Haim, gig review
Brixton Academy, London
Nick Hasted has been a film journalist since 1986. He writes about film, music, books and comics for The Independent, Sight & Sound, Uncut and Little White Lies. He has published two books: The Dark Story of Eminem (2002), and You Really Got Me: The Story of The Kinks (2011), both from Omnibus Press.
Friday 07 March 2014
This century hasn’t specialised in gigs where thousands of young women scream for a band who play screaming guitars. Not even The Strokes, whose Julian Casablancas was one of Haim lead Danielle Haim’s first musical employers, enjoyed the roughly 80/20 gender split her band play to tonight.
Of course it doesn’t hurt that Haim are three Californian sisters in their twenties (with two blokes in the shadows), offering a rare female rock focus.
But the alchemy which took their debut album Days Are Gone to No. 1 last year is more specific. Each multi-instrumentalist sibling offers a distinct, enjoyable personality, and exuberant, unfussy musicianship. That has let them remind their generation that rock can be pop.
They’re not so much Trojan horses for the values of their parents’ AOR record collection, as its natural synthesis. They also beam the massive fun they’re having directly to the crowd. There’s angst in the lyrics, but none at their biggest gig to date.
Lead singer and guitarist Danielle is the most demure Haim, and it’s eldest sister Este, 27, who takes verbal charge. “We’re going to my house,” she invites us in her languid Valley Girl drawl, picturing us cross-legged on her Californian carpet to set the scene for a cover of “Oh Well” by their clearest vintage influence, Fleetwood Mac. Este’s cavewoman savagery on the drums reminds us this is the 1969, Peter Green-led incarnation. On “Honey & I”, Danielle shreds her guitar at hyper-speed for a few seconds, then makes a rip-chord cut to a rhythmic pulse. She’s sounding like Pete Townshend by the time Haim turn to head-bang at their male assistants for the big finish.
In one song, they’ve spliced Fleetwood Mac, The Who, and bratty female LA punks The Runaways. Proof that they’ve thoroughly rifled through their parent’s records and their own comes with the New Wave choppiness and 1980s boom of “Days Are Gone”, and the strobe-lit R&B of “My Song 5”. Este demands “throbbing asses” for this one, with its sometimes vocodered vocals over doomy synth squelches. Danielle’s guitar still howls and rasps through these semi-digital thickets, ending in a deafening death-rattle.
Este finds time to update us on a notorious and hilarious story involving an unfortunate, pre-fame texting incident to an ex-boyfriend (predictive text can do horrible things to “a nap”). Youngest sister Alana eggs her on. “That story’s basically why we became popular,” she laughs, before apologising to “Mama and Papa Haim”, over here especially for their daughters’ big night. They’ve doubtless heard it all before.
Haim can be seen adjusting their own instruments before the encore, as if they shot to stardom too suddenly to remember roadies. A cover of Beyonce’s “XO” affirms their R&B tastes. Then celebratory white streamers cannon over the crowd before a final rock freak-out. These supportive, ballsy sisters have treated musical excellence like it’s a lark, and rock like it’s fun. The party’s probably still going on.
Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air
Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression
tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 I've been called an abusive and dangerous parent, when all I did was listen to my transgender child
- 2 Migrant crisis: Greek soldier saved 20 people singlehandedly off Rhodes beach
- 3 Sofyen Belamouadden murder: The inside story of a crime that horrified Britain
- 4 Company breaks open Apple Watch to discover what it says is 'planned obsolescence'
- 5 Ian Brady: Moors murderer announces his support for Ukip and the SNP
Poldark finale episode 8, review: How a costume drama became a Sunday night swoon-fest
Al Pacino admits he was nearly fired from The Godfather and it's still his most 'difficult role'
Warner Music owner Len Blavatnik tops Sunday Times Rich List
The day I starred in Only Fools and Horses
Peter Kay’s Car Share, TV review: The perfect vehicle for Kay’s comic talents
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Migrant boat disaster: Ukip candidate mocks victims in sickening Twitter post
Nigel Farage wants the BBC to stop making programmes like Doctor Who, Strictly Come Dancing, and Top Gear
Global warming: Scientists say temperatures could rise by 6C by 2100 and call for action ahead of UN meeting in Paris
General Election 2015: Britain would become a 'communist dictatorship' under Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon, claims wife of Michael Gove