Live Review: Wild Beasts with Milagres at 9:30 Club, Washington, DC – 16th July 2011

By on Wednesday, 20th July 2011 at 2:00 pm

“There’s a remarkable amount of ‘wooos’ tonight,” remarked an amused Hayden Thorpe of Wild Beasts in the middle of their set Saturday night at the 9:30 Club. Indeed, the mostly young crowd watching the Kendal band play songs from their current album ‘Smother’ and 2009’s ‘Two Dancers’ catcalled and, a little disturbingly, enjoyed calling out what songs they wanted to hear. All night. At first it was calls from all over for ‘Albatross’. Once ‘Albatross’ was played – rather early in the set I’d like to point out – I wondered what the next shouts would be for. I didn’t have to wait long; it seemed like everyone now wanted to hear ‘Hooting and Howling’. How odd they must have felt, just days before everyone and their nan was saying they would be nominated for the 2011 Mercury Prize. (Which, sadly, they weren’t.)

But before I go into more detail about the headlining set, let’s talk about the support act. Milagres, from Brooklyn, is a band you want to like. The band members themselves look like they could have stepped out from your neighbourhood bar. Not pretentious at all. At one point between songs, the guitarist/synth player appeared to be at a complete loss for words, having his own “deer in headlights” moment. Bless.

I don’t need to tell you how common it is to find a band trying the electro/rock formula. In order to succeed, you really need to stand out, and Milagres played a respectable, if not thrilling, opening set. The one song that saved their set from being completely hohum was set closer ‘Glowing Mouth’, which showed the band’s ability to orchestrate a compelling song whose sum was much greater than its parts. So, in other words, compared to most opening bands I’ve seen at the 9:30 this year, Milagres seemed to fit in with Wild Beasts perfectly. Maybe their debut album, planned for a release later this year, will showcase the band’s strengths better.

But let’s get back to the band everyone was there to see. The music of Wild Beasts is the stuff of dreams. Until you’ve actually seen them live, it’s hard to believe that four people is all they need to create their sound. (Well, they do have an extra touring member to assist in keys and percussion, but still…) I first caught them live at Roskilde last summer, enjoying the second half of their set on the smallest stage after departing from Gorillaz’s set at the massive Orange stage. I thought this show in DC wasn’t as good as my first experience with them; maybe it was some special magic that night in Denmark? Not sure. I was sure, however, that this was the Kendal four-piece’s last night in America, after a short tour of our continent somehow crowbarred into a busy summer festival schedule.

Falsetto is usually linked to feyness but for whatever reason, it’s very becoming to Hayden Thorpe. (Maybe it’s the full beard that assures you of his masculinity. Despite the majority of the audience being male, there were definite vocal female screams of approval.) In any event, his vocals, dreamy and expansive, were amazing to hear alone or when put together with Tom Fleming’s rougher style – a dynamic that works. I prefer this year’s ‘Smother’ to the previous two albums, which was a good thing, because the set was heavy on newer songs and those from 2009’s ‘Two Dancers’.

The set began strong with the hypnotic drumming of ‘Plaything’ and continued on with the sultriness of ‘Deeper’ and the bounciness of ‘We Still Got the Taste Dancin’ on Our Tongues’. Later on, ‘Bed of Nails’ and ‘Lion’s Share’, arguably the best songs off ‘Smother’, went down a treat. The night came to an appropriate close with ‘End Came Too Soon’, a hauntingly gorgeous ballad that won’t be easily forgotten by all those present in the club that night.

After the cut: set list and more photos.

Milagres Photos:

Wild Beasts Photos:

Wild Beasts Set List
Loop the Loop
The Devil’s Crayon
We Still Got the Taste Dancin’ on Our Tongues
This is Our Lot
Bed of Nails
Reach a Bit Further
Hooting and Howling
Lion’s Share
All the King’s Men
End Come Too Soon

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