The Lexington, London, December 7
“It’s good to see you,” purrs Hayden Thorpe, an ever-dandyish sophisticate sipping a glass of red wine. Until it slips through his fingers and smashes on the stage. “Oh dear,” he says, as bandmate Tom Fleming sarcastically observes: “Rock and fucking roll.”
It’s odd that any of Kendal’s finest should be clumsy-fingered, and tonight of all nights – they’re here to play 2011’s ‘Smother’, a record of immaculate precision, in full, as a tune-up for this year’s ATP festival. But spilt booze is the only errant stain this evening, because what’s remarkable is how fresh it still sounds. The album’s timbres should be indelibly etched into the skin of lip-locked paramours across the land, but somehow it remains red-blooded and freshly wounded.
All of which is no accident, of course. It’s Wild Beasts’ knack for spicing up their wares – an added flourish here, an extra growl there. So Tom’s molasses-rich take on ‘Deeper’ is so lustily decadent it feels downright naughty to hear him rumble “You plug the hole in the void/ And the whole world parts for you”.
Likewise, Hayden’s falsetto cracks with a howl so rambunctious on ‘Bed Of Nails’ that bitterness is writ large across its smooth, jangling edges. And when they come together, as on ‘Reach A Bit Further’, there’s not an unconquered soul present, and certainly no-one who’d dare quibble with Hayden as he sways seductively, cooing his way through the slow-burn climax of ‘End Come Too Soon’. There’s an encore, too, introduced by Hayden with a wry “Don’t worry, the hits are coming later”. But despite the self-effacing quip, these songs are hits now – not chart-topping behemoths, perhaps, but ‘The Fun Powder Plot’, ‘Hooting & Howling’ et al are clasped dearly to the crowd’s collective bosom.
Wild Beasts don’t play a single new song tonight, but by simply showing how they’ve grown in the last five years, you’d swear that their next album couldn’t fail to be a stone-cold classic. And that, surely, is something well worth raising
a glass in hearty salute to.