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It isn't every day that one of the most innovative bands on the planet play a show at a theatre that is essentially part of a YMCA building more akin to sheltering the homeless. This evening, however, Leicester's quaintly distinctive Y Theatre is the salubrious choice of venue that will be hosting one of the inaugural outings for Wild Beasts' Smother. In many ways the setting couldn't be more ideally suited, neither conforming to the expected norm and both quite content to exist on the outside of any traditional realm. Although more used to Joe than Hayden Thorpe, its ornate decor and elaborately seated balcony make the Y Theatre an altogether pleasant change from your average Barfly or Academy.
Arriving just in time to catch the latter half of 's set, DiS finds itself somewhat enraptured by Elizabeth Sankey and Jeremy Walmsley's utterly convincing dynamic on stage. Occasionally dismissed as twee in some quarters, there's so much more to the potent mix of melancholic electronica and lovestruck harmonies that we're actually quite disappointed when 'I Want You' pretty much signals the end of their performance. Playing to a visual sideshow of projected polaroid stills, they're an ideal appetizer for the main course that's about to be served up.
Today is a big day for Wild Beasts. Third album (and first since being overlooked by the Mercury judges nine months ago) Smother finally landed in record stores this morning, and only four songs into the set, Tom Fleming is already admitting it feels as though a huge weight has been lifted. Not that he or his band has anything to feel despondent about. A unanimous round of critical superlatives and an audience simply lapping up every note and syllable with excitable fervour only adds to the spectacle.
Indeed, straight from the outset, Wild Beasts make their intentions clear, launching into a triple whammy of 'Plaything', 'Loop The Loop' and 'Deeper' off the new record, each and every one welcomed and greeted as enthusiastically as anything off its predecessor, Two Dancers. Now extended to a five-piece for their live shows, the addition of Sky Larkin's Katie Harkin on keyboards freeing up both Fleming and Thorpe to concentrate more on their other roles within the band, not least the fluent vocal harmonising that punctuates the majority of Smother.
When they do play some of their more familiar material, 'We Still Got The Taste Dancing On Our Tongues' soars and swoons with equal measure, while 'The Devil's Crayon' still holds an invigorating freshness as if 2008 never went away. It doesn't feel, as with many of their peers, that "the hits" are the only things worth waiting for. If anything there's actually a willingness to get the back catalogue formalities out of the way so they can proceed with playing the rest of Smother, nowhere more so illustrated than on the sumptuous Eurodisco of 'Bed Of Nails'. 'Albatross' too breathes a new lease of life in such surroundings, while the sensual 'Reach A Bit Further' makes its claim for radio friendly acceptance in little over three and a half minutes.
Seemingly more confident on stage throughout, Fleming's banter stretching from the worst bands they've ever played with (some blues band from Harrogate) to the age old promotional photo used on the fliers for the evening providing more than the odd belly laugh around the theatre. Ending the first part of the show on a bass heavy 'Hooting And Howling', their three song encore demonstrating their versatility with immaculate poise, as the robotic 'Lion's Share' segues into 'All The Kings Men' before an altogether mesmerizing 'End Comes Too Soon' brings the show to a close.
Of course it's still early days yet to be making bold predictions, but one would be aghast with shock were they to not make significant inroads into the mainstream as 2011 gathers pace. And more importantly, based on this performance alone, it's difficult to think of a band as richly deserving of such impending success as Wild Beasts.
The next level almost certainly awaits...
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