Bear's Den // Live Review

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Roundhouse – October 27th 2015 | Photo by Nicole Engelmann

It’s been almost exactly 12 months since the release of Islands, and as the sold out Roundhouse crowd eagerly awaits the London three-piece’s presence it’s abundantly clear that their following has swelled well beyond the devoted cult which followed their early work, to fill every corner of the vast North London venue.

I originally discovered Andrew Davie & Co through their previous outfit Cherbourg at an instore at Banquet Records; in that intimate room in the company of a handful of onlookers I immediately noted their innate ear for rapturous choruses and swelling instrumentation. They were always a band destined for stages like this.

Opening with their beautiful ballad to the fleetingness of youth, ‘Elysium’ set the tone for a night filled with sing along choruses, thundering percussion and regal brass. The pace continued through older cuts, ‘Mother’ and ‘Don’t Let the Sun Steal You Away’, before slowing on the beautifully dark ‘Magdalene’. It speaks volumes of the band’s integrity that they don’t compromise on lighter subject matter in order to fulfil more obvious universal appeal and pop hooks; with the former track detailing the oppression of downtrodden women in the Magdalene laundries.

Sailing through the brilliantly off kilter handclaps of ‘Think of England’ and the claustrophobic narrative of ‘When We Break’ we arrive at crowd favourite ‘Above the Cloud of Pompeii’. An emotive re-telling of a poignant trip that Davie took in his youth with his father after the loss of his mother which culminates in the 5,000 strong backing band shouting the closing lyrics (“don’t cry, hold your head up high, she would want you to, she would want you to”) back with earnest appreciation.

Returning post-encore they head into the centre of the crowd to play an unplugged version of the cathartic ‘Bad Blood’. They fittingly bow out on ‘Agape’; the track which kicked off their debut album and one which led so many people to discover this band. It’s without doubt one of the most straightforward and anthemic tracks the indie-folk trio have ever put together, and is delivered brilliantly with an enthusiasm and telling finality about it. For this is the final show which bookends the tour which has driven the band on near-relentlessly around the world for the past 12 months; honing their songwriting and gaining such a devoted fanbase.

Now will be the time for Bear’s Den to gather their breath before they compose themselves for the next chapter.

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Buy: Bear’s Den – Islands