It’s a short and slight gig from Wild Beasts this evening, more like that of a debut album band, and oddly-timed too, coming in something of a period of hiatus for them. But even in just over an hour and a bit they’re able to display their ample charms, for all that it is over too soon, and fails to show their full range.
The band now seem to have confined the oddball theatricality of their first album entirely to the past in favour, inevitably, of a more electronic sound. Singer Hayden Thorpe’s falsetto no longer seems so gloriously incongruous, the underpinning music no longer so feverish, helter-skelter and unselfconsciously singular. In doing so, the Beasts have lost some of their distinctiveness, but they remain superlative in what they do. Tom Fleming’s richer, warmer voice is now equally prominent, the music noticeably more considered and worked over. Non-obvious, sumptuous melodies continue to abound, but in a less immediately striking musical setting.
They open with Mecca from last year’s Present Tense album – a subdued start, which invites something more explosive to follow. Instead, the set only slowly ratchets up through the gears. It’s noticeable that it takes until second album centrepiece This Is Our Lot about six songs in for it to really spark to life. Reach A Bit Further then does exactly that – the band’s gorgeous dual vocal gem bringing the main set to its emotional peak.
Subtle adaptations have been made to older material to fit the style of mid-decade Beasts. Bed Of Nails, and in particular, We Still Got The Taste Dancing On Our Tongues are now almost disco, beat and bass being brought to the fore. The audience are warm in their applause, but there is a rhythm to the music merits more animation. Maybe a crowd reared on the more cerebral delights of previous Nothing Ever Happens Here gigs just aren’t used to cutting some rug.
In a set loaded with latest album material, Wanderlust shines as the best of the newer stuff when it introduces the encore. “They’re solemn in their wealth / We’re high in our poverty,” displays an almost Dylan-esque combination of wit, poetry and social commentary. The Beasts are lyrical as well as musical beauties. As the song reaches its coda, you realise how fully formed and exquisite a piece of music it is.
While they admit they haven’t toured much of late, it doesn’t particularly show in tonight’s performance. What they do show is maturity and progression. That said, a pogoing second encore of Brave Bulging Buoyant Clairvoyants wouldn’t have gone amiss.