When it comes to Haim, it’s fair to say that the Hype Machine has been working overtime. Since releasing their debut EP ‘Forever’ they’ve wowed at SXSW, commanded arena support slots for the likes of Florence + The Machine, headlined their own tour and topped the BBC's Sound of 2013… Not bad for a trio yet to release its first album.
Striding on stage, they start with the familiar a cappella of ‘Better Off’. It’s a brooding beginning, during which the sisters hammer away on their own individual drums, backed all the way by the powerhouse that is Dash Hutton on the main kit. Following this pounding entrance, we’re given two currently unreleased tracks: ‘The Wire’ is a country-rock affair, with each sibling taking it in turns to talk-in-tune. ‘Honey & I’, meanwhile, sounds like an up-to-date take on an old ‘Rumours’ bootleg.
The cascading harmonies of their most recent single ‘Falling’ translate well to the stage, showing that in the absence of studio production values they can still harmonise just as well. However, as the audience really starts to get into it, the momentum drops for the sultry ‘Go Slow’ and ‘Send Me Down’, which they confess to only having played live once before.
From where we’re standing, there seems to be a certain degree of detachment in the air. The venue itself is quite restricting; there are arches and pillars to negotiate, lots of tall people under a low ceiling, and it feels as though the excitement and enthusiasm of the diehard fans at front barely ripples its way through to the back.
There’s no denying that the expectations for tonight’s gig are high, and when Danielle declares that she’s just “SO nervous”, the audience cheers its reassurance in response. But perhaps it’s not the band that really needs the encouragement.
What’s interesting is their dynamic on stage: with Alana, the multi-instrumentalist, seemingly at the crux of the unit. Though Danielle may be the lead singer and guitarist, she’s not necessarily the front woman – that seems to be an accolade they manage to share fairly equally.
In any case, it’s bassist Este who does most of the talking, whether her siblings like it or not. Known for her brash banter, tonight’s topics include panties (she is wearing a pair) and the fact that her phone number’s on YouTube, so we should send her pictures of our bits. It is, by the way, as we checked but are yet to oblige.
Predictably, as they launch into ‘Don’t Save Me’, the room comes to life, the singing along and hands-in-the-air spirit continuing through ‘Forever’. Both are played with the same vigour as the rest of the set, but to a wholly more appreciative crowd.
Finally, as we watch them beat seven bells out of their drums for the encore of a bruising ‘Let Me Go’, we do as they tell us to, appreciative of their musicianship and hoping that their debut album will deliver.
Words: Puja Maniar
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