White Rabbits, ICA, London
Tuesday 02 March 2010
Yeasayer are this year's Grizzly Bear, who were last year's Vampire Weekend. For every 12 months, it seems, there's a Brooklyn band on hand to enjoy the adulation of the critics and the loving embrace of the public. But as you're watching Yeasayer's wonderful new LP, Odd Blood, take its place in all the annual best-of lists come December, spare a thought for their fellow Brooklynite hipsters White Rabbits, whose presence on the scene remains curiously under-reported. White Rabbits' own sophomore effort, It's Frightening, may not be nearly as avant garde as Odd Blood, but is all the more fun for it.
From the unfathomably dark auditorium at the ICA, the six-piece labour admirably for the audience's approval. It's the final night of their UK tour and probably their biggest headline show here to date. The band's work ethic is remarkable: by the end of the set they all look ready to melt after expending so much energy on every number. They sweat profusely, swap instruments at will, and Matt Clark – one of the two full-time drummers – battles on despite a busted and bandaged hand, an injury presumably sustained during a particularly dramatic percussive incident.
Three of White Rabbits take vocal duties at various moments during the night, though the frontmen are keyboard player Stephen Patterson and guitarist Greg Roberts. Any band with more than one drummer is fine by this reviewer. But for a number of songs they push the boat out and have three people – fully half the band – bashing the skins. What characterises their live sound is its physicality; each deeply danceable track underpinned by the muscular percussion of multiple drums and Patterson's infectious piano riffs.
The set is filled with highlights, including the preposterously catchy "Kid on My Shoulders" and "The Plot", from their 2007 debut LP, Fort Nightly. The similarly ska-inflected It's Frightening features few low moments, and alongside the likes of "Percussion Gun" (which does exactly what it says on the tin) and the poppy "Rudie Fails" comes the more angular "Lionesse" and the Doves-like guitar looping of "The Salesman (Tramp Life)". There are some quieter tunes to hand, too, notably "Company I Keep" – which, with Patterson's languid vocal, sounds somewhat like one of Beck's acoustic ballads. It may yet be Yeasayer's year, but the night indisputably belongs to White Rabbits.
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