There was nothing particularly odd about Wild Beasts front man Hayden Thorpe coming on stage wearing a tiny red beanie—it really didn’t look that out of place. Nevertheless, at every concert there will always be that proverbial “guy” in the audience that absolutely needs to comment on any eccentricity that’s present in the performance.
“Nice hat,” he boomed sarcastically from under the balcony in the rear of the Paradise.
Thorpe, unfazed, and with too much naiveté to realize the facetiousness behind the comment, responded quickly and rather humbly, “thanks.”
It was at that moment—not the hours spent listening to the band’s albums at home, or the churning synergism between guitars and bass and drums at the show—that I truly fell in love with this band from tiny Kendal, England.
I arrived at the venue on Tuesday night right as the opener, ambient pop collective Bobby, began their set. The material was far enough of a departure from their headliner that it didn’t seem like a copycat act, yet close enough that they had the audience ensnared for the duration of their time. At 9:52 the band came on to an impassioned applause, considering how many people were there (the place was only slightly over half capacity; I was at the tUnE-yArDs concert there this past Wednesday, where you could barely find a spot to breathe).
After an extremely grateful but rushed salutation, the droning bass line of “Lion’s Share,” the opening track from the band’s brilliantly paced and most recent album Smother, began. Thorpe’s vocals here—and for the rest of the night—were spot on. Quite honestly, I didn’t know what to expect from the show. An uninitiated listener could very easily accuse Wild Beasts’ repertoire to be nothing but grandiloquence, but I held out hope that the sensuality that pervades each song would translate well live.
It did. Thorpe’s bass and vocal counterpart, Tom Fleming, sounded equally as breathtaking. I can’t quite place my finger on it—maybe it’s the lack of reverb in the mix—but there’s a certain staleness, albeit minute, to many of the vocal tracks on the studio recordings of Wild Beast’s albums. On Tuesday, that wasn’t the case at all. The duel crooning between the two singers remained powerful and resounding throughout the night. Chris Talbot’s remarkable finesse on the drums, while understated and largely unacknowledged throughout the show, was something I kept a close eye on. Talbot is in my mind one of the most underrated drummers working today; his arrangements aren’t exceptionally dense or virtuosic, but he makes outstanding use of auxiliary percussion and tom drums.
As one would expect, the songs that got the crowd the moving the most came from their sophomore effort, Two Dancers, the funkiest of their three albums. “This is Our Lot,” “Hooting and Howling,” and “All the King’s Men” all were performed with expert precision, and got the audience in a dancing mood. My lone complaint came from Thorpe’s lack of enunciation on “The Fun Powder Plot,” a song that’s so much fun because of its lyrics. The highpoint of the night came from the sonically simple and beautiful jam that came in the set (and Smother) closer, “End Come Too Soon.” The ambient bass was at its heaviest and most sustained, and it resulted in my whole body vibrating cathartically for a full four minutes.
Personal opinions notwithstanding, it’s hard to pinpoint any genuine “highlights” of the show—there was an intense and mutual appreciation shared between band and audience that welcomed every song with extreme satisfaction. In an interview with British online music source, The Quietus, Thorpe told the website, “It’s about saying, are you going to come in and listen or not? Because if you’re not, we’re not going to accommodate you, to let you be part of and involved in this intimacy.” It’s a line that may come off as bombastic, but it’s in actuality more of a warm sentiment towards its existing fans. Whereas the tUnE-yArDs concert certainly had its share of fanatics, many were there for the indie spectacle that surrounds Merril’s current hype. At the Paradise last Tuesday though, everyone was united in a love for a band that has been terrifically maturing with each album and tour that they pump out.