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- Sidecar, Barcelona »
This wouldn’t happen in the UK.
Come the end of Bowerbirds’ generous set – before the band have left the stage, even – the packed out Sidecar is already whooping, hollering, braying for more. “Animals!” my friend exclaims, and he’s not far wrong. The Catalàn crowd are evidently pumped to be in Bowerbirds’ company, as are the band in theirs (“amped,” to use the parlance of singer Phil Moore). Thriving off the energy channelled their way, they’re a revelation this evening, and the encore (consisting of an unadorned ‘Bright Future’ and ‘Bur Oak’) is as emphatically warranted as they come.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Earlier this year the band released their second full-length Upper Air, garnering much praise in the process. Not, it must be said, from this website, but these things are all subjective, and I’m firmly with the majority on this one. Coming off like a grainy, compact cousin of (and equal to) Andrew Bird’s exceptional Noble Beast LP, it’s the type of disc purpose-built to reward repeat plays, unfurling a series of unexpected melodies as serene as they are intermittently stirring.
Cut to an uncharacteristically drizzly evening in the heart of Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter and both elements of Bowerbirds’ sound come to the fore. At some point last year I saw the band support The War On Drugs in Brixton to a politely enthusiastic response, and really, tonight couldn’t feel more different. Drawing from their modest discography in a highlight-heavy set, they start well and only get better from there, Beth Tacular endearingly translating Moore’s words for the crowd.
Of the older material ‘In Our Talons’ impresses the most, Tacular strapping on the accordion that provides the song’s memorable hook. It’s the newer songs that truly enthrall though, and ‘Teeth’ is the first of these; its verses shuffling with vaguely sinister sway before the chorus summons the kind of elemental imagery upon which the band focus.
Bowerbirds are so brilliantly, unabashedly inspired by the natural world surrounding it seems ingrained into their very sound. ‘Beneath Your Tree’ exemplifies this, Moore and Tacular trading verses of devotion against a backdrop of vast deserts, gnarly thickets and howling winds. “You don’t own me,” they echo, “but I’ll take your lead”; any potential ickiness banished through sheer exquisite poise. Meanwhile, if (lead track at their MySpace) ‘Northern Lights’ isn’t one of the most perfectly formed, utterly uplifting songs of the year then I honestly don’t know what is. A eulogy to nature and dependence, it sees Moore sing “I do need to know my place,” with an effortlessness that suggests he’s well and truly found it.
‘Crooked Lust’ sounds fantastic, bouncing along on a winning percussive backbone that gently blossoms into beautiful pay-off come the chorus, but it’s the set-closing ‘House Of Diamonds’ that leaves the strongest impression. Here, Bowerbirds shrug off all earthly affectations to balance sweet reassurance with anthemic stride. The crowd go wild, and I’ve just about caught up with myself: maybe it would happen in the UK, but zeal this outspoken seems distinctly Mediterranean in flavour. An exhilarating show, through and through.