Heaven – December 9th
Los Campesinos!’ latest long-player, ‘No Blues’, saw a significant musical transition take shape for the first time in the long career of these indie underground heroes. Gone was the sense of unpredictability, chaos and quirkiness that dominated previous records and effectively epitomised everything the band were about. Instead, ‘No Blues’ reeked of a band wanting to challenge themselves, to shed their lifelong ‘underground’ tag, to aim for radio playlists and epic anthemic moments at late night, main stage festival slots. After six years, such a desire is understandable. But with such an upheaval also comes the risk of alienating portions of the die-hard fanbase, and tonight’s show will undoubtedly be a prime opportunity to put that theory to the test.
And put it to the test they do, immediately opening with ‘As Lucerne/The Low’, it’s evident that the recordings on ‘No Blues’ don’t come close to doing the songs justice. Bigger, edgier and more energetic than on record, it makes more sense live and feels more like the Los Campesinos! of old. Frontman Gareth takes command of the stage and crowd with effortless grace, putting to bed any concern over alienated fans. If they do exist, they certainly aren’t in this venue tonight, as evidenced by the legions of energetic young folk boisterously chanting along.
Shifting from new to old in a heartbeat, they launch into ‘Death To Los Campesinos!’, which is met with utter hysteria by an eager crowd. ‘Letters From Me To Charlotte’ and ‘By Your Hand’ quickly follow, before the first real sing-a-long, memorable moment of the night occurs during ‘Glue Me’, as the audience passionately recites the line, “Ex-boyfriend give us a song”, at Gareth’s command.
The band aren’t quite on such top form for every song tonight though. ‘We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed’ seems to be missing its key synth line, which is a damn shame, and ‘You! Me! Dancing!’ doesn’t quite have the same bravado without that wonderful bit of glockenspiel work. Trust me, you’re gonna want that glockenspiel in there, guys.
Not that the majority of fans here tonight really care. They just want to dance and sing-along to their favourite band, and they damn well do it through the entirety of the set. No additional encouragement required. New songs or old, they greet them all with the same shrieks of joy and the same boundless enthusiasm.
As the night draws to a close with triumphant renditions of ‘Heart Swells’ and ‘Death Rattle’, Gareth takes a moment to address the audience and thank all those fans for “Letting us keep doing this. It’s been a tough year for us, and without you guys, we wouldn’t be able to keep doing this.” Alienated fans? Not a chance. On tonight’s evidence, Los Campesinos! still have their fanbase firmly in the palm of their hand.