Wild Beasts at The Stiff Kitten, Belfast
Wild Beasts Stiff Kitten, December 2nd, 2011
It’s mid-December and the end of year "best of" lists are coming in thick and fast. Surely enough, as was only to be expected ever since it was let loose in May, Cumbrian indie-rockers Wild Beasts’ fourth album Smother features right up there on the most prestigious and beyond. Without question then, 2011 has seen the band arrive in ways they have threatened for years now, and tonight’s packed house is both a reflection of this and proof that this has turned out to be one the most anticipated gigs of the year.
With the Stiff Kitten predictably packed out, the four-piece start on the seductive swoon of ‘Bed Of Nails’, Hayden Thorpe’s crooning "I would lie anywhere were with you" expertly sustained by co-vocalist Tom Fleming throughout. While it’s a steady, dense and convincing first gambit, one of the band’s more familiar songs, ‘We Still Got The Taste Dancing On Our Tongues’ — with Thorpe/Fleming dual vocals and Ben Little’s entrancing guitar-work — aptly exposes the band’s startlingly refined musicianship.
An early highlight, the bright, polyrhythmic spell of ‘The Devil’s Crayon’ stands as a midpoint between Modest Mouse and Maps and Atlases, and easily lures tonight’s crowd to chant the wonderful refrain, "We are so many tiny pieces". With a sudden surge of applause confirming the effect of Wild Beasts’ beguiling power — and despite the fact his vocals tend to divide many of those who would otherwise be completely smitten by the band’s slow-burning spell — Thorpe graciously thanks fans and the curious alike before the quartet resume their measured and remarkably original craft.
Giving due thought to songs from throughout their short career, but focusing mostly on material from their latest release, the fairly undetected Fleming comes to the fore on ‘Deeper’, a number that’s attentively defined by Chris Talbot’s distinctive drumming from start to finish. In fact, just that little bit more than any other song tonight, this and ‘This Is Our Lot’ — which sees Thorpe meld Morrissey circa Your Arsenal and Jeff Buckley — stand out as Wild Beasts’ most seamlessly inspired and precious efforts by some distance.
That said, despite a slight state of restlessness making the rounds during the band’s lesser known material, ‘Hooting and Howling’ rears its head and proves to be the most upbeat and celebratory-seeming song of the night, its crescendo beckoning many a hip sway and cheer. Alas, saving the very best to last, a faultless encore of ‘Lion’s Share’, ‘All The King’s Men’ and the aptly-titled ‘End Come Too Soon’ nicely conclude an understated but genuinely captivating set from one of the finest bands making music today.