Wild Beasts’ support for the evening, Fryars (aka Benjamin Garrett) opened with an intriguing first track entitled On Your Own. An odd choice maybe, but the mixture of rich, plodding bass, eerie space synth and melancholy lyrics struck a chord, and as the set gathered momentum and pace it felt like I and the audience around me had been gathered together on some strange wave of ambient electronica. Sad, yet joyous, it was a wave I could happily have surfed for another hour had it not been for the imminent entrance of the main act.
As a fan of Wild Beasts, I was looking forward to seeing them live. But - I’ll be honest - I was slightly concerned that Hayden Thorpe’s voice would eventually grate in a live performance, and sadly this was partially the case: Hayden himself has described his falsetto singing style as “like Marmite” and though I appreciated the sound of it for a while, after a few songs the melodies and vocal arrangements started to sound very similar. To make things worse, the bass levels in the auditorium were overzealous, and rather than enhancing songs, served only to irritate and distract me from the music.
On the whole, though, I enjoyed the gig, and much of the set was worthy of praise. The more enjoyable moments of the night happened when the Beasts found their groove and Thorpe embraced the often neglected middle area of his vocal range.
The Beasts performed songs from all three of their existing albums – including old favourites like Hooting and Howling and All The King’s Men – along with some newer, and in my opinion more exciting, songs from their upcoming fourth album.
It was in these newer tunes that I felt the Beasts sounded best, with Thorpe and fellow singer Tom Fleming sharing vocal duties more intuitively and the whole band finding a groove where the music seemed less contrived and somehow more organic. Admittedly there are elements of the new sound which would have probably seemed a lot newer in 1985, but there is always that distinctive Wild Beasts sound that refuses to hide beneath all of the gutsy electronic flourishes – and if they can somehow blend all of these sounds more seamlessly for their next studio album I’ll be among the first to download a copy.