Klaxons;Webster Hall, New York, Friday October 12
They love NY and, from the looks of things, NY thinks they’re, like, pretty cool too
It’s hard to tell what the New Yorkers who have come to see Klaxons tonight are expecting. This 1,400 capacity venue isn’t quite sold out, but it’s heaving nonetheless, with a mixture of curious indie types, football hooligans and about, oooh, 50 girls in sequinned headbands. Over here the band have received a lot of attention and untold column inches, but the ‘new rave’ stamp that they are associated with has befuddled many American critics – even though, for the most part, they love what Klaxons are doing, they don’t really see how it’s anything like Technotronic. That Klaxons aren’t actually anything like what rave used to be in its ’90s heyday is of course – as the British are already well aware – the big joke. Their brilliance, for the one of you lot who hasn’t been paying attention, is the way they blend hyper-literate, apocalyptic lyrics with skyscraping dance-punk.
When they take the stage with ‘Two Receivers’, they are met with typical New York reserve, but pogo-ing spreads across the venue like a virulent head-cold with each song. By ‘Atlantis To Interzone’, it’s as if the floor has been swapped for a trampoline. “We see you warming up, New York!” James shouts before they launch into the Franz Ferdinand-esque opening spasms of ‘Totem On The Timeline’. The band are clearly feeding off the crowd’s energy: Simon wrestles his guitar as if it was attacking him; James dances impishly around his keyboard; Jamie – in leather jacket throughout – swings his bass and can’t stop thanking the fans between songs. “This is our last night in America and it’s been amazing!” he screams. “You’re the fucking best!”
It doesn’t feel like he’s pandering to the crowd, though – the band seem genuinely delighted at their enthusiasm, perhaps even more so because when they played Madison Square Garden opening for Björk a couple of weeks ago, the atmosphere was decidedly less welcoming. But those were Björk’s fans, in an enormodome, and these, most adamantly, are theirs.
America is notoriously hard to “break,” and Klaxons are still a long way from being able to say that the task has been completed. They haven’t reached the popularity of Franz Ferdinand, nor generated the interest of Amy Winehouse and Lily Allen, but they have – at least in club-going hipster circles – made a significant splash. And, last night, they did a live performance of ‘Golden Skans’ on Late Night With Conan O’Brien (by far the coolest of the talk shows), so they might just reach the masses after all. They’ve come a long way since their first NYC date at the tiny Midway last September, when, after a half-hour tantrum of tumultuous noise, they left the crowd wondering what exactly everyone in England saw in them. Now, they’re frantic but controlled – every harmony is beautiful perfection, the pace is taut and poised at boiling point all the way through. They may have had a meteoric rise to the Mercury Prize, but they’re seasoned professionals now.
Of course, this is nothing compared to the mayhem of their UK shows and, aside from the sequinned headband brigade and a man in leopard-print tie-die pants, there are none of the loud, costumey, sartorial accoutrements of the new rave scene. There are two glowsticks visible, but it turns out they’re being waved by the same person. Americans, you see, don’t have the cultural context for Klaxons. They’re responding wholly to the music – to the giddy, heart-pounding resonance of what, despite all the hullabaloo, isn’t really rave at all, but clever dance-pop with a squirrelly, twisted, psych-punk soul. And that is what will continue to ensure Klaxons success over here. They have had more to prove than many of their peers, but they’ve risen above the hype.
In fact they’ve proven it to be justified. “This has been a perfect way to end our time in America,” James shouts after ‘Gravity’s Rainbow’. “Thanks for making us feel at home. See you next year with a new record.” And then they leave, but of course the hoots and hollers and stomps bring them back for a triumphant encore of ‘It’s Not Over Yet.’ “We fucking love you, New York!” Jamie informs the audience for approximately the millionth time, before he and his band disappear into the wings. It’s pretty clear tonight how Klaxons feel about America, and how much they want those feelings to be reciprocated. A few more shows like this one and there’ll be as many “We fucking love you!”s flying towards the stage as there are coming from it.