Late of the Pier - Wolverhampton Civic Bar
Having been in love with their album since its release last August and spending all week fighting my way to get into this sold-out gig, I was obviously going to relish every single moment of my first Late of the Pier live experience. It's a pity that the foursome were billed as playing the larger Wulfrun but ended up playing the no-man's-land Civic Bar, a smaller room sandwiched between the Wulfrun and the massive Civic Hall, but the more intimate atmosphere gave the enthusiastic crowd a chance to hear their ambitious sound before it pushes the big red button that tears an irreparable dimensional rip - scheduled around mid-2009, I'd say - between this world and the one they and their futuristic alien-hybrid sonics have visited us from.
Four unassuming-looking youths in their very early twenties, they casually take to a stage loaded with synths and playthings, devoid of the Bowie-esque glam cozzies adorned at other gigs. I don't feel put out that they're clad in mere T-shirts and, well, normal attire tonight because, from the opening long-lost Gary Numan synth riff of Space and the Woods, it's clear we're not in Wolverhampton anymore. Nor are we anywhere on this sphere we call home, transported above and beyond to the titular 'space'. This space is one occupied by songs as energetic, frivolous and downright loveable as next track Heartbeat, its crazy po-go pop acting as a beacon in getting my lazy ass deep into the throes of a squashed first five rows who are not afraid to jump. It's satisfying to see that, for a band whose name so often gets lumped in with the post-Klaxons 'new rave' wave, the crowd is startlingly diverse and there's not a glowstick in sight. And yet there is dancing, largely due to the fact that, with the set that's about to be thrown at us, there couldn't not be. Mission accomplished.
Over the course of the next four songs, a genre monster-mash takes us deep into the strange sci-fi movie Late of the Pier and debut Fantasy Black Channel live in. Stitching up a patchwork of giddy, carefree charm (Random Firl), heavier solar-glam (Whitesnake) and guitars-versus-electronics existential angst (Broken, which has wide-eyed punters joining in with the pissed off mantra, 'It's all evolution's fault now!'), these four young men play as if possessed and the result is a robotic Frankenstein's monster. And, at the risk of complete fan-wankery, it's fucking great and way more 'prog' than MGMT without, crucially, sounding like it's trying.
That's before we've even got to the honkin' huge big laser guns. It's only February but, upon hearing the tribal drums that kick off The Bears Are Coming's hedonistic, shape-shifting funk, I can safely say I'm satisfied if I don't go to another gig all year. My favourite party track (indeed, perhaps even track full stop) of 2008, it showcases their knack for ideas without sacrificing a contagious, easy sense of fun. Lead singer Sam Eastgate doesn't waver in a commanding central performance that has to try on and, y'know, pull off everything from the schizoid, disco jam of The Enemy Are the Future to the darker, paranoid android Focker. It's down to an extended, warped-up version of single Bathroom Gurgle, a Bohemian Rhapsody for drug-addled, cyber-sexed teens who wanna 'move [their] body to the bassline and get [their] hands on some cheap wine', to close the show and send the crowd into one final full-on frenzy. The only criticism that can be levelled at the gig is, due to this early stage in their career, the short set is over and done with by just after ten. If these wonder boys manage to tune into Fantasy Black Channel's frequency for a second (hopefully third, fourth, etc.) time though, then I can look back on this as just the first otherworldly visit from one of our most vital and visionary bands. Let's hope so - and, next time, give 'em a bigger stage!
Space and the Woods
The Bears Are Coming
The Enemy Are the Future
Mad Dogs and Englishmen