Los Campesinos! – Live At Heaven, London

An exhilarating show, and hopefully not the last...

As a naïve youngling, I used to get rather excited thinking about the years to come. Now, as The Future draws inexorably close – bringing with it neither signs of alien life nor a comprehensive cure for baldness – it strikes me as less ‘undiscovered country’, more nightmarish alternate dimension to be resisted at all costs.

Of all the reasons to regard The Future with utmost terror, the music industry’s imminent demise is perhaps deserving of mention only in appendix. But do I really want to live in a world where bands that sell out London’s Heaven have day jobs? Save me, Yama, from the coming age of relatively popular artists being forced to do what they love as a hobby only!

“It’s been a difficult year for our band,” Los Campesinos! frontman Gareth Paisley announces to the faithful on a cold December night bereft of promise. “If it wasn’t for your support we wouldn’t be here. We all have to go to work tomorrow. So thank you.”

The admission elicits a similar response to that of Gareth’s winningly defeatist lyrics; and in both cases there’s something peculiarly narcissistic about the sympathy. Just as the many failed romances he describes are all too familiar, like Gaz we likely have to spend tomorrow doing something we don’t love. Part of LC!’s subliminal appeal is that the pity you feel for them is, in fact, self-pity.

Now that I’ve cleverly psychoanalysed the band’s fans in one fell swoop, what of the ‘rock concert’? As you’d expect, there’s a fair amount of time given to latest album, ‘No Blues’ (Clash review), an accomplished record whose likeable pop sheen progressively contrasts with previous effort, ‘Hello Sadness’ (Clash review). That defining record’s foggy air of despair was better suited to weeping in your bedroom than ‘No Blues’; on the latter, occasional shafts of (pink) light blaze through the misery, and it’s perfect for the stage.

Songs like tonight’s opener, ‘As Lucerne/The Low’, transcend their role as pleasant album-fillers to become mighty anthems, the heroism Gareth wrings from said misery now reaching epic proportions: “But the low is what I came for / In a darkness I do adore,” goes the thumping chorus. Tremendous new singles, ‘What Death Leaves Behind’ and ‘Avocado, Baby’, are opportunities for big old sing-alongs, the crowd seeming to know all of the words despite the fact that they’ve just been released.

The anthemic slant of the evening is perhaps its highlight. Gareth smiles in awe at Kim, his sister playing keys, when the throng’s delivery of “People laugh, they call it folly / But we connected like a Yeboah volley,” from ‘Glue Me’ drowns out his own. And he can but applaud after everyone joins in for the song’s football chant-style outro: “Ex-boyfriend, give us a song!”

The set is, however, evenly balanced between songs from ‘No Blues’ and selections from LC!’s previous four albums, including chart-threatening standouts from their repertoire such as ‘By Your Hand’, ‘Romance Is Boring’ and ‘You! Me! Dancing’ (now six years old). Such a walkthrough of the best bits, more akin to a greatest hits show than a new-album tour, gives me the unnerving feeling that the end could be nigh. The ‘difficult year’ Gareth mentioned refers to the departure of founding member Ellen Waddell (Clash news), which the band admitted, along with financial worries, brought them close to the precipice.

After such an exhilarating show, I dearly hope not. But if so, the final words of closer ‘Baby I Got The Death Rattle’ – as sung by the best part of 2,000 voices in Heaven tonight – would seem the perfect epitaph: “Not headstone, but headboard, is where I wanna be mourned.” Better the sack than the grave, I say.

– – –

Words: Darren Loucaides (@DarrenLoucaides)

Clash magazine comes on really nice paper. You should smell it.

Join the Clash mailing list for up to the minute music, fashion and film news.