Sunday, 19 June 2011

Gig Review - The Horrors @ York Hall, 17/06/11

Photo by Pandalotte
It's a dreary, drizzly friday evening, and I'm being bored to death by a psychedelic rock band fronted by a man mumbling into his microphone. Don't worry,  this isn't The Horrors but the support act that precedes them - a band so bad that they don't bother announcing their own name. Their material picks up towards the end of their ridiculously long set, but by this point no-one is interested.

It's a terrible shame. A support act should get the crowd ready for the main event, not send them to sleep. Perhaps I'm the only one drained of excitement, however, because as The Horrors walk onstage, a small group of very drunk (or very enthusiastic) fans scream "I want to fuck you, Rhys!".

If one good thing as come from The Horrors' shallow and image-conscious early work, it's the cult following the band has maintained - regardless of the great lengths taken to make themselves more credible. The outfits (though still black) are more normal, the stage presence is calmer and, crucially, the immature and underdeveloped early material is entirely absent.

Instead, the songs played tonight - many taken from forthcoming third album Skying - are slow in pace and almost dreamy in tone, and a million miles from the likes of 'Jack The Ripper' and 'Death At The Chapel'. The crowd, a mix of fans dressed in black and ultra-trendy indie kids, isn't quite sure how to react to relaxed opener 'Changing The Rain', and so stays relatively still.

This is followed up with one of the lesser tracks from Primary Colours, 'Scarlet Fields'. It's a strange choice of song, and is neither fast enough to dance nor catchy enough to sing along to. The drunk Rhys-fanciers mentioned earlier unsuccessfully attempt to open up a mosh pit. Then another new song with a great spaced-out riff, 'I Can See Through You', which has been recently leaked.

Finally, the gig begins to pick up pace with a couple of tracks from the second album, 'Three Decades' and 'Who Can Say'. The latter truly whips the crowd up into a fervour with its catchy synth hook and distorted bassline.

It's difficult honestly to judge the new material fairly when it's being heard for the first time. It's certainly nowhere near as dark or moody as Primary Colours, One man standing in front of me mutters to his friend, "it all sounds like britpop". This new track he's referring to, 'Endless Blue', starts off slow, but then picks up pace with a great drop. It's a good sign when the crowd is dancing this aggressively to unfamiliar tunes.

The band's guitarist, Joshua Hayward - now with
considerably less silly hair. (Photos by Pandalotte)
And now, finally, the band bring out the big guns: first off is 'Sea Within A Sea', arguably their greatest song to date. It doesn't quite have the same spooky atmosphere live, and the beautiful arpeggio ending is cut a little short, but it's still a wonderful experience. Then for 'Still Life', the only new song so far officially released, multi-coloured floodlights are switched on to reveal the entire audience. For a song only released a few weeks ago, it gets a surprisingly decent sing-along going (although personally I wish there'd been a bit of arm-waving going on), and sounds as big live as it does on record.

After an ultimately pointless interlude (no-one even bothered shouting "encore!", because we knew they were coming out again), they come back on to finish with the epic 'Mirror's Image' and another new song, 'Moving Further Away, which is a joyous wall of noise with a calmer section in the middle, and a brilliant end to the set. The crowd leaves York Hall buzzing, and more excited for the release of Skying next month than ever.

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