Saturday, 5 February 2011

Los Campesinos! - O2 Shepherd's Bush Empire 02/01/11

NME Awards Tour
Los Campesinos!
(supported by Summer Camp and Grouplove)

Los Campesinos! are one of those bands who have burrowed deeper and deeper into my heart every time I've listened to one of their tracks, read one of their tweets, bought one of their albums, seen one of their interviews, the list goes on. They're such an awesome band to be a fan of and I've known for a good while that their fanbase are terrifyingly devoted. So I was INCREDIBLY excited for this gig. It's crowning off a pretty glorious 12 months for them, after releasing the genuinely stunning Romance is Boring in early 2010 and cementing themselves as one of the best British indie bands, certainly around now, and maybe ever.

I'd never been inside Shepherd's Bush Empire but had heard very good things about it. I loved the look of it as soon as I got in there, reminded me of the Kentish Town Forum. Got in nice and early, determined to be at the front, after a hasty pre-gig KFC. I got interviewed by the website Winkball in the queue as well, so here's that...

Grouplove opened up and came on stage fairly early to a small but growing audience. They put on a stonking set, brilliant energy, especially from their bassist who had just the greatest beard ever. The sound was a bit muffled though and the female vocals were inaudible at times, and the crowed were pretty static despite the energy from the band - to be expected I suppose. But the leader singer's voice is phenomenal. The boy's got a scream and a half on him, and his mouth is TERRIFYINGLY HUGE.

They were followed by the wonderful Summer Camp who I just find pant wettingly adorable. I'm a fan of playful heckling, I'll be honest, and Jeremy Warmsley enterred to my large cry of "STROKE YOUR BEARD!" to which he sheepishly obliged, to a good few cheers from the front line of the crowd. Their fantastic indie pop had me a wee bit giddy, but as a live act they fell a tad flat, and I think it was down to the venue. There's just the two of them onstage and Elizabeth Sankey had a wonderful understated spite in the way she delivered the lyrics which was difficult to translate across a safety barrier. But I still loved them and swooned unashamedly at their very presence.

But then, the real business began. The bottom floor of the venue was pretty packed out, though the balconies were quite sparse - but who cared. Everyone who was in there was visibly brimming, and you could have cut the hyperactive fanboy tension with a knife. The front of the crowed was full of teenagers which I was overjoyed to see. When the band began to file out, the cheer from the crowd was huge. Me and my two companions were far from the only ones with massive grins on our faces. It was clear before even a note had been played that tonight the crowd wanted one thing and one thing only: to show just how much they bloody love this band.

Opener "In Media Res" was drowned in cheers as soon as the first chord began. We were all chanting the the keyboard line. The massive drop in the middle of the song was like a flood breaking, everyone went crazy, belting "THE SKY NEVER ONCE TURNED BLACK!" up at Gareth Campesinos!, their brilliantly ginger front man. From the very first moment, every single lyric seemed precious, faithfully barked back up at the band, flawless, word for word. This was followed instantly by fan favourite "Death to Los Campesinos!" which is where the truly sweaty, hyperactive, euphoric jumping and thrashing began, guitar lines belted back as well as the lyrics. The brief breaks in the track were handled amazingly, and you just felt totally in the band's palm before they kicked back in again. The energy from every member of the band was incredible, Gareth thrashing around just how I expected him to, throughout the whole gig. All of the vitriol and bitterness that shoot through his lyrics seemed as even more fresh and real live than it does on record, which is certainly saying something.

There was a brief break between "Death to Los Campesinos!" and "Miserabilia" in which someone near the front (not me of course... ahem...) took the chance to yell "GARETH! I WANT YOUR SPERM!" I was rewarded with a look of what I hope was pride!

"This Is How You Spell 'HAHAHA, We Destroyed The Hopes and Dreams Of A Generation of Faux Romantics" was a truly intense experience and is where the real moments of exhilirating crushing happened at the front. Gareth was on superb form in this one, bending his back down to the floor and scrambling all over the place. I could try to be articulate, but I'll just say that it was during this track that I realised how flipping amazing the band looked and acted live.

Mid-set, they took the chance to debut some new material which they'd mentioned on Twitter. Two tracks, "Four Seasons" and "The Black Bird, The Dark Slope" were performed and met with nods of rhythmical approval from all of the t-shirt wearing fan boys down the front. From what I could make out, the lyrics sounded brilliant as always. We also got a wee bit of a respite from the sweaty mayhem (sweaty was definitely the word of the evening)

Then came "Straight In At 101" which I was desperate to see live. It definitely seemed like a crowd favourite, and demonstrated the crowd's breathtaking stamina in that we were thrashing and leaping around like a ball pit in a cyclone whilst hurling back every single word into Gareth's face. I was so, so happy to see that my favourite lyrics, the ones where I just yelled as loud as I could, were the ones that other fans seemed to love as well. Best example of that has to be in the stunning "The Sea is a Good Place To Think of The Future" where every person in the building seemed to be devoted to nothing more than putting everything their body could offer into yelling "YOU COULD NEVER KISS A TORY BOY WITHOUT WANTING TO CUT OFF YOUR TONGUE AGAIN!!!"

The sublime finale "Sweet Dreams, Sweet Cheeks" was insanely good and as the band slunk of the stage, the crowed carried on chanting the (second) chorus "ONE BLINK FOR YES! TWO BLINKS FOR NO! SWEET DREAMS, SWEET CHEEKS, WE LEAVE ALONE!" until the band returned. Gah it was just such a glorious couple of minutes with everyone stood their belting out that chorus. And the band returned and performed a brilliant encore of "Knee Deep at ATP" and "...And We Exhale And Roll Our Eyes In Unison". Gareth joked before they began the final song "erm... this is an album track from the first album". And they finished a show with that, something most bands wouldn't even dream of doing. But that shows one of the things that is best about Los Campesinos! The crowd adored every second of the encore, as if both tracks were anthems. This gig really confirmed for me that Los Campesinos! are a band who I, and evidently many nothers, truly truly love and treasure, shown in the fact that every song was stunning, every lyric chanted back by the crowd in a terrifyingly devoted chorus. Very few other bands could end a gig with two album track from their debut. But when you're a band as loved as Los Campesinos! it seems like the natural choice.

An amazing gig all in all. I wish a few other tracks had been included, like "My Year in Lists", "Don't Tell Me To Do The Math(s), "Coda: A Burn Scar in the Shape of the Sooner State" and "Ways To Make It Through The Wall" but I really have no complaints.

There was a brilliant moment where Gareth pointed up to the balcony and said "there are some Los Campesinos! parents here this evening...". Masses of cheers and bows were directed upwards at these two beaming middle aged folk, and I think the Northern lad behind me articulated the feelings of the crowd who loved the band so much and were looking for someone to thanks: "THANK YOU, YOU AMAZING SEX GODS!"

1. In Medias Res
2. Death To Los Campesinos!
3. Miserabilia
4. A Heat Rash In The Shape Of The Show Me State; Or Letters From Me To Charlotte
5. This Is How You Spell, "HAHAHA, We Destroyed The Hopes And Dreams Of A Generation Of Faux-Romantics"
6. Documented Minor Emotional Breakdown #1
7. Four Seasons
8. The Black Bird, The Dark Slope
9. Straight In At 101
10. We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed
11. Romance Is Boring
12. You! Me! Dancing!
13. The Sea Is A Good Place To Think Of The Future
14. Sweet Dreams, Sweet Cheeks

15. Knee Deep At ATP
16. ... And We Exhale And Roll Our Eyes In Unison

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