Amy Gwinnett reviews Wild Beasts’ sellout show at the Roundhouse
A towering face stares blindly out at the Roundhouse crowd, its red eyes empty and unseeing, its red mouth hanging dumbly open. Staring, watching, waiting as the crowd stare back. The slightly terrifying figure is that of the Boy King, the titular character of Wild Beasts’ fifth album, and the image taken from the unnerving album art. It is, if you were to describe it, very Wild Beasts. A bit unexpected, a bit jarring, a bit compelling. And pretty fucking great.
The band have one of those slow burning careers that typify so many alternative bands of our era. Never quite huge, but comfortably selling out two nights at the Roundhouse and on their fifth critically adored album, the band trundles on, picking up casual fans with BBC 6 Music plays while maintaining a seriously devoted core fan base – the kind of people that were there from the start, and probably have a 7 inch of Brave Bulging Buoyant Clairvoyants (the band’s debut single) knocking around at home that they never play for fear of widening the grooves.
The stage is filled with pulsing red light as the band come on and launch into Big Cat, the opening track from the new album. It’s a slinky, sexy number that coils around singer Hayden Thorpe’s thrilling falsetto with the grace of its feline namesake, and sets the tone of the performance perfectly. Some of Wild Beasts earlier material is a bit more avant-garde than the new stuff, more strange tempo changes and titles like, for example, The Devil’s Crayon, but old and new are effortlessly held together within the performance and the context of the new album. A Simple Beautiful Truth, the highlight from 2014’s album Present Tense sounds majestic and romantic, a first dance in waiting for a particularly alternative couple near you, whereas Bed of Nails is a full blown sex jam, with Thorpe positively purring ‘I would lie anywhere with you’.
While the band may be bringing sexy back, it’s a shame that the crowd as a whole didn’t seem to get the memo. Though the odd mover and groover can be seen shaking and gyrating to the hits, Wild Beasts do, it has to be said, seem to attract a certain type of Serious Young Man, many of whom seem to be there to thoroughly appreciate the band’s time signatures rather than get down with their bad selves. This is a shame when songs such as Get My Bang, the first single off the new album, sound hotter than Ryan Gosling covered in cayenne pepper (it should be noted that the author, at least, was well and truly getting her bang throughout the show). The band end on All the King’s Men, a song that shows off the vocal talents of Ben Little, the guitarist and second singer (the band is spoiled with not one but two great vocalists), yelping and growling his way through the song, impeccably complimented by Thorpe’s falsetto. A roaring finale for Wild Beasts, long may they howl.
Featured Image: Domino Music