlights of the night. The encore consisted of ‘Eyes As Candles’ which was okay but the final song of the night was one that the crowd had been shouting for the entire show and it’s fair to say it was well worth the wait to hear ‘Sleepyhead’ which saw everyone present get a little bit excited.
I’d gone into this gig not really knowing what to expect and hadn’t been a huge fan of the album but in the end the show was better than I had ever expected. The band, lighting and crowd all combined brilliantly to create such a fantastic atmosphere and there is no doubt that I would see these guys again next time they tour.
Passion Pit – Sleepyhead (live)
It had been under two weeks since my first ever trip to Koko for the rather spectacular show by Los Campesinos. This was my first time to see the Frabbits though and my expectations were high with their second album ‘The Winter Of Mixed Drinks’ having only just been released and sounding like it was written to be heard live, not on record.
I got myself down to Koko a little late so missed the first support band but got myself a place on the balcony just in time for the second act in Airship. These guys sounded quite good to me with some fairly standard indie rock tunes with some keyboards/synths thrown into the mix too. I quite enjoyed their set but thought they were better during their instrumentals than during the singing sections. This isn’t anything against the vocals, which were fine, but they seemed a bit samey music wise during those parts but were much more interesting when just playing music.
As for the main act themselves, Frightened Rabbit kicked the evening off with the new tracks ‘SkipThe Youth’ which worked well as an opener with the long instrumental opening. They then launched straight into the fantastic ‘The Modern Leper’. However, I was a little let down by this on the night as it seemed to lack the punch I was expecting and that seems to be on the album; especially when the chorus kicked in.
The setlist on the night was pretty good I thought with just the right mix of old and new material and the newer songs definitely did stand up alongside the more ‘established’ Frightened Rabbit tracks. For me, the pick of the bunch of the new songs is definitely ‘The Loneliness And The Scream’ which came across really well but I was very surprised and disappointed with the crowd’s involvement on that song as it’s a perfect singalong one with the ‘woah’ sections. In fact, through the night the crowd felt a little flat, especially when compared to the crowd that I saw there for Los Campesinos.
‘Old Old Fashioned’ and ‘The Twist’ off the first album also sounded great on the night, while ‘Swim Until You Can’t See Land’ from the new album was one of the other highlights from the newer material and we were even treated to an explanation of the songs origins being based on a scene from a film by the Olsen twins if I remember correctly.
The band themselves played really well and on the night it was the drumming I was most with as it was part of their sound I’d never really picked up on from the records. The lead singer, Scott Hutchison, sounded really good on the night as well and there was nothing to complain about with the sound from any of them in the end.
The first song of the encore ended up being something of a microcosm of the entire gig though I thought with Scott playing a solo, acoustic version of ‘Poke’. Initially he tried to play it without a mic and without an amp but quickly had to give up on the idea as the sound wasn’t ever going to fill such a venue, especially with so many people talking over him. Despite that, it still sounded fantastic even when he had plugged back in and may have been the best song of the night.
The set closed with a massive rendition of ‘Keep Yourself Warm’ which I wouldn’t have ever put down as a set closer but it worked really well and ended the night on a hight note.
All in all, I thought the show was quite good with a good mix of songs, although I was disappointed ‘Fast Blood’ and ‘Floating In The Forth’ didn’t get a play. I’m still undecided as to whether Koko was a good venue for the band or not in the end as well because the crowd didn’t seem to be up for it and I don’t know whether a different (smaller) venue would have improved this. Despite that, I enjoyed myself and hope that they do come back to London soon!
Frightened Rabbit – The Loneliness And The Scream (live)
A gig of seconds this one; the second time I would be seeing the Antlers and the second gig for me at the Union Chapel, a venue which has quickly become one of my favourite places for live music in London.
The setting for this gig wasn’t quite as magical as it had been for the Frank Turner Xmas show but I finally got there with my friend although we arrived a little late and had to settle for sitting in the pews in the upper tier. Not ideal but it did give us a nice central position for the stage.
We arrived just in time for the slightly curious support act in Marques Toliver. He was an unusual act which entirely consisted of just him and his violin which doesn’t sound like it should work but it did. He was massively helped by the fact that he was playing in a venue that made the most of such a sound and also lends itself to a very quiet and attentive audience. I do feel that if he had played a ‘normal’ venue that he would have been drowned out by people talking. As this wasn’t the case here, I got to enjoy his wonderful voice (boy, can this guy sing) and simple backing on the violin.
I did enjoy his short set but it did get a little bit samey quite quickly. However, he suited the venue really well and set the mood for the Antlers’ set beautifully.
And so it was on to the Antlers themselves. They took to the stage with Marques Toliver in tow and kicked off their set with ‘Prologue’ unsurprisingly. This sounded absolutely great and the sound was made even richer with the addition of Toliver’s violin. Through the night, they were joined on stage by Toliver for a couple more tracks and by a couple of brass instruments for some of the other songs and these were both welcome additions to the whole experience that night.
The rest of their set was made up entirely of songs off the album ‘Hospice’ and for the most part they sounded great, ‘Kettering’ in particular being one of my favourite songs off the album and live. I was a little disappointed with the rendition of ‘Sylvia’ on the night though as I felt it didn’t have the punch that it maybe should have, especially in the chorus.
It’s a difficult gig to talk about individual songs as the band tended to flow from song into another for most of the night with only a couple of pauses for tuning and for personnel changes on stage. This continuity suits the band’s sound well though and really helped the experience.
The sound from the band was really good as well with Silberman’s vocals being spot on once again and the guitars/synths/keyboards wove together to make a sound that was enhanced by the venue no end. My biggest complaint though is that they didn’t really seem to be loud enough. I appreciate that their type of music doesn’t work with the full ear drum splitting volume but from where we were, it felt like they were only half filling the venue with their music which was a shame.
Overall, I did enjoy the set on the night but it’s an odd one as you’re never going to come away blown away by them because of the style of music they play. That said, I think the venue suited them well but they could have filled it a bit more volume-wise. The only other limitation to their set is the fact that ‘Hospice’ is by far their most popular piece of work and as it is ultimately a concept album, it’s difficult for them to put new, or old, material alongside these songs. They did use the encore to play the full version of ‘Cold War’ which sounded great but this is always going to be a bit of a problem for their live shows.
The Antlers – Kettering (live)
Amazingly, with all the gigs I go to, Koko was yet another music venue I had never frequented (but will be doing so a number of times in the coming months) and now seemed as good a time as any to break my Koko duck having not seen Los Campesinos live for almost 18 months on the ‘Shred Yr Face’ tour in 2008. So long ago, in fact, that that gig actually pre-dates the conception of this blog. On top of that, a group of old work colleagues were all making the trip to Camden for this one so the scene was set for a good night.
After meeting up with said friends, we headed to the venue a little after the doors opened and got in surprisingly easily. The floorhad already been pretty much filled by this point though so we headed up onto one of the numerous balconies that Koko affords and managed to nab ourselves a pretty neat spot. This was one of the things that surprised me about Koko; it didn’t seem the biggest venue in the world to start with but had a good few levels that weren’t too far from the stage at all so it was easy to get a good viewing spot.
As we arrived a little late, the first support band of the night, Islet. These were an odd little band as the four of them flitted between the instruments on stage to give each song a quite different feel. For some of these, it worked really well but for others it’s fair to say that it didn’t. They had a bit of a Dananananaykroyd feel at times I thought and this was even more true when one of their songs saw two of the band take up positions behind drumkits. The vocals were what spoilt their sound at times though with some odd noises and unnecessary shouty vocals at times. I thought they were okay for an opener until their last song which was fantastic with the entire band playing a various assortment of drums and percussion which sounded amazing. A very strong finish to their set.
Next up on stage were the twosome going by the name of Swanton Bombs with just a drummer and singer/guitarist which bought the inevitable White Stripes comparisons from the guys I was with. This was a fair comparison on the one hand as they played a similar all out rock sound interspersed with a bit of blues but on the other, it’s very unfair to ever compare someone to Jack White and his guitar playing. That said, they more than hold their own. The drumming was top notch and the guitar work was pretty darn good as well with the vocals from both guys complimenting this sound really well. Overall, I really liked their frantic sound and may have to look into getting hold of a copy of their album..
So it was finally time for the main act of Los Campesinos to fill the stage, entering the venue to raptuous applause before launching straight into ‘I Just Sighed. I Just Sighed. Just So You Know’, with Gareth instantly showing how good a frontman he’s become bounding around the stage, and this was instantly followed up by the huge ‘Death To Los Campesinos!’ which got whatever remnants of the crowd weren’t already dancing to get bouncing along too.
The sound from the band in the venue was absolutely spot on on the night with crystal clear vocals and all the instruments levels being at near perfect levels so there was absolutely nothing there to spoil their sound. The set itself was a perfect mix of their older material as well as the new stuff. Only a few songs of ‘We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed’ got an airing thankfully (with that album not being a favourite of mine) with the best songs in ‘Miserabilia’ and the title track getting played.
Of the rest, I can’t really think of a song I would have liked to have heard them play that they didn’t (EDIT: that’s a lie, ‘We’ve Got Your Back’ was the only extra song I’d like to have heard). ‘You! Me! Dancing!’ never fails to get the crowd going when played live and it’s a good job that most of the crowd were in their skinny jean otherwise their choice of trouser may have fallen down with the amount of jumping and dancing going on. The newer songs, such as ‘Romance Is Boring’ and ‘This Is A Flag. There Is No Wind’ slotting in alongside the old tracks flawlessly.
While off stage the crowd were going mental, even up on the balcony where I was, on stage the band were great too. Gareth leapt and bound around the stage like a man possessed, occassionally throwing himself to his knees or joining in with the drumming. Meanwhile the rest of the band got on with their job and played a blinder. There was even time for a bit of chat with the crowd over Gareth’s despair of missing out on the ‘Best Band Blog’ award at the NME awards the week before.
The best was most certainly saved to last with the setlist though with ‘The Sea Is A Good Place To Think Of The Future’ being the penultimate song of the night. As I mentioned in my review of the album, I think this is one of their finest moments to date and sounded great live with the contrast in Gareth’s vocal between the quiet and shouty lines working really well. But to finish was my favourite song of theirs in ‘Sweet Dreams, Sweet Cheeks’ with it’s frantic pace and fantastic singalong sections. The bands made the most of it with some trips into the crowd with Gareth getting lost under the swamp of fans at one point before being rescued by security.
And we were even treated to a brief encore with ‘This Is How You Spell “HAHAHA, We Destroyed The Hopes And Dreams Of A Generation Of Faux Romantics” ‘ and ‘Broken Heartbeats Sound Like Breakbeats’ which rounded the night off brilliantly.
I was amazed at how far the band seemed to have come since the last time I saw them. Every song sounded great and the new material more than holds it’s own against the older stuff. At one point Gareth thanked the crowd for their support and said that he hoped none of the band would ever have to get real jobs again. Based on this performance he has nothing to worry about.
Los Campesinos! – The Sea Is A Good Place To Think Of The Future (live)
Los Campesinos! – Sweet Dreams, Sweet Cheeks (live)