There’s an indelible quality to Wild Beasts that I just can’t explain. It might be their knack for superb lyrical progression and straightforwardness. It might also be their undeniably appealing vocalists and eclectic musicianship. Whatever the reason is, their last three records have been so wonderfully produced and meticulously thought-out that being able to hear their tracks and performed live at a great venue is just the icing on my 2011 musical cake.
For their set at the Echoplex on Thursday night, the British foursome performed mostly tracks from their aptly named third LP, 2011’s Smother. The band started off with the ever-so-rousing “Lion’s Share,” utilizing Tom Fleming’s achingly beautiful vocals and dark piano, before launching into the upbeat yet twisted “Bed Of Nails.” Only two tracks into their show, they had already managed to lift the audience off the ground and develop a groove that would surely last the rest of the set.
Wild Beasts also passed the off-hand assertion that a band should always sound better live. Songs like “The Devil’s Crayon” and “Hooting and Howling” immersed us into deeper bass and pronounced drum beats that rattled the floor and felt so sonically balanced. It’s a kind of sound that riles up the body in a way that can’t be experienced through headphones.
Being able to see Fleming and crooner Hayden Thorpe trade off vocal harmonies and instruments was also quite remarkable. Their subtle exchange of looks and gestures might’ve gone unnoticed by most of the audience, but not this reviewer. Basically, the idea that one musician can easily relay the message back to the other is something these guys have gotten right ever since their debut.
And it isn’t even so much about how well they played. Deeper, more emotional numbers like “Albatross” and “Loop the Loop” were intensified by Wild Beasts’ fantastic lighting set-up, as you can see in the image above. Oftentimes I’ll see bands perform their songs with lighting effects that directly correlate with the rhythm of the song to get the audience in motion. In the case of Wild Beasts, they actually do one better by supporting their music with consistently timed mood lighting, as if to enhance the listener’s overall presence in the venue.
Considering that this performance was during one of the last legs of their touring in the U.S., every song felt timely. They would play a song like “The Fun Power Plot,” and seemingly moments after you’d close your eyes and sway back and forth in a trance to its glimmery guitar and steady beat, the song would just end. When the band announced that they had one song left to perform, you could feel the entire audience sadden. It’s a powerful thing for a band to have such an immediate impact on someone, let alone an entire nightclub full of people, and it only gives Wild Beasts greater credibility as an act that will remain in listeners’ ears long after the show is over.
As perhaps my favorite musical discovery of 2011, I can only hope that those in the audience were left with the same impression of Wild Beasts. These guys are a unique presence in today’s alternative landscape, and they can only go further and further from this point in their career. Watching them perform live left myself and those around me in utter suspense for more, and I have a feeling we’ll be getting plenty of it in the years to come.
For more information about Wild Beasts and their releases, music videos and tour dates, you can visit their website, linked here.