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- Cargo, London »
- Why? »
Sometimes it is better if a show proves not to be perfect, not delivering every ounce of expectation you held for it. Sometimes it is better if a favourite artist leaves you not completely satisfied, slightly disappointed despite their obvious brilliance. After all, if they’d made one of the albums of the year and performed a set to top the end-of-year list you make in your mind every December, where would they be then? At an impossible-to-top peak in the individual’s book, gazing over a precipice – might as well throw themselves off ‘cause the only way _is_ down.
Why? battle muddled sound – the Oakland outfit, formed around the central core of songwriter and former solo artist (under the band’s name) Yoni Wolf, have to re_soundcheck on stage, before a packed-tight audience – and Cargo’s stench of sweat to play for longer than expected, bringing much of their acclaimed _Alopecia album of earlier this year (review) alongside a decent selection of tracks from its long-play predecessor, Elephant Eyelash. An appreciative but sweltering crowd sing many a word right back at the live quartet, while rapper Sole (is it Sole? It certainly looks like him from here) acts as a sort of half-hearted hype man stage left as we look at it, mouthing lyrics and throwing his arm around. The atmosphere is good, the setlist great. Yet…
Yet something doesn’t completely click. Perhaps the band are a little weary – there’re smiles on faces, and banter’s free-flowing, but there’s the tiniest pause before every one-liner, the odd glance that suggests they’re not having it all their own way up there. Perhaps the mix isn’t in their favour, even after last-minute monitor adjustments. Whatever the reason, something inside this critic, and fan, cries nearly but not quite. But still: when Why? are not absolutely on song, they’re nevertheless amazing in the grand scheme of show-going experiences.
We get ‘Gemini (Birthday Song)’ early, establishing the evening as something of a sing-along as all around your correspondent – and me, too – at least whispers in unison “if I don’t get to 2-0-0-5 / my deadline Gemini”. Later, ‘Crushed Bones’ – featuring lyrics about London’s Underground network, which has long ceased operating at 100 per cent by the time the band finishes at around midnight – and ‘Rubber Traits’ sell Elephant Eyelash to attendees here only on the back of Alopecia. Not that anyone is disappointed with selections from the band’s latest, either: ‘Simeon’s Dilemma’ with its lovely “you’re the only proper noun I need” lyric is an obvious crowd favourite, ‘Fatalist Palmistry’ ups the set’s tempo during its jinglingly jolly four minutes, and ‘The Hollows’ incites the closest thing to a mosh-pit anyone’s ever going to see at a Why? show.
Throughout Yoni and company are visually engaging, and endearing of spirit. They tell us that they’re surprised with how great their two support acts – Yeborobo and Munch Munch – were, apparently a rarity at their British shows, and Yoni gets the name of tonight’s promoters, Upset The Rhythm, wrong despite those three words being printed on a massive sheet right behind him. A few cheap laughs help the flow, which does occasionally stutter but never stall. But as it’s not exactly slick, either, you can’t leave come the final fade of chatter from the PA without feeling they had more in reserve, and that the band was coasting for much of their set.
No bad thing when you’ve the songs Why? have got – amazingly affecting, deeply emotional pieces of genre-defying modern pop that can cut straight to the heartstrings and snap them in a blink of an eye – but tonight could definitely have been a straight-up ten from ten. Next time, DiS is expecting to be picking its jaw from the floor come closing time, rather than pointing it straight towards takeaway junk food with nary an initial second thought for what its eyes and ears have just soaked up.
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