Wild Beasts @ Sheffield City Hall 14.05.11

Deep in the bowels of Sheffield, amongst the steel and the squalor (alright it's actually a fairly nice place and the majority of the steel industry has been replaced with Nando's and Superdry outlets, but that wouldn't write half as nicely) lies Sheffield City Hall. Beneath said hall is potentially one of the most elaborately over the top and elegant function rooms a band could wish to play in. This evening, that hall plays perfect host to Cumbria's Wild Beasts, currently out on tour with their third LP Smother.

May 14th, 2011 at Sheffield City Hall / By Matthew Bayfield
Wild Beasts @ Sheffield City Hall 14.05.11 From the instant the thundering drums hit to open proceedings it becomes clear that the ornate art-deco setting of City Hall is the model venue for the band in question. The cavernous high ceilings only further accentuate the grand scale of the band's rhythms and the gentle layers of synthesizers ebb and flow across the spacious ballroom, encouraging the crowd to sway harmoniously on the forceful aural tide the band create with majestic opener 'Plaything.' This slow swelling energy continues to confidently build over the next few tracks, all taken from the new album, and is then expertly released on 'We Still Got The Taste Dancing On Our Tongues' which allows an already feverish crowd to finally move in a manner all but unbecoming of a night in a concert hall.

The ebb & flow feel generated on the first track is carried throughout the entire set thereafter, with the band's jauntier numbers such as 'Devil's Crayon' and 'Hooting & Howling' perfectly complimenting the more gentle, sometimes woozy numbers which are delivered with a statuesque confidence and eccentric quirk (possibly called 'Britishness') that somehow manages to be almost non-existent yet completely captivating at the same time. The manner of this, coupled with the trademark falsetto of front man Hayden Thorpe only adds to the almost surreal setting and tone of the event. It might possibly be the closest thing yet seen in Sheffield to a morphine laced musical reinterpretation of Passage To India starring Sean Bean & Michael Palin.

Each of the wisely picked numbers on offer, many peppered with resplendent lyrics & frequently carrying a subtle undercurrent of what might just be known as 'smutty innuendo' is delivered with a wry wink and knowing tongue and it is without doubt one performance where blushing and embarrassed faces need not be a concern for the most part, with the band playing both a well balanced and beautifully rendered set. The only criticism that could be found in the performance is the loss of lyrical clarity on a few of the tracks, potentially as a result of the room's spacious acoustics, which is something of a shame as it is far and away one of the band's strongest and most unique selling points. Nonetheless the overall effect is truly hypnotizing and it is the most British of compliments that by the encore, where usually only the truly diehard stay focused on the tunes, there is absolutely no queue whatsoever for the bar or the bogs, making the choice of 'End Come Too Soon' for the final encore a most pertinent finish.