In a good night for gigs (The Fiery Furnaces were playing just across town) it was irresistible to see two of the best rated new acts play together, in one of my favourite venues, for a paltry £7.50.
Fanfarlo were the headliners, but I’ll talk about them first. They played a strong and confident set, but were disappointing in many areas. Their songs sounded so often just like another act that they came across as an acoustic indie rock Stars In Their Eyes (“Tonight Matthew we are The Arcade Fire!”). Latest single ‘The Walls Are Coming Down’ is a great tune, but only Beirut themselves could tell it isn’t one of their songs. Elsewhere we are treated to The Arcade Fire, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and The Spinto Band. These are all great reference points, but they just emphasise that if Fanfarlo want to be a great band they need to find their own sound.
They played very well, but also misjudged the venue. The Hanbury is a small and intimate venue. The ear rattling drums, although very effective, swamped the rest of the instruments and needed to be toned down. Despite these criticisms they were a good act that could be a great act if they refined their sound and made it their own.
First Aid Kit were different story entirely, they were a revelation. I had heard bits of their songs, and liked them, but not really paid much attention. Seeing them live I was unprepared for how good they would be. Their songs have a sophistication that belies their years, yet retaining a charming naivety. The instrumentation, mainly just acoustic guitar with some keyboards was accomplished but it was the voices that set them apart.
Their voices, impressive on record, are even better live. Strong, distinctive and showcasing some really wonderful harmonies. The country tinged ‘You’re Not Coming Home Tonight’ and latest single ‘Hard Believer’ perfectly showcasing their voices. Already confident performers they joked about not singing ‘Tiger Mountain Peasant Song’ before inevitably launching into it. Being known for a cover version can be problematic, but their performance was better than the Fleet Foxes original. And given that their own songs are of such a high quality it doesn’t seem that it will be a problem.
One of the best new acts of 2009, and a real class live act. Something that Fanfarlo struggled to follow.
By Dorian Rogers