Live Review: Friendly Fires with Wise Blood at 9:30 Club, Washington, DC – 26th May 2011

By on Tuesday, 31st May 2011 at 2:00 pm

Friendly Fires. They were the first band that I seriously covered as a blogger (before this show I’d seen them 5 times and only once ever in DC, even having to trek out as far as their headlining appearance at Dot to Dot 2009 in Nottingham to see them), so they hold a special place in my heart. When I heard they were returning to DC, I wanted to see them to give ‘Pala’ the benefit of the doubt (because I didn’t love it like their debut album – read my review here).

First though, we had to sit (er, stand impatiently) through Wise Blood. Problem: unless the backing instrumentation is danceable, rap leaves me cold. We still don’t have the foggiest idea why a rapper was chosen for the opener. The only thing I can figure: Friendly Fires didn’t dare compete with another dance band, especially since they hadn’t been to many of the towns on the tour, including DC, in 2 years and were unsure how they’d be received. The somewhat ironic thing about rapper Chris Laufman was that his backing band (a guy on sequencers and a Macbook, and another on drums) sounded absolutely amazing when Laufman took a break offstage and let them do their thing. I was also put off by Laufman’s repeated New York City bashing; you say Washington is better than NYC once, it sounds sincere. You say it too many times, it sounds ingratiating.

Soon after Laufman departed, the floor and balcony started to fill up. Obviously, everyone was there for Friendly Fires: either they’d seen the band before, or they had heard how great they were live. The guy in front of me in the queue before the show was from Manchester and had been waiting in his spot since noon. Hardcore. They were definitely worth the wait, even in 26C+ degree heat. Oh man. Before I started writing this, I wondered how I was going to even put my experience into words. Friendly Fires are in the business of wowing their audience. They are consummate performers; they make you happy, they make you dance, they make your heart race.

‘Lovesick’ opened the excellent set, Ed Macfarlane breaking out his now world-famous dance moves and even jumping over the barrier to join the crowd and dance with them. (He did this so many times, I lost count. At least this time, to my knowledge, Ed Mac didn’t get groped; you see, DC crowds respect musicians.) While the singles new (‘Live Those Days Tonight’) and old (‘Jump in the Pool’, ‘Paris’, ‘Skeleton Boy’) predictably garnered the most excited response, the new songs like ‘Blue Cassette’, ‘Chimes’ (with its breathless desire-filled chorus “I want you more, I can’t help but want you more / I can’t stop chasing your love”) and ‘Show Me Lights’ (my personal favourite from ‘Pala’) didn’t disappoint.

I was unsure of what song they could end with since they already played ‘Live Those Days Tonight’ and ‘Paris’ before the encore. Then Friendly Fires brought out ‘Kiss of Life’, the song that should have clued us in on what was up ahead for these St. Albans boys. Just…wow. Now I’m trying to decide if I should attend their second Brixton Academy date just announced last Friday…I mean, what better way to spend your birthday than with the boys that bring the carnival to town every time they play for you?

More photos and set list behind the cut.

Wise Blood Photos:

Friendly Fires Set List:
Blue Cassette
True Love
On Board
Skeleton Boy
Show Me Lights
Live Those Days Tonight
Jump in the Pool
Pull Me Back to Earth
Hawaiian Air
Kiss of Life

Friendly Fires Photos:

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One Response

[…] bandmate onstage, working furiously over a synth and drums. This opening for a review sounds a lot like the Friendly Fires one in May…So Elbow. They’ve had a stellar year so far and I thought it might be a downer for them to come […]

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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.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

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