Live Review and Photos: Wild Beasts and EMA, October 13, 2011, Echoplex – Los Angeles, CA

Photos by Philip Cosores

It’s somewhat incredible to me that a band that is so renowned, well-respected and, most notably, utterly adored in their home country across the Atlantic, can, at best, only be counted in the middleweight division of indie bands touring the USA. Wild Beasts’ performance at the Echoplex on Thursday night was only their third in Los Angeles – a remarkably small number of times for a band with three critically acclaimed records. Nevertheless, it seems that their due is catching up to them since the crowd on this occasion was large, attentive and, yes, adoring.

Although a significantly smaller crowd was present for opening act EMA, she and her band were also able to take advantage of the warmth of Wild Beasts’ fans. EMA’s music is brash; probably the last word you would use to describe Wild Beasts’ music, and it was clear throughout that the bill was something of a mismatch palette-wise. That’s not to say that people in the audience didn’t like EMA’s set, after all there was plenty to enjoy.

From her ripping cover of The Violent Femmes’ “Add It Up” to the solo rendition of previous band Gowns’ “Cherylee,” Erika Anderson offered up several different variations on her brand of cathartic modern grunge. While Anderson’s band stayed fairly lifeless onstage, it didn’t matter too much because she had enough charisma to carry the performance. This was most notable in “Butterfly Knife,” where she grasped the audience’s attention from its rocking core to its smouldering conclusion. She finished the set with “California,” putting down her guitar and placing her lyrics and persona first and foremost. It wasn’t an explosive end to the set in terms of volume, but it was remarkable seeing the way that such a young performer can embody the spirit of all the music she’s grown up listening to, and channel it into something her own.

Much of the charm of a Wild Beasts show comes from seeing just how into their performance they get – they seem to be entirely engaged in creating the textures and tones emanating from the stage. On this occasion it was clear to me that they were quite excited, but they only showed it subtly. Minor things turned the night from a fantastic one into a special one, like their being extra chatty with the audience, Tom Fleming and Benny Little showing a little more bounce in their step, Hayden Thorpe’s sway becoming even more exaggerated and his incorrectly introducing “This Is Our Lot” as “We Still Got The Taste Dancing On Our Fucking Tongues,” out of pure joy and reveling in the expletive.

Playing almost exclusively from their last two albums Two Dancers and Smother (their debut had its sole representation with the vigorous “The Devil’s Crayon”) the band embodied the spirit of their sound. From the pulverising low end on display in “Albatross,” through the thumping bass of “This Is Our Lot,” past the shimmering sounds of “Reach A Bit Further” and right up to those much-maligned falsettos, Wild Beasts seemed to fill in just about every possible note and tone on the audible spectrum. Wild Beasts’ songs are already fairly exaggerated on record, but live they seem to make every single factor even more spectacular without ever taking it too far. The weightless “Loop The Loop” was somehow made even more heavenly, both “We Still Got The Taste Dancing On Our Tongues” and “Hooting & Howling” had everybody bobbing with the thudding rhythms, and the conclusion of “The Fun Powder Plot” proved to be somewhat ghostly on this particular occasion.

The night concluded with the magnificent “End Come Too Soon,” the final track from Smother. The song is the most grand they’ve done to date and the final, pulsating conclusion was one of the most evocative that I’ve experienced. While all Thorpe was yelping was simply “end come too soon, end come too soon” it was easy to relate and project an experience from your own personal life where you’ve had this feeling upon the chromatic canvas of sound that the band were creating. In that moment I think we were all dreaming of that feeling, and experiencing the same kind of passion that Thorpe had written all over his face as he sung. Altogether this added to the richness of the moment, and that was something truly magical to round out a captivating performance.

Wild Beasts setlist:

Lion’s Share
Bed Of Nails
The Devil’s Crayon
This Is Our Lot
We Still Got The Taste Dancin’ On Our Tongues
Two Dancers (II)
Loop The Loop
Reach A Bit Further
Hooting & Howling

The Fun Powder Plot
All The King’s Men
End Come Too Soon