Friendly Fires Burn Fairly Bright at Brixton Academy, Live Review, November 25th 2011, London, UK

Posted: November 30, 2011 in Alternative Music, Indie, Indie Disco, Pop, Popular Music, Uncategorized
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Friendly Fires Review, Brixton Academy November 26th 2011

Arriving early at London’s Brixton Academy, negotiating several groups of several dozen teens, we did not expect to be greeted by the thumping sounds of a band of Brazilian Style carnival drums and percussion but in this barn of  a temple to live indie music, that’s what awaited us as a support act. A band of older school age kids, a couple of slightly older drummers and an enthusiastic older man with a drum , perhaps in his fifties conducting them.  Not being able to obtain the name of this band was frustrating as, although we did not realise at the time, they were to set the tone of the evening.

Friendly Fires’ music is lively to listen on CD – you can easily dance around your kitchen doing the cooking to it. However the live version is positively exuberant. Indie disco number “Lovesick” got the party started to the delight of the large amounts of teens in the front row mosh pits. Upstairs large section of 20 and 30 somethings were also on their feet. The dreamlike second track on the setlist – “Jump in the Pool” that provided the generic music intro to the BBC’s coverage of Glastonbury 2009, ended in a brilliant 5 minute brazillian drums and samba party, complements of some the aforementioned drummers and some rather fetching carnival festooned dancers just covered in all the right places with feathers.

The point of the show was also to showcase new music on the Pala album and the band embarked upon this task with “Running Away”, a track that had a feel of early Depeche Mode in parts. The high treble tinkly synths and rhythm  and echo effect recalled to me elements of Enjoy the Silence and Blasphemous Rumours though Ed Mc Farlane vocal range and style is very different to Dave Gahan’s and I would say unique.

The new UK top ten album Pala  has moments of nostalgia , escapism and holiday . This was sort of evident in the live versions of “ Blue Cassette” and “ True Love” but the mood of some of these great songs did not come across fully in the live set as the lyrics were at times threatened to be drowned out by the booming sound. The tracks that were most were appreciated were those more familiar from the group’s first album such as the very funky “On Board” and “In the Hospital. The band tried to get some rhythmic clapping going on “Live Those Days Tonight” and that worked to a degree. Mention must be made also of  Ed McFarlane’s unique twisty style of dancing. I have only before seen dancing as awkward and entertaining as that when I saw  Andy McCluskey of OMD.

The set lighting laid out across the stage in various rectangular blocks were quite impressive especially the multi-coloured patterns layed out in Rubik cube style.  I also loved the stars backdrops during the dreamy sounding Paris that closed the pre-encore part of the set.

The encore saw the re-appearance of the dancers in hoola-skirts this time for “Hawaiian Air” and distributing garlands and a paper confetti spectacular being shot air into air. “Kiss of life” closed the show with more Brazilian style percussion.

 

Friendly Fires were certainly engaging and put the crowd in the party mood. They tried to put on a great show and it almost came off. The problem was the music production was not subtle and at times overwhelmed.  As I know the music and the lyrics of the songs quite well, I was, however, entertained. Hopefully, though, when they come to do their next tour, they will considered some constructive advice – less is more, guys, less is more.

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