We saw that Wild Beasts were touring this spring back in November or so, and snapped up tickets for Exeter Phoenix, which is our local arts centre; so local that it’s walking distance from our house, actually. March felt like an age away at the time we bought tickets, but I started a new job in November and last night came around quickly. I listened to each of their three albums twice yesterday. I’ve listened to Smother and Two Dancers an inordinate amount over the last 12 months. I own as many of their b-sides as I’ve been able to scavenge, too.
I’d describe Wild Beasts as my favourite band at the drop of a hat lately, I think. I don’t really have favourite bands anymore; I didn’t know what any of them looked like before they walked onstage last night. I only know they’re called Hayden, Ben, Tom and Chris because I have their wiki page open. I do know they’re from Kendal via Leeds and London, though. That they’re not originally from a big city seems appropriate, somehow; it makes their sophistication sweeter, more real, better. Don’t ask how or why. Fandom is different in your thirties. When I was 18 I knew the names and faces of everyone in every band I liked, even the anonymous techno duos. Maybe the internet is to blame; I can’t tell you the names of anyone in Field Music or These New Puritans either off the top of my head, but I can look them up wherever I am in seconds, if I need to. Which, to be fair, I seldom do.
(Despite thinking these three bands are the best three bands in Britain at the moment, and owning all their albums, and listening to them a lot, and knowing their music intimately, I barely know what any of their songs are called either. I used to know the names of every good song by every good band, ever. )
Anyway, Wild Beasts, live. Hayden, I think, in person (the one with the Anthony Hegarty range rather than the Peter Gabriel range) looks a little like Crispin Glover, but not snivelling. Tom, I think (the other singer), looks a little like a stylish builder. Who cares what they look like anyway? They sounded awesome; really amazing. The set was made up predominantly of recent material – the bulk of Smother, a good chunk of Two Dancers, and a couple from Limbo Panto, which I don’t know all that well – and the band, five-strong live (augmented by Katie Harkin on all sorts of additional instruments), were tight; so tight that some of the Smother material was actually slowed-down in terms of tempo, quite a feat of self-control live (especially given the extravagant whooping and howling that punctures some of the songs on Two Dancers, and which was thrilling live). The two singers didn’t just trade vocal lines, but also instruments, each playing bass and guitar and keys (and possibly other stuff) too. It’s ridiculous that one band should have two singers who are both so extravagant. I’m glad they do. (The drummer and main guitarist are no slouches either.) End Come Too Soon closed the set in a cloud of swooning, dramatic ambience. How something can be dramatically ambient, or ambiently dramatic, I don’t quite know, but Wild Beasts manage it.
I bought a t-shirt, like a teenager. I own four ‘band’ t-shirts now (Spoon, Wild Beasts, Four Tet, Caribou), probably more than at any other time in my life. Make of that what you will.