At the start of this month, I had the pleasure of finally seeing one of the most innovative British bands of the last decade; the ever-evolving Wild Beasts. A product of rural Cumbria, you would not have expected the new album Boy King to have emerged from the playful chaos of 2006 track, ‘Brave Bulging Buoyant Clairvoyants’. This is reflected by the set list on this tour which doesn’t include a single track from the Kendal lads’ debut, Limbo, Panto. The new electronic-influenced tracks are more mature both stylistically, and in content, as they are united by the running theme of masculinity. Boy King isn’t the product of a sudden plunge into synth however, as this element had been creeping into Wild Beasts’ sound for some time, and so the new tracks blend well with those from the last three records when performed live.
“The contrast between Hayden’s falsetto and Tom Fleming’s deep tone is my favourite thing about this band”
If you were looking for a band that was the polar opposite of the Black Metal and Pop-fuelled Wild Beasts of today, it would be opening act, Money. The highlight of their set was the fact that one track was actually entitled ‘A Cocaine Christmas And An Alcoholic’s New Year’. Lead singer Jamie Lee ordered the Newcastle crowd to ‘shut the fuck up’ as he tried to set a hushed tone for what I can only describe as ‘A Fairytale of New York’ for someone wanting to throw themselves under a bus. And if you weren’t wanting to do that before Money’s set, you will have been by the time it was over. Their last album is fittingly called Suicide Songs, and my friend aptly labelled them ‘Mumford and Sons in an emo phase’.
It felt like an eternity had passed from the time the lights dimmed to the time Wild Beasts actually took to the stage, but it wasn’t an unbearable wait. The void was filled by Liz Fraser’s ‘voice of God’ echoing through the venue on This Mortal Coil’s cover of Song To The Siren, which gave way to a surge of electronic sound accompanying the bands entrance. They launched right into new track ‘Big Cat’ with a confident swagger, giving off the impression that they don’t need to prove the worth of their new album to anyone. Boy King is so good it doesn’t need promo, and for this reason the set list was peppered with the signature jittery drumming of older tracks like ‘We Still Got The Taste Dancin’ On Our Tongues’ and ‘Bed of Nails’.
One of the most notable features of Wild Beasts’ progression is that dreamboat, Hayden Thorpe has reigned in his harsh growl of the band’s formative years, lulling us instead on newer tracks. The contrast between Hayden’s falsetto and Tom Fleming’s deep tone is my favourite thing about this band, and this shines through live, with Tom’s repeated lyric, ‘boy, what you running from’ on ‘Lion’s Share’ choking me up.
“They launched right into new track ‘Big Cat’ with a confident swagger”
A personal highlight was the outro of ‘Wanderlust’ from Present Tense, the momentum building as Hayden uttered the lyric ‘don’t confuse with someone who gives a fuck’ over and over, motivated by the beat of the track. Small scale repetition does wonders for Wild Beasts live, but this isn’t a band who repeat themselves between albums, as variety ran throughout this gig. Their encore embodied this, comprised of an electric performance of ‘Get My Bang’, fun fan-favourite ‘All The King’s Men’, and ‘Celestial Creatures’, which entranced the crowd into a still submission with an in-crowd serenade from Hayden. Hayden’s tender treatment of the Northumbria Uni audience could be owed to his support of Newcastle United, a factor which I hope now makes Wild Beasts visit the North East more often.