Live Review: The Pains of Being Pure at Heart with Twin Shadow at Black Cat, Washington, DC – 1st April 2011

By on Monday, 4th April 2011 at 2:00 pm

I can’t believe it has been 2 years since the first time I saw the Pains of Being Pure at Heart live, from an obstructed balcony view at their Nottingham Trent Student Union at Dot to Dot in 2009. Even from so far away, I could see the kids below moving and grooving to their music. Since then I’ve managed to see the band three more times, all in Washington, including last Friday’s appearance at the Black Cat. The show was sold out, much to the chagrin to the folks who shuffled up the night of the show to buy tickets and were turned away. Frontman Kip Berman told me after the show that they felt whenever they came to DC, it was as comfortable as playing at home. (I did hint him that they should just get it over with and move down here…)

The opening act was Twin Shadow (George Lewis Jr. and backing band), who I gather is becoming increasingly big in Britain and selling out his own headlining shows across the pond. I was curious but also skeptical. He and his band played eight songs, and it wasn’t until song #6 ,’Slow’, that I thought the set finally turned the corner. As its name suggests, it starts slow, but then really lays into you with heavy guitars. They play passable, pleasing rock with synths but I personally didn’t see anything spectacular that would warrant venues selling out as a headliner. I guess he’s part of the new new wave movement, and for the most part, I prefer the ‘original’ new wave of the ’80s. ‘Castles in the Snow’, with its tribal beats, was another song that stood out from the others.

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart just released their second full length album, ‘Belong’, last week on Fortuna Pop in the UK, and the new material still sounds like the Pains, but with a slightly different bent. The title track sounds very Stone Roses, with the shoegazey guitars thrashing about harder than I remembered from their self-titled debut. But the overall sound is unmistakably them, with Kip Berman’s gentle yet emotive singing style and Peggy Wang’s ethereal backing vocals. ‘The Heart in Your Heartbreak’, probably the best song from ‘Belong’, also was my favourite song of the night. The words in the chorus, “she was the heart in your heartbreak / she was the miss in your mistake / no matter what you take / you’re never gonna forget”, are delivered so winsomely but are achingly (and fittingly) heartbreaking. This, along with other new tracks like ‘Too Tough’ (before which Berman made a joke that “it is about the Washington Redskins – I’m very sorry about Dan Snyder”, our beleaguered football team that never wins and its Svengali owner) and ‘Strange’ sounded great live. So did the now Pains classics ‘This Love is Fucking Right!’, ‘Everything With You’ and ‘Young Adult Friction’.

I had a chat with a friend and fellow fan at the show and we talked about how the band’s profile has gone up considerably – I attribute this to them featuring a lot recently on Pitchfork. Hopefully this attention by the indie mainstream will help them gain fans. Certainly, both times I’d seen them before they had not sold out the venue, but maybe this time was because of the opener. (Who knows really.) While it was disappointing that people weren’t really dancing down the front, one particularly bothersome teenage girl kept bothering Kip, at one point shouting that she had made cupcakes but security did not let her bring them upstairs. He joked back that it was probably because they contained drugs. (Laughter ensued.) After further reflection and a song later, he quipped, “I am sure those cupcakes were made with love. Because we all know love is the drug’. Or so says a wise man named Bryan Ferry”. Disappointedly, I think I was one of five people there that night who got the joke.

It was great to see them have 2 albums’ worth of material to tour with now, as they can choose the best from both to play, but I was sad not to hear anything from the Higher Than the Stars EP of 2009, which I thought was brilliant. Oh well. I know they’ll be back. And I will be there, down the front, shaking a tail feather like I always do.

More photos and set list after the cut.

Twin Shadow Photos:

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart Set List:
This Love is Fucking Right!
This Body
Heaven’s Gonna Happen Now
Stay Alive
The Heart in Your Heartbreak
Come Saturday
Young Adult Friction
Too Tough
Everything With You
The Pains of Being Pure at Heart

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart Photos:

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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

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