16th November 2011
Between songs tonight, singer Hayden Thorpe sheepishly sips red wine and asks, “does anyone else feel a bit naughty doing this?” He’s referring, of course, to the show’s hallowed setting, but surely the evening’s most sacrilegious aspect is that this isn’t a more regular occurrence. With superb acoustics, whites-of-the-eyes intimacy and atmosphere in abundance, it’s a criminally-underused venue, and a perfect fit for Wild Beasts.
Hailing from Kendal in the Lake District, via Leeds, the four-piece saw their short career take a steep upwards turn following the release of their second record Two Dancers; with its ethereal synths and chiming guitars perfectly underscored by the unlikely combination of Thorpe’s falsetto and bassist Tom Fleming’s baritone, the album’s rich critical acclaim propelled the band into a limelight they’ve been bathing in ever since. Their third record, May’s Smother, met with a similarly rapturous reception and forms the crux of tonight’s setlist; just as on the record, opener ‘Bed of Nails’ sets the tone, the most simple of piano riffs accompanied by the same kind of shimmering vocal prevalent throughout Two Dancers; a slew of tracks from that record follow, including ‘We Still Got the Taste Dancin’ on Our Tongues’, the bass-driven ‘This Is Our Lot’ and the set highlight, ‘Two Dancers (I)’. A harrowing tale of rape set against a backdrop of hunger and desperation and delivered, through Fleming’s deep tones, with absolute sincerity, it’s as if its delicate guitars and haunting backing vocals were supposed to be heard in such ambient surroundings.
Closing the encore with another cheeky religious reference – “this is a song about virginity”, says Fleming before ‘All the King’s Men’ – both band and venue remain amongst the live circuit’s best-kept secrets; on this evidence, they surely won’t much longer.
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