Sian Alice GroupEdit this event
As the list season officially commences, there aren’t that many people still talking about Liars’ Sisterworld, which seems a shame. I’m pretty sure that it’s mostly to do with the fact that as a consistently acclaimed but commercially awkward band, they've simply hit a plateau, career-wise; that said, the last time they played London, at Shepherd’s Bush Empire, general consensus seemed to have been that their new, five piece live incarnation was dull and overly professional. Certainly the fact Heaven is only two thirds full tonight suggests they’ve managed to alienate a couple of people as the year’s gone on.
First, though are the Sian Alice Group (well, not actually first, that’s John Wiese, who DiS misses – soz John). ATP is sometimes accused of shoving the same bands down its audience’s throats, over and over, but you kind of feel it may have a point with SAG, a fine band who maybe too awkwardly straddle a line between shoegazey indie and something a bit more out there to really get embraced by any one camp in particular. Anyway, DiS only catches the second half of their set, but it’s impressive stuff, one rolling, clattering groove that sounds magnificent over the Heaven soundsystem, building to an almighty, thundercracker blitz of a percussive finale. I’m pretty sure it sounds almost nothing like their studio recordings, which may explain why they’ve not really been taken to as many hearts as they might be, but I’m happy enough to just think of them as a wondrous phenomenon that appears only in middle of the bill at ATP events.
I’d only been taking people’s word for it that the explanded live Liars were off the boil, but if that was the case this would appear to be much more like it. There is, it has to be said, an initial tension between band and audience: fuck knows how they looked on the Shepherd’s Bush stage, but even that of Heaven seems a little high for them, Angus et al looking curiously removed from the polite, static mob below as they storm through ‘It Fit When I Was A Kid’. But the thing is, it sounds really good, and by the time ‘Plastercasts of Everything’ is dropped about a third of the way in, Liars have done enough to melt the tension and get people moving, and everything’s pretty peachy from thereon in. The start of the set is heavy and hard, snarling renditions of older songs like ‘It Fit...’, ‘Loose Nuts on the Velodrome’ rattling away in the space you’d expect to be devoted to some Sisterworld pluggery. But in fact it’s a beautifully judged set, the first half hard and energised, the second based around the mid paced, sun sick Sisterworld material, its faded splendour and seasick textures adding real richness and depth. In particular ‘Scissor’ and a gorgeous ‘Too Much, Too Much’ now sound like bona fide pillars of the band canon, but the queasiness of ‘No Barrier Fun’ or a ‘Proud Evolution’ (sounding quite a lot like Radiohead’s ‘The Gloaming’, here) add equal character to the set. And they play stuff off Drum’s Not Dead so, y’know, it was never going to be a bad show.
The much maligned extra musicians only really harden and thicken the sound - there's certainly no muso mucking about; I actually feel a bit bad for them when they’re discarded without thanks for the second encore; but there is a certain feral intensity to the core members’ assault on ‘Broken Witch’ that was maybe just slightly lacking before. But only very slightly. Really, there’s not a lot to report: good band with good live reputation plays good show in venue with famously good sound system. It’s always nice to be reminded, though.
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