Seven hundred lucky revellers have managed to bag tickets to Haim’s sell-out show in the Dutch capital tonight, and Melkweg is overflowing with flamboyantly attired fans packed in like colourful, interlocking Lego bricks. Considering the monstrous tsunami of hype that this LA troika is currently galloping atop, it’s unlikely that Haim will be playing venues as small and intimate as this for much longer.
After a short but emotive set from Nottingham’s Saint Raymond, the girls arrive on stage with a minimum of fuss as the opening notes of empowering pop anthem ‘Falling’ whisk their way from a wave of discordant feedback. I close my eyes and absorb the sound, and it’s easy to imagine myself on the sun-bleached LA highways of the San Fernando Valley that the trio hails from.
A flailing limb to the head brings me back to the present – the typically reserved Dutch crowd are amped up. The first song isn’t over, but Melkweg has transformed into a boozy chapel of sweat and thrashing arms.
‘The Wire’ is next up, showcasing everything that Haim do best: sun-drenched melodies, star-cradling choruses, and scorching vocal interplay. Their debut album ‘Days Are Gone’ (Clash review) boasts largely whimsical and simple lyrics, but the key is lead singer Danielle’s delivery.
But while Danielle is the ostensible front-woman – riffling away with unbridled zeal and yelping and yowling reverb-soaked vocals through gritted teeth – it’s bassist and eldest sister Este who imbues the set with razor-sharp banter.
"Can you turn the house lights up so I can see how everyone looks? How the f*ck is everyone feeling?" she asks nonchalantly as the dying chords of ‘The Wire’ dissolve into Melkweg’s grimy walls. Potty-mouthed, and as witty as Oscar Wilde overdosing on caffeine, she flirts outrageously with a drunken audience member called Josh as the bemused crowd looks on amazed.
Dressed in faded denims and cracked leathers, and wielding their instruments like seasoned rock stars, Haim’s appearance tonight betrays the direction their sound takes – embracing their debut’s rockier elements instead of its breezier pop leanings.
There’s a heightened immediacy to the stuttering bare-bones R&B of ‘If I Could Change Your Mind’; to the irresistible intertwining of bass and synths on ‘Don’t Save Me’; and to the funk-fuelled fretwork that the sisters showcase on ‘Forever’.
Though an element of theatricality shrouds Danielle’s shredding and the way Alana seductively bangs the bass drum, it never feels contrived. Beneath the banter, ability, and the look, there’s the essential magic that holds the show together – spectacular songs.
They return for the encore, where they cover Sheryl Crow’s ‘Strong Enough’ before launching into live favourite ‘Let Me Go’, an anthemic break-up song that they imbue with so much energy and emotion that the final repeated refrain of “let me go” simultaneously becomes a declaration and a plea.
“Thank you guys for being so f*cking awesome!” screams a smiling, overjoyed Este before the band leave the stage. The feeling’s mutual, Haim.
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Words: Benji Taylor
Photos: Raymond Van Mil (website)