On the eve of the full super moon, a moment that brought out the animal in humans, the British quartet, Wild Beasts, swooped into the Union Transfer on Spring Garden St. in Philadelphia on Friday night, July 11 for a live concert. This band originally from Kendal, England released its fourth full length LP “Present Tense”, and the tour is in support of what many were already touting as one of the best albums of the year in music. A good mix of fans attended the show appreciative of the style and mystique of Wild Beasts, many were loyal fans and some were coming to check out the buzz.
The darkened stage was set and Wild Beasts entered taking their spots. The band members included Hayden Thorpe, charismatic vocalist who boasted a unique semi-falsetto and theatrical stage presence, polished in his look and comportment, well coiffed hair and dressed elegantly, even his body language suggested after the first couple of songs that he was the leader of the band. As a bit of a contrast, to the right side of the stage incognito at first is Tom Fleming, dueling chanteur who possessed a deep soothing sensual type voice, dressed in a sleeveless tank, jeans and knit hat. On the left was Ben Little who played guitars and keyboards, and in the back was Chris Talbot on drums. Each a talented multi-instrumentalist, they deftly changed instruments almost after each song and each played the other masterfully.
Wild Beasts eased meticulously into the concert with one of my favorite tracks from the new album, “Present Tense”, “Mecca”, it started out slowly, establishing Hayden Thorpe as the main presence, his gorgeous vocals, the spacey synthesizer line, and tribal-like drums kicked in and Hayden’s vocals soared “We move in fear, we move in desire…” with bright choppy guitar from Tom Fleming to compliment. The lighting stays a bit murky, foggy-like suggesting a misty mountain full of grandeur and wonderment.
By the third song of the set, “Sweet Spot”, another fantastic electronic gem from “Present Tense”, Tom Fleming made his presence even more prominent, but it was not until “Daughters”, an epic electronic track on the new album that was performed brilliantly and was one of the big highlights of the night where Tom twitched frenetically, the fans immersed and energized , as he seemed to evolve to a new life form, belted out some of the most haunting and emotional vocals of the night and strong, deep spacey hypnotic keyboard lines.
Other highlights included Hayden’s dramatic theatrical poses with the bass guitar, the split leg stance at the keyboard lunging towards the microphone crooning the song lyrics. Chris Talbot’s drums were as tight as anyone I have ever seen, and complimented the pulsating hypnotic synthesizer lines, an amazing percussionist and electronic drummer.
Fans reveled in the singles: “A Simple Beautiful Truth”, Hayden’s vocals were beautifully balanced with Fleming’s on the chorus. The bright, electronic and downright catchy synthesizer lines paced the song, a brilliant ode to China Crisis of the early 80’s; “Devil’s Crayon”, “Bed of Nails” and “Lion’s Share” were each fan favorites and brought out cheers and spontaneous dances from the crowd. At times, the light and fog show was a bit too murky especially since this band had a great stage presence and dramatic physical presence, but overall, the live show delivered, and the feel of the album was recreated vividly live; “…the final dividend” (Sweet Spot) was a crowd pleaser.
Wild Beasts “Present Tense” is out on Domino Records. Produced by Leo Abrahams.
Words: Jon Crary; Concert photos: Lisa Sasserath Boehm; Cover photo: Klaus Thymann