Hayden Thorpe live in London: former Wild Beasts frontman brings grandiose, regal pop beauty

London, Cecil Sharp House, 3rd December, 2019.

The two solo projects to emerge out of the ashes of Wild Beasts have brought wildly different results. While Tom Fleming’s venture as One True Pairing has birthed a leather-clad, sexed-up album of rock’n’roll, co-vocalist Hayden Thorpe’s LP ‘Diviner’ was a significantly more placid, regal offering.

After tentatively playing some solo shows around the album’s release, Hayden’s live show now appears more fully-formed, fleshed out with floaty guitar and a sample pad of earthy drum beats, which gives extra life and freshness to an album that’s beautiful enough standing alone with the singer and his piano.

‘Diviner’ came off the back of Wild Beasts’ final album ‘Boy King’, a record that swapped their prim and proper, cardigan-clad beginnings for a filthy, beefier album of slick, distorted riffs and overtly sexual motifs. Hayden described the aftermath of the band’s breakup as “breaking up with myself” to NME before the release of ‘Diviner’.

Hayden Thorpe
Hayden Thorpe live at London’s Cecil Sharp House. Credit: DOP – Josha Eiffel

“[I broke up with] the idea of myself as the frontman, the idea of myself as the guy in the gang he has always had. Even the idea of me being the singer wasn’t really definite. I had to break up with the idea of myself,” he said, and the character played in ‘Boy King’ seems a distant memory here. When he comically flexes his muscles during the line “I’ve been working out, yeah / Can you see the change?” in ‘Stop Motion’, you’d be sure he’s laughing at his former self.

This split with the past makes Hayden’s solo era thus far a deeply honest venture that treads new ground with trepidation but also openness, and it’s an honesty that punctuates the live show, too. There are few quirks, with all sense of ceremony coming from the gorgeous songs themselves and that irresistible falsetto.

Hayden Thorpe
Hayden Thorpe live at London’s Cecil Sharp House. Credit: DOP – Josha Eiffel

‘Diviner’’s chunkier cuts – the pounding ‘Love Crimes’ and jittery ‘Straight Lines’ – sound meaty and powerful, but it’s the solo vulnerability of its wonderful title track and the vast ‘Human Knot’, in which he leaves his piano and roams in amongst the seated audience, singing its refrain without a microphone in a moment of pure transcendence.

For a singer whose band fell apart after trying on one too many suits, it appears that stripping things back to their purest form and relying on honesty, vulnerability and openness more than works on its own. Having a voice like that can’t hurt, either.

Hayden Thorpe played:

Stop Motion
In My Name
Earthly Needs
Song to the Siren (Tim Buckley cover)
Love Crimes
Human Knot
Straight Lines
Impossible Object