“I heard some good singing done there,” vocalist Jonathan Higgs remarks in a gruff Cumbrian accent. “Well done.”
Praising your fans for bellowing along can sound falsely modest, but when they studiously follow the stutters of ‘Cough Cough’ or the drinking-game tongue twister ‘Torso Of The Week’, that is noteworthy.
Everything Everything’s dense lyrical screeds join abrupt tempo changes and jarring melodic shifts in a mutation of math rock, a previously obscure indie-rock genre that has gradually shifted mainstream with success for Alt-J, Foals and this Manchester-based foursome.
Their second album Arc debuted at number five last month, thanks to time taken shoehorning their plethora of ideas into more manageable structures, but you sense this ambitious lot are yet to be sated.
With Higgs’s vocal ticks and other quirks, Everything Everything remain one of the more divisive bands around, so it will be intriguing to catch the reaction to forthcoming single ‘Duet’, a highlight tonight when the group stick to a steadier groove and more expansive sound. Admittedly, its soaring power relies on sequenced violins, but these provide a sumptuous background for Higgs’s falsetto and his bandmates’ harmonies.
Elsewhere, the group show progression from the contemporary r’n’b influences of 2010’s debut album, Man Alive, most strikingly on slower numbers that allow the singer to inject more feeling into his often inscrutable lyrics.
‘The Peaks’ is a sombre meditation on looming apocalypse, while Higgs, evolving into a committed frontman, delivers a seductive croon while laying bare the relationship breakdown of ‘The House Is Dust’. Now firmly away from the keyboards where he began in Everything Everything’s early days, he engages with the audience more as the night progresses and twitches as sharply as some of the band’s tunes.
Other numbers benefit live from increased contrast, as on ‘Torso’ when needling guitars lift the chorus from the verse’s bare two-step beat.
Not all the group’s collisions of genres and musical inventions work tonight, though it is early material such as the thudding, straighter indie rock of ‘Qwerty Finger’ that sounds most unsatisfying.
Everything Everything feel ready to leave this sweaty railway arch for airier climes, highlighting their ambition when they close with the engagingly warm-hearted ‘Don’t Try’, Higgs pounding away at a bass drum in time to the driving pulse of the group’s precise machine-funk. He may have the surname of the boson-predicting scientist, but life as studio boffins is not enough for Everything Everything’s singer or his bandmates.