Wild Beasts @ Bedford Esquires, April 17th
Mint cake and, erm, three quarters of British Sea Power are probably the two most noteworthy exports of Kendal, but Wild Beasts could soon be added to that very short list. Playing to what could only be described, euphemistically, as a “select audience” (Esquires must’ve been busier than this when Los Campesinos! did their soundcheck…), Wild Beasts certainly aren’t the epitome of ‘indie cool’. Virtuoso vocalist Hayden Thorpe plays his guitar at a near neck-strangling height and sports trousers jacked up with braces to ankle level whilst wearing a pencil thin, barely visible moustache above his top lip. Wiry guitarist Benny has a perfectly sculpted angular quiff and the now seldom seen turtle neck. When you sound like Wild Beasts do, such sartorial matters are utterly insignificant.
After the obligatory local support bands, playing almost entirely to their friends, the time for Wild Beasts to do their thing cannot come soon enough. As set-opener ‘Vigil’ kicks in via a slinky bassline, Thorpe stands pigeon-toed and switches so effortlessly between a gravelly growl and unfaltering falsetto.
Rather unfortunately for all involved, the crowd of twenty something twenty-somethings disperses to the edges, which leaves the performance feeling less like a gig and more like an open band practice. Not ones to be fazed, they rip through the spree of amusing lyrical wordplay that is ‘Assembly’. Thorpe wails operatically, “My top’s off, I’m a goose pimpled god / I’ll quiver the jellies of every heavy and every bully that I might cross” to a faint tinkling of the ivories, whilst bassist Tom’s tenor tones prove the perfect partner for Thorpe’s falsetto.
‘Brave Bulging Buoyant Clairvoyants’ is without a doubt the highlight, in which Thorpe changes hastily between absolute orgasmic vocal ecstasy and brief infantile bawls while rhythm guitarist Benny pecks his neck like a chicken in time with an incessantly struck woodblock. The few scattered souls present are as appreciative as the band is apologetically thankful between tracks. The ethereal ‘Please Sir’, ‘Woebegone Wanderers’ and the surreal duet between Thorpe and Fleming that is ‘The Old Dog’ are all of a less chaotic disposition and they certainly wouldn’t sound out of place in the West End. Not that out of place, anyway. Similar could be said for the set finale, the more minimalist ‘Cheerio’, no more so than during the chanted chorus of “Cheerio chaps, cheerio” which is strangely reminiscent of Vera Lynn’s ‘We’ll Meet Again’.
There certainly can’t be many bands quite like Wild Beasts, with such peculiar lyrical content that isn’t a million miles from Morrissey, and it is nigh on impossible to place them into any sort of identifiable genre. It’s understandable why Wild Beasts aren’t everyone’s brew of choice, and Thorpe’s voice may be as grating to some as astounding to others, but, despite the Beasts’ best efforts, the lack of turnout leaves this a much more tame affair than it otherwise may have been.
[Review taken from Drowned In Sound]