Wednesday, 4 June 2008

The Futureheads at Camden Electric Ballroom

The Futureheads are currently playing like it’s their last hour on the planet – a fact (well, it’s as objective as I’ve ever tried to be) which surely can’t invoke anything other than histrionic praise. It’s a truly mind-blowing set where I marvel in the wonder of just where the undying fervour and force comes from. The stream of anthems emitting from the stage is endless, each one having its own matchless characteristic - from the “ooh-ooh-ooh” punctuating ‘Carnival Kids’ to the instinctual, homely beat holding together ‘Area’. And the tempo keeps building throughout, almost of its own accord.

They’re on top of their game, be it via straight-up stormer ‘Everything Is Changing Today’ or the frenetic syncopation of ‘Man Ray’. Only ‘Hard To Bear’ allays the undying pace, and it’s placed at exactly the right moment – the guitars chug like steam engines and the drums enter a quasi-tango phase, sometimes. It comes across so tender because of the preciseness of the performance - the contrasts are amplified as each bass flinch, each syllable, each uplifting coming together of harmony is put out there on a limb. Such a distinctive blend of sounds, another the reason this lot impress so much is their passion; simple, old-fashioned showmanship where the crowd are mere foils. It’s essentially four huge personalities buzzing off of each other into a mix of sound which is never contained. Back to the way that every little nuance exemplifies itself, the jostling interplay and sparser downbeat of ‘Skip To The End’ showcase the ambition of the band to prolific effect - especially when placed in a set of mostly feverish snatches.

A huge sense of self-assertion has encircled the band since I last saw them around the release of News and Tributes – there’s a new warmth to their once ramshackle, throw-it-all-in dramaticism. It only takes a glimpse at the contrast between ‘Broke Up The Time’ and ‘Stupid and Shallow’ – there’s warmth and humanity at one end, and abstract anecdotes at the other. And from that, there seems to be a sense of pride growing within their performance. The loudness and the fastness remains, but the guts behind it have undergone a change in substance. Each snatch is played out with swagger, framing the observations in protagonist-led social scrutiny.

It’s an absolutely perfect set, with the band’s relatively pared-down moments (notably, most of the second album) foregone in favour of a 15-song set of impossibly tight harmonies, spat out nuances and frenzied emotion – and that’s the master stroke, to be quite honest. For what it’s worth, ‘Sale Of The Century’ and ‘Alms’ are my choice Futureheads songs – but they just wouldn’t work in this context of full-on vigour without a let up. The only problem now is that every time I listen to the records I’m going to wish they were performing it before me instead. Kudos to the sound and lighting people too – it’s spot on, particularly the moments that feel like I’m watching the band through a red tint. Brilliant, symbiotic almost.

Where the heck to go next? Who cares. For now, this is a supreme masterclass in itself. Maybe one of these days I’ll choose to review a gig for DiS that’ll disappoint me… I’m not easy to please, promise.

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