Review of the best live shows

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The Independent Culture

Fanfarlo

229, London

fourstar

Fanfarlo are one of those bands you wish you discovered. But on this occasion, David Bowie got there first, after he heard their second single, "You Are One Of The Few Outsiders Who Really Understands Us", on Marc Riley's 6Music show and put them in his "top 10 best new music".

In their short but near perfect set supporting Tunng, from the opening July single 'Fire Escape' which brings together Grandaddy-esque swirly synths, trumpet solo, violin and acoustic guitar, Fanfarlo fill the room with warm summery soundscapes. Led by their unassuming and relocated Swedish singer Simon, the London-based six-piece push guitar to the periphery in favour of the orchestrated indie-folk-pop of US acts Beirut and Sufjan Stevens.

Both musically and visually they are compelling; each musician seems to be master of more than one instrument – throughout the set, Cathy turns to violin, keys, mandolin and glockenspiel while Leon constantly alternates between trumpet and keys.

"We Live By The Lake" has rich instrumentation, which calls to mind Sufjan Stevens. "The 'Reservoir" is no less lush.

But each of their songs is a melodic gem. Fanfarlo's shiny indie-pop is so luminescent we could almost be fooled into thinking that it's summertime.

Peter and the Wolf

Cargo, London

threestar

Liverpool trio Peter and the Wolf were taken on by Elbow's Guy Garvey and I Am Kloot's Peter Jobson's own Skinny Dog label who released their debut mini-album Storyteller last December. With BBC 6Music and XFM sessions to follow, they built up a devoted following in their local Merseyside. It may be a Tuesday night, but it looks like the fanbase is filtering down south.

The trio are arresting from the start: drummer Donna Dosanjh stands as she strikes her impressively creative and off-kilter beats, surrounded by tambourines and cymbals, while double-bassist Hugo Harrison plucks out the jazzy basslines to singer Marc Sunderland's folk-blues guitar. Some songs amble along pleasantly, while others are magical, combining hearty melodic pop hooks and energetic rhythm. In "Moon to The Sea", early in their set, Dosanjh's galloping drum beats and Sunderland's jaunty rhythmic guitar-playing drive the pair's glorious vocal harmonies, recalling the musical exuberance of The Bees. "White Noise" is just as catchy, its zany rhythmic guitar riff nodding to their Liverpool predecessors The Zutons.

The sweet melody of "Working Away" is transformed into an energy-fuelled pop song.

It's the way they blend the fragility of folk with hearty pop riffs that so characterises the infectiously whimsical nature of their music.

Eugene McGuinness

Luminaire, London

threestar

Of the relentless flux of singer songwriters, Eugene McGuinness stands out from the crowd. He may look pretty average: mop-top hair and dark collared shirt. And, like his peers, the everyday fashions the subject matter of his sharply observational story-like songs. But even when he sings about getting lost in Tesco, he is quite mesmerising.

On his debut mini-album The Early Learnings Of... released in August, pianos, guitars and psychedelic electronica bring shimmering pop melodies to life. Tonight the set is stripped back to basics; just McGuinness and his acoustic guitar. From opening song "Myrtle Parade", his voice recalls Rufus Wainwright, and he coaxes smiles from the audience with his playful vocals.

"How much did you pay for the new Radiohead album," he asks, then rattles through songs, cramming as many as possible into his allotted half hour. With so many gems, who can blame him? But such a rush to impart his abundance of poetically clever lyrics and his songs are over too soon. Lines like "I'm a hollow man with twelve tin cans of woe" stand out, making him wiser than his 21 years. The upcoming single "Bold Street", saved for last, is a pure example of his songwriting talent.

Support slots with the Shins and Rilo Kiley already under his belt, it won't be long before McGuinness is topping the bill.

The Whitest Boy Alive

Hoxton Bar & Kitchen, London

fourstar

To appreciate the vast cult status that The Whitest Boy Alive have amassed before their debut UK performance, picture a queue snaking around the bar – an hour before the support act take to the stage. With such levels of hype, the pressure is on.

Fronted by one half of Norwegian Kings of Convenience, Erlend Oye, the Berlin-based four-piece don't disappoint. "I love you!" shouts one ecstatic audience member.

Showcasing their leftfield electronica-house indie debut album "Dreams" to be released on Modular in November, they play their set fluidly, like a perfect DJ mix. There is a Balearic club-like vibe in the crammed and sweaty room, the crowd waving their arms in the air, cheering at Oye's every move.

Oye flaunts the nerd image with his huge glasses and thumbs up, jumping up and down with bassist Marcin Oz to their minimalist pop songs of stripped-back percussion and rhythmic guitars. Their laid-back charm and off-kilter rhythms are reminiscent of Oye's other singing collaboration Royksopp.

The party really gets going with their unabashed cover of "Show Me Love" by Robin S, while their debut single "Burning" is a highlight for its catchy guitar riff.

Some cross-over side projects are just a bit of fun. Erlend Oye's, however, threatens to take over the day job.

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