Wednesday 19 March 2014

Cults and Famy at Village Underground - 17 March 2014

The Venus De Milo is onstage. Sure, she's wearing a tee shirt and a pair of baggy jeans, but it's definitely her.

The famous statue stands at the back of the stage behind Famy, a band with lofty ambitions.

They start with a roaring off-mike harmony of voices, gearing themselves up until the guitars come crashing in.

I'm a big fan of Village Underground and its towering brick vault of a stage.  The venue always shows bands off to their best advantage, and it’s the same again tonight.

However, while Famy look the part of a confident bunch of musicians, there is something about their sound mix that is stifling them. They seem stuck behind a glass wall, with any energy or emotion dissipating in the void a few rows from the front of the audience.

At one point the drummer straps a camera to his head and dives into the crowd. This should be more exciting than it is. (However, the footage is now on their Facebook page, so judge for yourself).

Musically, there's some interesting stuff going on. There are lots of harmonies, big choruses and elegant song structure. The overlapping voices put me in mind of Panda Bear or Grizzly Bear. Any band with 'Bear' in the name.

Even though I don't think that Famy quite deliver a knockout punch this evening, there's enough here for me to want to investigate their recorded work.

The Venus De Milo makes an ignominious exit, tilted head down and carted off by roadies.

I first saw Cults a few years ago at Bush Hall. Since then they have quietly gone about their business, wracking up a string of catchy tracks that burst out at you unexpectedly from radio stations and TV commercials.

Tonight Madeline Follin and the suspiciously-named Brian Oblivion perform in front of a bank of video screens set high above the stage. In keeping with the title of their most recent album the screens are buzzing with 'Static'.

They are garbed in black, with Follin's white face and red lipstick shrouded in a lush sweep of long black hair. She tosses and fiddles with her luxuriant mane throughout the show.

Oblivion busies himself behind a keyboard and occasionally joins in with Follin's high-pitched vocals. He is barely audible.

Cults' music is ultra modern but harks back to the simpler era of girl groups like The Shangri-Las or even the early Supremes. The ghosts of bygone days flit through the darkness.

The band are enhanced by a terrific and clever use of projected images, which are not confined to the screens but play across the vast brick walls of the venue. At times I lose interest in what the band are doing and just enjoy the son et lumiere of doves fluttering upwards or buffalo charging around the room.

The set borrows heavily from the new album but also finds space for their break out hit 'Go Outside' which is just as dreamy as it ever was. They also unveil a version of 'Total Control' by The Motels, another band that faced the future by referencing the past.

It’s a solid, enjoyable performance that perhaps doesn't quite hit the absolute heights. But it has been a good evening and Cults are agreeable company. I make like the song and go outside.

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