Live Review: Fenech-Soler at Glasslands Gallery, Brooklyn, NY – 5th April 2014

By on Tuesday, 8th April 2014 at 2:00 pm

It’s in our blood, it’s in our blood,
It’s in our blood, in our blood tonight
Even if I have to dance alone,
I don’t want to go home,
don’t want to go home…

It took several years that felt like an eternity, but English electropop band Fenech-Soler are finally beginning to release their music here in America. Practically just as their debut EP ‘Stop and Stare’ released a long while ago in the UK became available in the States, the band lined a short stint including a Neon Gold club show appearance and headline shows in Brooklyn, Los Angeles and San Francisco. New York isn’t exactly my backyard but I am very fond of Fenech-Soler and made the trip up, trying to be as productive as possible, also lining up this brilliant interview with Ben and Ross Duffy while I was in Williamsburg.

Glasslands Gallery near the water in South Williamsburg isn’t that small (300 capacity with a balcony), but it has an almost urban rusticity, with wooden floorboards at the entrance, three well-maintained if oddly unisex toilets and a wonky DIY aesthetic with clusters of sawed off PVC pipe with bulbs inserted in them as makeshift chandeliers suspended above the stage. In my interview, Ross Duffy noted that they felt most at home at this size of venue, since that’s where they started when they first began gigging, and it was only recently that they headlined Shepherds Bush Empire in London before Christmas 2013.

I think the size and intimacy of the venue also benefitted the band: generally speaking, when it comes to dance music, it’s all about people being in the dark and crammed in – within health code regulations, of course – and having a certain critical mass of excited, entirely up for it dancegoers, not to mention the collective energy generated by that critical mass. Glasslands filled up admirably, so that by the time the band originally from Kings Cliffe took to the stage, there were quite a few very excited fans down the front, yours truly included. This is my kind of gig! And I was about to see songs from my 3rd favourite album of 2013 performed in a few short moments.

If there was ever any question whether Fenech-Soler are an electropop band, any confusion would be quickly brushed away as soon as you saw their complicated stage set-up. The Glasslands stage is not all that big, and I’m not sure how they managed to fit five people (the four guys in the band plus touring keyboardist and backing vocalist Tom Butler) and all their equipment, but somehow, they did it. It restricted singer Ben Duffy’s movement while onstage; I had become so sure that at some point, he was going to jump down into the crowd and dance with us. Sadly, that never happened, though I am positive with the kind of moves he had in what space he was offered, he wanted to.

The majority of my photos of the night are terrible, as the lighting wasn’t very good, but in my defence, I also have another very good excuse: none of the band members were ever stood even somewhat still long enough for me to snap any good ones. This included Ben Duffy, who was extremely charismatic, engaging the audience throughout the set, starting with the irrepressibly catchy pop number ‘Last Forever’ in its sun-kissed glory recalling carefree summer days, all backed by the punishing drumming of Andrew Lindsay. The amount of energy he and his bandmates throw into their performance is, in a word, stunning. This is what you want from a dance band: music that gets hands in the air in raising the roof fashion and bodies moving, and they achieved both of those goals, barely stopping for breath between songs.

By playing the hits from 2010’s ‘Fenech-Soler’ (the frenetically buzzing ‘Lies’, the glitter of ‘Stop and Stare’) along with the newer songs including single ‘Magnetic’, the ever expansive and dreamy ‘Maiyu’ and set closer and huge first single from 2013 ‘Rituals’, ‘All I Know’ (single review here), Fenech-Soler proved they didn’t suffer at all from the sophomore album slump and their talent in writing unforgettable melodies with strong, epic dance instrumentation underlying it all will continue to pay off for them. The crown jewels of the night for me were ‘In Our Blood’ (promo video here), their latest single off ‘Rituals’, the syncopation of its compressed synth lines as if running through Ben Duffy himself as his body contorted effortlessly to the infectious rhythm of the track, and ‘Somebody’, which I wasn’t a fan of when I reviewed the album last autumn but live, it proved a hugely wonderful surprise on the dance floor.

I’m not a big fan of being shoved around (call me crazy, but I’m little!). Mostly and thankfully, the fans I encountered were excited and dancing about, but also extremely respectful, so respectful that I never made it stage right to take photos of Ross Duffy on guitar, because I felt *I* would be rude doing so. This is how I found myself stood in front of Daniel Soler and his mad bass and analogue synth-playing skills all night. This is not at all a bad thing; as some of you know, I also play bass and so mesmerised by the nimbleness of his hands on his Fender P-bass for single ‘Magnetic’, I thought I might faint. I definitely need to compare notes with him when they come to DC, which the brothers Duffy have promised me will occur in due time. Hopefully this will happen sooner than later and America will finally come to realise what Radio 1 and the British music-buying public have been missing all these years and take to Fenech-Soler’s music in droves.

Many thanks to fellow fan Chris who kindly allowed me to use
these photos she took at the show; they were better than mine.

After the cut: Fenech-Soler’s set list.

Fenech-Soler Set List:
Ritual II
Last Forever
In Our Blood
Stop and Stare
All I Know

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2 Responses

[…] lost all hope they’d ever come to Washington, so I went up to Brooklyn on a Saturday to see them. They didn’t disappoint. Three years on and with three albums under their belt, I was beyond pleased for them to finally […]

1:10 am
14th March 2020

[…] Fenech-Soler at Brooklyn Glasslands (5th April 2014) – good things come to those who wait. Or so the saying goes. Even though I had to trek up to […]

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