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Gig review

Wild Beasts / Summer Camp

I saw Wild Beasts at the Stag and Dagger last year, in the ABC O2, and was a bit perplexed on remembering just how confined the Oran Mor space is, not necessarily suited for big sounds, although as it turned out the sound mix was perfect.
Despite being listed as sold out, the crowd looked pretty sparse during support act Summer Camp, a boy/girl duo who attempted to channel the Carpenters via the Kills and possibly Blancmange… hard to work out what was kitsch and what was not, although there were a couple of good ideas – may need a bit of work though.

About 8.30 or so the headline act took the stage and what a rum proposition they still are, the missing link between Kate Bush, the Smiths and Talking Heads (!).

Previewing some tracks from imminent third long player Smother along with highlights from Two Dancers” and one only (I think) from the first album, the onstage atmosphere was intimate. The four core members were joined for the newer numbers by a fifth (female), introduced as Kate. One or two songs in, Hayden Thorpe told an “anecdote” about a previous visit to the venue and being stuck in a lift which rather calmed the atmosphere of fevered expectation amongst a very diverse crowd. I really couldn’t pinpoint the demographic and almost no t-shirts or beards were present whatsoever – what’s going on here?

The two vocalists (Thorpe and Little) share lead duties and keyboards/guitars/bass, augmented by the drummer and guitarist. Much has been made of Hayden Thorpe’s falsetto vocals, which could get annoying I suppose but being pitch-perfect and quite odd, could win over most doubters. They kicked off with a couple of new tracks ‘Plaything’ and ‘Loop the Loop’ before hitting the first high with ‘We’ve Still Got the Taste…’ – as this built up the crowd, now pretty numerous, began to get well excited and subsequent numbers, even the quieter ones, were greeted with wild enthusiasm. ‘All the King’s Men’, possibly the best known and potentially most irritating track, was still exhilarating and original, a kind of alternative to the Smiths’ ‘Panic’, hymning the delights of girls from “provincial” towns… not Glasgow in this case, a mention might have been cheesy, although I’d go with Alva, Dundee maybe…

The worst thing I could say was that I thought I could occasionally hear the steps of Tim Booth stalking the building but that would be uncharitable to all concerned as he’s done some good stuff, just at his worst though…

Much has been made of the bawdy, sensuous and even erotic lyrical content, but it’s not Lydia Lunch or even The Cramps, this is simply pop music played with panache, sensitivity and originality, quite hard to find on a big scale at the moment, i.e. not lo-fi, folk-centric. Who else is doing it at the moment in the UK – Coldplay? Going from synth-based songs to funk workouts, the influences are not always obvious but I was certainly thinking of ‘The Headmaster Ritual’ and several Orange Juice tracks as I left the building.

Lead single ‘Albatross’ is not the best of the new crop, I don’t think it captures the ethos of the band enough to be a good representation, some of the other new tracks are better. A two song encore ended with ‘End Come Too Soon’, another interesting new track.

There’s another tour booked for the autumn (sadly no Glasgow date but Aberdeen and Edinburgh) – I’d say this band are a formidable live act and deserve to be playing to bigger audiences than Oran Mor.

They are Beasts, indeed.