Timothy van Sas
Timothy van Sas

Friday, 21 October 2011

The Horrors @ Leeds Metropolitan University

Striding back onto the stage for the Horrors 3 song encore, frontman Faris Badwan told a full house at Leeds Met “you gotta fucking wake up”. Bad workmen always look like fools. He’s the one who has spent the majority of the last 55 minutes hunched over the mic stand looking statuesque. Which I’m sure is a deliberate ploy to appear effortlessly cool but it does nothing but turn his audience into a hoard of nodding zombies. Maybe someone should remind him how the performer and audience relationship works.

Tonights crowd is young, enthusiastic and like me eager to see a band which should be riding on the crest of wave following the release of their critically acclaimed third album ‘Skying’. This enthusiasm isn't matched by the band as they emotionlessly trudge their way through the opening salvoes of their set. They’re not helped by the venues poor sound work, which has resulted in the vocals being barely audible, lost amongst a low fidelity fuzz that's nowhere near loud enough.

Renditions of ‘I Can See Through You’ and ‘Still Life’ are fairly well received by the audience who are obviously happy with the psychedelic pop sounds of their latest record. Whilst fan favorites such as ‘Sea Within A Sea’ and ‘Mirrors Image’ are greeted by cheers of approval but ultimately fizzle out. Only during an exemplary performance of “Endless Blue” did the band rise above the mediocrity of their pre-encore performance. Where their pure musicianship elevated the track to a height it doesn’t quite attain on record.

I’d like to reserve praise for lead guitarist, Joshua Hayward. Who at least made some effort to connect with the crowd, providing the performance with a level of passion and verve that wasn’t matched by his bandmates. All of whom could do with realising that if people wanted to listen to their music whilst watching motionless silhouettes they could use a torch, action figures and their stereos to create the same experience.

Throughout the set there is an almost tangible feeling that the room is just waiting for Faris to give them his nod of approval to go nuts. It’s only during the encore that the crowd finally get their permission to really join in. Ironically it’s Faris’s own show of frustration with the audience that fires him up enough to lose his cool and let some emotion show. Leading them in an anger filled fist pumping rendition of ‘Jack the Ripper’. Unsurprisingly the crowd respond, releasing all of their pent up energy with a huge call and response effort. Pints and bodies start flying across the air and the room is electrified. This is what we turned up to see. In turn the band feeds off of this and keeps the momentum going for the last two songs, leaving me wondering what the Horrors could achieve if they put the same amount of effort into their live performances as they do worrying about how they look.

Listen to Still Life Below

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Did she make your heart beat faster than I could?

Daughter - Love

‘Love’ is one of those rare pieces of music that reveals more and more of itself each time you dare to spend wallowing in it’s moody soundscape.

Written and performed by Elena Tonra, under her stage moniker of Daughter the track is sparse but purposeful. A slow methodical march where each sound is permeated with the sickly dull ache that hits the pit of your stomach when someone you love has been unfaithful.

The lyrics are a trail of introverted thought, where the word “love” is a disguise for the name of whoever it was that broke Tonra’s heart. It’s repeated often and becomes more ironic as her story of infidelity is played out across the tracks near 6 minutes runtime.

Throughout, the subtle shifts in tempo are used to add emotional affect. When Tonra sings “I still wonder” there’s a pronounced pause before and after the “Why?” which follows. Making the word stand aloft, like an overarching question she’s asking to herself as much as the perpetrator of her emotional torment. It’s a brief moment of self-doubt and pity which is over in a flash.

The remainder of the song builds steadily, allowing Tonra’s words to dwell on memories of former partner being with a new lover. Letting this rejection wash over her before angrily venting “Did she make your heart beat faster than I could?” and spitefully questioning “On nights of loveless love, I hope it made you feel good ?”. The release of tension is palpable, allowing the track and embers of Tonra’s pain to slowly fade into oblivion.

Daughter's new EP 'The Wild Youth' is released via Communion Records on the 21st November 2011 and available to download now.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

United - Pete and the Pirates @ The Cockpit - Leeds 23rd September

It’s been an age since I was last in 'The Cockpit' (the 400 mile round trip used to be a killer) but the venue has lost none of it’s magic. Hidden underneath a bridge in Leeds City centre, it festers at the heart of one of the best music scenes in the country. It’s floors are gloriously sticky (in the way all the best venues are) and with it’s ceilings covered with grey corrugated metal it looks like the inside of bomb shelter. If you’ve never been before, make it a priority to go.

The crowd that has amassed within it’s dark halls this evening have a surprisingly diverse demographic. I had turned up expecting a host of locally based twenty something hipsters, my expectations were just plain wrong. In between the adequate support acts (Just Handshakes We’re British and Glass) I met Peter a 44 year old who had made the trip down from Newcastle because “he fell in love with the band at The Other Rooms” in his home town. There was a brother and sister who where in their early teens who had dragged their 50 year old mum along to the middle of the mosh pit and someone of every age in between. I guess the most sophisticated brand of indie pop in the country has the pulling power to unite all ages.

The quartet from Reading opened with “Mr Understanding” and like puppet masters took control of their audiences limbs until the entire room was dancing and chanting along to the song’s infectious hook. From there the band played one of a tightest hour long sets I have seen for months. In which the vocal harmonising between lead singer Tom Sanders and guitarist Pete Hefferan was a particular highlight.

The biggest complement I can pay to the bands set, is just how seamlessly they worked in new material from the recently released second album “One Thousand Pictures.” Normally newer songs stick out during live performances like a sore thumb for quality or performance reasons. This wasn’t the case. Unlike most modern bands they took a relatively long time (3 years) to put out their second album. It was time well spent, as not only have they crafted a new album that betters the first but it’s also afforded the band time to settle into playing these new tracks so that not one song sounded under rehearsed or out of place.

The very best was saved for the sets finale, where they’d played an extended version of the excellent “Blood Gets Thin” during which Tom leapt from the stage and into the crowd, sending waves of excitement throughout the packed audience. It was a fitting way to end an inspiring performance by one of the countries best live bands, I can’t wait till they’re back in town.