Concert Review + Photography: Wild Beasts at Lincoln Hall (Chicago)

Wild Beasts (Kendal, England) and Twin Sister (Long Island, NY)
October 1st, 2011
Lincoln Hall in Chicago, Illinois

Gallery: Wild Beasts at Lincoln Hall

Indie aficionados flocked into Lincoln Hall Saturday night for several hours of swirling, arching dream pop brought by a transatlantic exchange of Twin Sister from our parts, and Wild Beasts from the United Kingdom. Both acts are on Domino Records, the established label on the same plateau as Merge and Sub Pop, and share a similar mesmerizing quality to their music, yet with different approaches.

The New Yorkers, Twin Sister, took to the stage and gave the humble, almost too-quiet audience music to move to. Pulsing through the glowing haze of the stage lights was pure reason to give listen, that being drummer Bryan Ujueta. The dream pop genre typically dips back into a safe zone of music you could lounge to without the trappings of upscale, cosmopolitan life you’d expect from the exampled genre. Yet Bryan has an unexpectedly tight, controlled drumming with complexities you’d expect of more experimental indie rock-far from its typical drum machines. “Stop” was a hypnotizing example, with its perfect leisurely sway over its hiccuped drumming. The crowd, which strangely needed to thaw, did so a little bit to “Bad Street.” Far more funky, it got some movement from the packed audience through Andrea Estella’s punctuated, whispery bright singing.

Twin Sister's Andrea Estella

Twin Sister’s Andrea Estella

The overall vibe felt retro with high contrast colors, not overwhelming, but pleasing with Andrea’s near-Bjork style singing tweaks (especially with how she rounds syllables). Yet instead of Bjork’s ability to distract through dramatics, Andrea’s singing embraces a subtle sweetness without eccentricity for eccentricity’s sake. Lovely. And explains why newcomers could be quickly won over to help cheer them on for a, first-refused then-allowed, encore of “Ginger” off Vampires with Dreaming Kids.

Twin Sister

Twin Sister’s Andrea Estella and Eric Cardona

Wild Beasts' Tom Fleming

Tom Fleming of Wild Beasts

Wild Beasts are honestly difficult to place within one particular cage of a genre or another. It’s indie with a slightly experimental penchant for shimmying stunted dance beasts. Not stopping there, it’s also with a massive string section pushed together and crammed into the vocal chords of one Hayden Thorpe. It was purely evident in the orchestral flourishes last night when the group opened with “Lion’s Share” off Smother. For the beauty that is quite difficult to capture in words, or why it works, it left the audience entranced as he sang, “Boy, what you running from?” On stage, he’s calculated in movements with dramatics honed in and restrained through the passion you can hear. Wild Beasts was much more impressive than recorded, evidenced as Katie Harkin joined in on the floor tom to add a percussive, pulsing layer towards the end. Pause. “Bed of Nails”

I’ve always admired British bands, as they tend to be the most relaxed on stage despite whatever acclaim they receive. They don’t seem to let a Mercury Prize nomination get to the ego as the between song banter was refreshing and chipped at the ice. “We have a broken Precision bass. That’s not at all likely…it’s like walking down the sidewalk and the pavement cracks, and you fall into the core of the Earth. It’s not likely. … Luckily we have a spare.” The former bassist in me loved that, as it’s seriously hard to break something like that. The setlist continued to emphasize Smother, touching on others such as “Deeper”,  “Albatross”, “Loop the Loop” and “Reach a Bit Further”. “Albatross” was just gorgeous, capturing the beauty of their video in the harmonizing vocals between Hayden and Tom Fleming. Whispered and precise. “The Devil’s Crayon” snuck into that group, an invigorating break of tropical percussion that allowed those impressively pitched voices to raise effortlessly above the crowded stage.

Wild Beasts during "Lion's Share"

Wild Beasts during “Lion’s Share”

The healthy three-song encore kept the audience cemented in place, the frosting to a set that ended with “Hooting & Howling”. “All The Kings Men” served as a standard-bearer with its fun skipping jaunt during the encore. Yet was eclipsed many times over by “End Come Too Soon” as the night’s closer. The oscillating song, simple and capped by a softened piano solo slipped away into noise before drawing the mystical landscape to a conclusion. It was a moment that I wish Wild Beasts had done more of, as that song allowed a collective exhale to soak in the sound. “End Come Too Soon” also hinted at something needed; a little more improvisation to further draw the crowd into those harmonizing vocals, hold and change it up before releasing back into the songs. Wild Beasts are one majestic band, almost too much in rare instances, but they left Lincoln Hall in awe Saturday night.

Hayden Thorpe of Wild Beasts

Hayden Thorpe of Wild Beasts

Thoughts?

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