Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Everything Everything / Outfit @ Institute, 12th February 2013

There’s a rich history of singing like you’ve just trapped your genitals in a car door (stranger things can happen), from Frankie Valli back in the 50s through to the Bee Gees in the 70s, on to Jimi Somerville in the 80s and, latterly that nice Mr Martin from Coldplay (more of them later). On top of the clever art rock electro feel of the music lead singer Jonathan Higg’s soaring vocals made Everything Everything’s 2010’s debut album Man Alive stand out and he’s wisely stuck with this winning formula on the new one, Arc (a top 5 album now no less), albeit with a noticeable shift towards a more epic stadium feel here and there.

Before all that though time for opening act Outfit to win over some new fans courtesy of  their own blend of sophisticated chill-synth with pleasing echoes of The Associates, fellow Liverpudlians OMD and early era Tears For Fears buried in the mix. Part soul, part synth, part Radiophonic Workshop 2012’s Dashing In Passing deserved to be a big hit and it’s frankly unforgiveable that they neglected to play it tonight. Boo! Hiss! 

Happily they did serve up enough musical goodies to do their sound justice though, notably bookended by the ghostly funk groove of Drakes and the naggingly insistent Two Islands.  

The last time I saw Everything Everything was way back in 2009 in a pub basement (with the much missed Findo Gask in support). Since then they’ve obviously stepped up a notch or two and tonight’s venue, The Library at The Institute, was stuffed full to its capacity of 600. It’s not the first crowd that’s turned out to see them today either, just a few hours before they played a profile raising live set on 6 Music before hotfooting it (well, cold footing it’s ruddy freezing up here) up to Brum. Two gigs in one day, impressive eh?
Both singer Jonathan Higgs and bassist Jeremy Pritchard have degrees in Popular Music (2000 words on The Semantics of Lady Gaga’s Minge...that’s my kind of course) which presumably explains why they’re able to seemingly pen numerous instantly addictive crack tracks. That’s not to say it’s all dumb pop, far from it as tonight’s somewhat dreamy opening track Undrowned proves. It’s a twisted lullaby, both musically and lyrically, with Higgs seemingly having a pop at celebrity culture, wars, Prince Harry, bankers and, quite possibly, himself, all delivered in that warbling falsetto of his. It’s an arresting opening number but the gig really starts to come to life with Kemosabe. The first single off the new album it’s classic Everything Everything, rich with singalong bits for the masses to get stuck into but still clever and odd enough for the cool kids to nod along to. It must also be the only pop hit in history to ever incorporate the word ‘genuflecting’.

The gig settles into a bit of a rhythm from here, with faster paced ‘hands in the air’ numbers followed by slower, more anthemic ‘lighters in the air’ ones. Of the latter new single, the cello driven Duet, sails close to Coldplay territory (depending on your view of Mr Martin and co this is either a great thing or a crime against music) but perhaps they’ve got their sights on the old arena market eh?  It’s certainly a ‘grown up’ sound, rejecting their edgier synth / math rock earlier leanings in favour of a more organic feel and it’s not hard to imagine it going down a storm in front of 70,000 cidered up fans at Glasto. It gets a big cheer from the crowd tonight too so it’s clearly got the makings of a true anthem but the biggest reactions are still reserved for the more upbeat stuff. “Time for a classic tune” announces Higgs before launching into the computer game bleeps and beats of Photoshop Handsome.  A frantic rock out at the end ‘gains an extra life’ for all concerned before they move smoothly into another mellow number, the hymnal The Peaks. A gentle ‘Shhhhh’ goes round the crowd and, remarkably, most people do indeed shut the fuck up for a change. Is this the same band that was jerking about like they were wired to the mains just a few moments ago? Yep. True to form it was followed up by early single Suffragette Suffragette replete with some free jazz style freak outs midway through before the main set concluded with Cough Cough. Hell, this can’t be an easy track to sing, what with the rapid changes in tone and the frenetic pace of the whole thing but Higgs pulls it off remarkably well (okay there are a few little pitch issues but it’s his second gig of the day, give the dude a break). “But I’m coming alive, I‘m happening now” he warbles as the crowd goes mental and, right there and then, he really is.

There’s no better way to kick off an encore with a hit and MY KZ UR BF duly hits the spot, its skittering rhythms and glossy pop chorus earning one of the biggest singalongs of the night. Set closer Don’t Try is another of their stadium numbers, giving Higgs the chance to bang his own drum for a change (literally) and, given the vocal gymnastics he throws into every show, he deserved the opportunity.
Two albums in and Everything Everything clearly have their sights set on a arena near you. Given the strength of tonight’s show and the audience’s reaction they seem destined to get there too. Can they maintain that quirky inventiveness that got them here in the first place? Everything Everything’s possible...


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