Wild Beasts, Wilton's Music Hall, London
Friday 13 May 2011
Tucked down a London backstreet, in the oldest surviving music hall in the world, British romantics Wild Beasts take to the stage. Hailing from the little town of Kendal in the Lake District, these four lads ("young men" is perhaps more appropriate, as laddish they are not) have come a long way since the 2006 release of their first single, "Brave Bulging Buoyant Clairvoyants".
With a Mercury Prize nomination under their belts for their critically acclaimed ("worshipped" is perhaps more appropriate) second album Two Dancers, the band says it has now turned its attentions to a darker, more "immersive" sound on their newest offering, Smother, which this set is designed to showcase.
Wilton's Music Hall offers a unique and intimate backdrop for Wild Beasts' intensely attentive fans to drink in the tortured sentiments of new track "Loop the Loop", which quickly sets the tone for the evening. The realisation that it's possible for a crowd to show their appreciation by listening intently, not jumping around, is apparently a new one to Hayden Thorpe (bass/vocals/keys), who recently said he embraced a more pensive sound before recording Smother as a result.
Poetic lyrics are an important characteristic of the band's work, but here they are often blurred by the sound arrangements, lost in the sonic ether. Nevertheless, the crowd are enraptured. "Be careful not to clap too loudly," Thorpe says with a smile. "The plaster might come down."
Two Dancers' track "All The King's Men" offers Ben Little (keys/guitar/vocals) time to shine with a frenetic performance underlined by simple drums, which lighten the mood whilst displaying the band's range.
But it is the new material that truly wins the hearts and minds of this crowd. Thankfully, lines from striking newbie "Lion's Share" come across more clearly. "That's why the dark is there/so you don't have to see what you can't bear," Thorpe's rich tones sing. "I took the lion's share/ because I didn't care/just 'cos I knew it was there," he continues with regret filling every word, note and expression.
Long praised for breaking the Northern lad-band mould, this melancholy is characteristic of the band's newest methods of confronting entrenched images of masculinity through dark romance. The result is both powerful and vulnerable – one of those rare blends that leaves spines tingling.
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