NME.COM

Astoria, London

There have been many truly great [a]Brats[/a] performances in the past.... Tonight [b]The Beta Band[/b] are as great as all that.

There have been many truly great Brats performances in the past. Flaming Lips playing so loud the plaster on the Astoria ceiling starts to flake and fall to the floor like confetti. Mercury Rev so deeply out there we are mesemerised into losing an hour. And Ash, when they were babies, busting up the place in a matinee teen frenzy. Tonight The Beta Band (pictured) are as great as all that. What they are is a sparkle in time where the Wu Tang Clan meets The Wicker Man and it all makes thrilling sense. Theirs is tenderness and weirdness in equal measure, sheer emotional beauty and a diamond determination to be taken seriously as musicians.



The Beta Band are learning to cope with that harshest of expectations; that we always expect the unexpected. Following the magnificent 'The Hard One' - baroque pop kitsch and utterly reconfigured on the emotional scale - it shouldn't get any higher but it damn well does - they introduce Sean Revron, a rasta rapper they picked up in New York and the intensity is upped to somewhere near pure joy. There was already too much going on and now this geezer in dreads is setting us straight with fierce indignation and righteous love. It's Samuel L Jackson from Pulp Fiction guesting on 'Pet Sounds' and it is one of the most fabulous fusions you could ever witness.



Which is just the boot up the backside London needs. All the talk for so long now has been of internet this and merger that; The Beta Band deliver a timely reminder that what it's all about, deep down in the guts of multi-nationals colliding and streams of distribution changing, is music. Without it there'd be nothing to buy and nothing to sell. Simple as that.



By the time they finally encore with the new single, 'To You Alone', transforming it into a jamboree of percussion, The Beta Band are are so magnificent that, mercifully, we have forgotten all about The Mud Family, a gang of Brit rappers and mates of the band who make a right pig's ear of revving up the crowd. Cruelly, we have also all but forgotten how Sigor Ros (pictured) stole our breath away for a moment or ten. The angelic vocals of Jon Por Birgisson soaring pitch-perfect above songs contructed along the lines of architecture and sung in a Hopelandish, a language, like The Cocteau Twins', created to communicate moods rather than information, hold us impressed and hypnotised. They have it all, these Icelanders - beauty, majesty, intensity in bucketloads - but apart from their ELP prog bit in the middle, they lack a crucial variety.



Which you couldn't say about Mo-Ho-Bish-O-Pi (pictured), no sir. They scamper around swopping onstage roles like kids who've broken into a sweet shop determined to rip off every wrapper and suck 'em all just for the sheer sick thrill of it. They're a mess, essentially, but a spirited, spunky, daft and sometimes damn fine mess.

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