Dreamily perfect pop...
It’s not a new idea, but it’s a bloody good one. Trading
in the kind of dreamy, downbeat songs that are both ethereally beautiful and painfully human, Stockholm’s [a]The Concretes[/a] know that sometimes little more is required than some see-sawing guitar, a woman’s voice and the world’s saddest melody.
Plus, even though their tambourines merely jangle and their glockenspiels are struck so gently, you still wonder how so many people (there’s eight of the buggers up there) can make such a delicately pretty sound. Playing before a tangle of sparkling fairy lights, this beige central London student union suddenly feels more like a clearing in some enchanted forest.
Some may decry the lack of what your dad would call ‘stage presence’, and in truth – besides a polite “thank you” after each song – guitarist Maria Eriksson handing some balloons into the crowd is as exciting as it gets. But in an age where every other band seems to feature some arsehole trying to
be Iggy Pop, a little bit of restraint goes a long way: let’s just call them enigmatic.
Still, this is more than an extended lesson in teary-eyed sadcore. This is the band after all who gave us the joyous
pop single ‘You Can’t Hurry Love’, a song so perfect for warm June evenings it’ll break your heart to hear it come November. [a]The Concretes[/a] are also a band who don’t need to be told
that for every funeral paced lullaby, it doesn’t hurt to have
a Motown-tinged floor-filler like ‘Diana Ross’, which begins with little more than a marching drumbeat, sparse, swooning guitar chimes, and Victoria Bergsman’s sleepy vocals. Yet
just as we’re being lulled into a trance, the rest of the band break into a chorus that could grace the most opulent
Phil Spector production number. The eerie folk of ‘Chico’,
a captivating exercise in carefully understated emotion,
is simultaneously inviting and mysterious, its slowly swaying rhythms quite hypnotic.
The real jewel, however, is set-closer ‘Warm Night’, a
song every bit as balmy and comforting as its title would suggest. For this lilting carnival waltz, the band are
joined by their support act The Magic Numbers for a communal singalong that could soundtrack Brian Wilson’s sweetest dreams.
Too soon they are gone, leaving you to wonder why
more bands don’t strive to make music this magical,
this intoxicating. For a few hours, at least, the real world seems very far away.