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The last time Wild Beasts headlined this very same venue (almost two years ago) you could count the number of attendees on the top three frames of an abacus. This evening, however, it's a completely different story.
It's been something of an eventful year for Wild Beasts. While their live show has always oozed charisma, they've often been seen as the musical equivalent of Arsenal; an outfit doused in potential without ever quite managing to fully last the distance. Since then, armed with a batch of new songs to die for, they've conjured up arguably the best record of 2009 with Two Dancers, and as a result their live show seems to have progressed several notches too.
It's hard to envisage that this is the same band who divided opinion so brutally not so long back, as those packed into the venue, many of whom are literally fighting to get near the front of the stage, would testify to. Even before the band take the stage, the opening falsetto refrain from 'We Still Got The Taste Dancing On Our Tongues' is sung (albeit quite badly) from front row to back, not entirely unlike a football crowd bellowing the imminent arrival of their team on a Saturday afternoon.
As with the highly-feted album, tonight's set is book-ended by 'The Fun Powder Plot' and 'The Empty Nest'. Both are timeless songs that stretch way beyond any current genre or scene as well as demonstrating two entirely different facets of the band, not to mention completely opposite vocal styles in those demonstrated by Hayden Thorpe and Tom Fleming. As expected, the Two Dancers material aired tonight finds itself received with a fervent enthusiasm normally reserved for special occasions. Indeed, it would be easy for the band to dismiss their past altogether, yet the likes of 'Please Sir' and 'Brave Bulging Buoyant Clairvoyants' resonate with a newly honed confidence that simply demonstrates the giant steps Wild Beasts have taken this past year or so. The relaxed atmosphere onstage even results in the odd gag being exchanged between band and audience, particularly in relation to the album's title and their self-proclaimed inability to be able to dance.
It's the songs themselves though that really elevate Wild Beasts to another level, and although picking out one individual highlight amongst an hour's worth of absolute gems proves nigh on impossible, the svelte coda of 'This Is Our Lot' coupled with 'All The Kings Men''s insatiable dizziness edge themselves to the top of the pile by default, partly due to the crowd's increasingly rapturous responses in both cases. By the end, someone next to me remarks that he hasn't witnessed such an impassioned display since the early days of the Manics or The Smiths. With such glowing endorsements flowing thick and fast, it really is difficult to imagine Wild Beasts not enjoying similar levels of success in the forseeable future, albeit in the music industry's current context. Say hello to your new favourite band, and welcome them with open arms - if you haven't already - as tonight's performance was simply phenomenal.
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