Hurts – Somerset House, London 14/07/11
Written by Philip Honour
Whatever the weather, Somerset House is a stunning background for a gig and when you have a band like Hurts headlining; the dark clouds that threaten rain at any second just add to the theatricality of the event. I arrived at Somerset House early to make sure I have a decent spot to see Gaggle the anarchic all girl indie choir whose dirty electro-classical arrangements are the perfect antidote to auto tuned vocal harmony groups inspired by Glee.
Sadly, there were only about 100 people present when they kicked off proceedings and they appeared to be dogged by a few sound issues (to be fair to Somerset House, I don't think it was there fault – more the fact that some members of the choir seemed to struggle to stay close to the mics) but by the end of the set they managed to win over a tough crowd who seemed more interested in their bottles of Kopparberg than the music on offer.
As an idea, Gaggle shouldn't work. It should have been an experiment that stayed within the walls of a drama school and then confined to history – perhaps being rolled out as an anecdote at dinner parties for creative types who reminisce about how they were once "part of a musical revolution" but, somehow they pull it off and I am really looking forward to seeing them again.
Up next was Saint Saviour who I hadn't come across before, but managed to blow me away with a bold performance that warmed the crowd up nicely for Hurts. It is always dangerous to suggest that an artist will be "the next big thing" but I can't see any way this girl won't be next year's BBC Sound of 2011 and Brits Critics choice. I know people said the same thing this time last year about Clare Maguire (what's happened to her?) but I am willing to take the risk and predict that Saint Saviour will be the name on everyone's lips in 2012. Think Bat for Lashes meets Florence on a good day and you are getting close to how great this girl is.
As the sunset behind Somerset House, Hurts entered to a rapturous reception. It is amazing how loyal and dedicated a fan base the band have built up in a short period of time and from the first chord, Hurts had the audience in the palm of their hand.
Backed by a string quartet, an opera singer and dancers who looked like they had just stepped off the set of Black Swan, frontman Theo and Synth-player Adam ran through the majority of debut album Happiness before a bizarre reworking of Kylie's 'Confide with Me' had the audience spellbound (if not a bit confused). Rounding off the show with probably the only song the whole crowd recognised 'Better than Love', Theo walked off stage safe in the knowledge that Hurts had proved themselves worthy of the hype.
Hurts are a gloriously camp, unashamedly commercial pop act that don't take themselves to seriously. If you haven't checked them out before, do it now, you won't regret it.
This review very nearly didn't happen due to the never ending engineering work that has crippled London's tube system at the weekend's and when I finally got to Somerset House (three hours after I left my flat), I was really looking forward to relaxing with a cider and bathing in the nostalgic 90s beats of Lamb. [read more]
Musical genres are known for their cyclical behaviour. Just take a gander at the 90s retreading that has swept through the indie rock movement over the last 12 months. Soul has been one genre that has, for the most part, remained stuck in past decades, resigned to a world of romantic notions and passionate counterculture identity. [read more]