Photographer: Tim Ferguson

Words: Alex Elder

I walked into the dark, brick-clad interior of Cargo with some like minded hipsters and mid-life crisis dads, all waiting expectantly for these giants of all things quirky to entertain us. Looking at the stage, I am doubtful it will fit two people let alone four! An avalanche of keyboards lay sprawled on top of one another on stage along with the most cluttered drumkit I have ever seen and a floor covered almost entirely with cables; these guys mean business.

Arriving fashionably late, Devante Hynes, the guy behind Lightspeed Champion, drummer of Test Icicles and currently the sole member of his oh-so-retro new outfit, Blood Orange, waltzes up with his Apple Mac under arm, his only music support for the set. Donned in a black leather cap and jacket, spray-on jeans and a huge pair of Doc Martins he looks like your textbook punk, though the gold-rimmed spectacles and glasses chain combo gives off a very different vibe.

Throughout 'Champagne Coast', Dev’s smooth and angelic voice leaves everyone in the room speechless. He lays down some brilliant delayed guitar lines with skill and ease, complementing his voice well. Though in my own opinion a full band would add some more variation to his songs, Hynes makes up for this totally with his energy and the sheer noise he makes is unnatural for a single guitar.

For his next track, 'Sutphin Boulevard', he hurls his mic-stand into the crowd, performing most of the song among us mortals with some fat riffs and a definite metal-inspired tapping solo. His stage presence is superb. As I watch him pacing around the stage or serenading an unsuspecting fan in the front row it is apparent he is really enjoying himself.

The new song Hynes debuts has some great lyrics and a killer drumbeat that wouldn’t be out of place on an 80’s pop tune. He jumps on and off stage constantly as if in some extreme Step class.

'I’m Sorry We Lied', begins with some ear-splitting feedback from Dev’s black Strat, (it’s heard to believe this is the man responsible for such sweet and soppy songs like 'Galaxy of the Lost' listening to him shred on his guitar tonight). He crams emotion into the lyrics, the heartbreak almost visible as he half-growls his angst-driven lyrics.

With its whimsical guitars and heartfelt reiteration of "I am not your savior", 'Forget It' stands out as the best track of the set. By now Dev’s hard work is starting to show and it almost looks like he is crying sweat from the sheer quantity of moves busted on and off the stage tonight.

Hynes ends the set with a savagely rapid, face-melting solo which goes on longer than his backing track from his laptop. Even if it is slightly drawn out, the crowd goes wild, roaring and whooping like there’s no tomorrow.

After what seems like a lifetime, mainly due to the mounting excitement filling the room, Grizzly Bear’s Chris Taylor, supported by Dev Hynes, John Kirby and Guillermo Brown, begin with the driving opener of CAN’T’s album, 'Too Late Too Far' for their first UK performance. Chris Taylor’s reverb drenched vocals sound beyond amazing combined with Devante Hynes’ vocal counterpoint and some absolutely mad sounds produced in the keyboard department. The drummer literally leaps out his seat with energy.

Single 'Believe' really shows off Taylor’s vocal abilities to the full with some blissful falsetto notes gracefully reached. The song’s chilled out vibe washes over the crowd just for the rug to be pulled out from under their feet with a dirty wad of distortion slathered on everything, a refreshing contrast to the rest of the song’s texture.

All members seem so comfortable in their own skin, not letting up much to talk to the crowd but just driving on, giving the fans an intense sonic experience from the outset. Chris’s looped Richenbacker bass in 'Bang' carries the song effortlessly. Dev cranks things up to 11 again in the songs B part, now that trick is growing a tad wearisome though.

During an elongated introduction to 'Dreams Come True', the drummer sets himself a mission to hit every skin and rim of his diverse drumkit, which he achieves with flare. It may seem gimmicky to some but Taylor’s vocoded croons added more depth to the song which sounds a lot like a more disturbing version of 'Bodysnatchers' by Radiohead, its fuzzy bass line jumping all over the place with Dev keeping things solid, bopping about with Taylor’s bass in hand.

'She Found a Way Out' builds epically from humble beginnings to splendid grandeur. The spacey glimmers provided by Dev on guitar evolve into a noisy, evocative sprawl, flirting with post-rock massive-ness during the song’s instrumental. Compressed and heavily reverberated, Chris’s velvet vocals sound out of this world good.

The crowd can’t help themselves from turning into a sea of bobbing heads for the infectious 'Answer'. Chris and Dev are so in sync it’s like listening to one voice, there’s not a stray note between them. Again the guys play the noise card but it’s so captivating I can’t even fault the messy and overwhelming sonic wave felt.

Though not my favourite song on Dreams Come True, 'Rises Silent'‘s intricate tapping of cow bells and the odd synth xylophone make for an interesting listen. Whilst singing, Taylor goes from raging velocities to subdued utterances in mere seconds, the crowd hanging on to each word that falls from his mouth.

A welcome breather to the tirade of noise, the sparse 'Bericht' is utterly superb with Taylor’s warm croon as a focal point. I promise you I am not exaggerating when I say it is one of the most beautiful songs I have heard live. On this track the band ends abruptly to incessant applause and before the band are offstage I can hear their gleeful celebrations, tonight has been a success. The clapping and cheering does not let up even when CAN’T reappear and take up their instruments. Chris looks completely stunned, like a child on Christmas morning, viewing the fans that made this event sell out months ago.

They end on 'The Edge', holding back a tad on the distortion levels for a much more refined sound. An eerie silence falls over the room as the song is stripped back to just Taylor and a single keyboard, there is no doubt this guy could sing the phonebook and people would sit up and listen. The drummer’s intricate rhythmic weaving leaves you guessing when the next beat is going to fall. The song slides into a dreamy echoed piano line, signalling the end of the set. Having let his music do the majority of the talking tonight Chris Taylor’s departing words are, ‘Thank you so much, we hope to see you again.’ You get the feeling a gig like this is as much for the enjoyment of the band as the fans who turn up. The band all smile uncontrollably, reluctant to leave the stage and lapping up the applause of what has been a fleeting but hopefully enjoyable visit to these shores.


Blood Orange