The Concretes, Scala, London <!-- none onestar twostar threestar fivestar -->

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The Independent Culture

One of the first things you notice about The Concretes tonight is that their singer, Victoria Bergsman, doesn't wear a wig on stage any more. Are the Stockholm art-pop octet opening up a little, then? By the looks of it, yes. If their debut album from 2004 majored in mood music, its follow-up, In Colour, is brighter, broader and more nimble.

They almost got there first time round, of course. The concerts in 2004 saw Bergsman playing the enigmatic frontwoman to a T, with a doll-like stare and choked croon that reduced much of the music press to raptures. That debut album was an impeccably attuned pop artefact, too. Beneath its chamber-pop atmospherics and embrace of pastiche, its languid, lovelorn tones were lent a luxuriousness by a richness of sound and musical knowledge, enabling the band to combine honeyed soul, girl-pop, fuzzy balladry and a woozy wash of sound.

The most commonly dished-out point of comparison was the Velvet Underground, and you can hear why in tonight's opening tracks. "Fiction" builds stealthily from a simple rhythm, flashes of organ and a two-chord riff to close in a horn-led wall of sound. "Say Something New" unfurls along dead-eyed organ lines, while "Lady December" sashays and slurs like a stoned hippie-chick at a Factory party.

As they air more songs from In Colour, though, chinks of light peek through. The Concretes are a band for the seasons: if their debut album exuded a sepia-toned autumnal haze, In Colour is like spring arriv-ing. Tonight, "On the Radio" blossoms from its "God Only Knows"-ish opening piano into a lovely chorus that should make its title a self-fulfilling prophecy, while the new single, "Chosen One", is an infectious slip of breezily yearning soul-pop.

Some of the new songs do sound a little swamped in their arrangements and reserved in their delivery, but they'll loosen up. Indeed, at their best, the Concretes know how to combine the number of people on stage with a becoming reticence and sense of space.

On the forlorn-at-4am balladry of "New Friend", Lisa Milberg's spare drumming is redolent of the Velvets' Mo Tucker, giving Bergsman's tremulous voice room to carry the melody and sound choked up simultaneously. Meanwhile, on the fizzy girl-pop of "You Can't Hurry Love", the opening two-chord riff is played nice and lazily, giving the song the space to stretch out and breathe.

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