Musically, London has treated me to a couple of great experiences in the last couple of weeks that I totally rate……..
Those young guns from south London that we have all come to know as The XX subtly rocked out the Shepherds Bush Empire mixing up the soft sounds of their album tracks with a couple of genius covers. I particularly enjoyed their take on Womack & Womack’s 80s ballad “Teardrops.” They approached their version with characteristic boy/ girl moodiness, fully bestowed it with XX ambiance and provided the audience with a sound that was sexually charged and extremely mesmerising. Having dispensed of their fourth member and her keyboards last year, the performance of the remaining three members; vocalists Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim and Jamie Smith on percussion, was testament to the simplicity that drives their music. Little in the way of special effects; no suspension wires or flaming firework bombs. Just a murkily lit stage, three twenty year olds dressed in black and a performance that was both haunting and gripping in its sedateness.
The second act that I rate is Grizzly Bear. Led by band founder Edward Droste, the four boys from Brooklyn performed at the Roundhouse in Camden last weekend on a cluttered stage strewn with instruments and strange structures made from metal piping, hung with jam jar lanterns. The set, which consisted mainly of tracks from their latest album Vekatimest but also acknowledged older favourites such as “The Knife,” was a welcomed insight into the band as a mature act. Instruments traded hands whilst the ecclectic voices of Grizzly’s trio of vocalists, (at one point added to by Victoria Legrand of Beach House who supported the Grizzlies,) displayed little dedication to stability or traditional melodic pattern. Moments of easy listening were obliterated with violent crescendo, which were undercut by layerings of ethereal harmony, which were quashed by psychedelic rock rifts. The whole thing was completely catastrophic and painstakingly beautiful. A memorable live performance that aptly conveyed the experimental intentions intrinsic to Grizzly Bear’s identity and paid tribute to the pure atmospheric quality of their songs.