Hooting & Howling

I tend to be literary on my blog with the occasional flirt with nonsense. But I also like to write about music, my other love. And so I’m going to gush about an English band my wife and I just saw in Boston. The band is the Wild Beasts, one of the best bands to come out of Britain since the Smiths, in my Welsh opinion, which probably doesn’t count for much beyond the River Wye.

We’ve been besotted with this band since hearing Two Dancers and so when we heard about them playing in our backyard city, we had to go. And having two young daughters we don’t get that much opportunity to get to do such things. But we cajoled and begged for a babysitter, we bought the tickets back in July, and wore-out our copy of their phenomenal new album Smother as we waited. Then on Tuesday we drove the 4 hours to the big city of Boston with a wild look in our eyes.

And what a fucking show! They played at a local club called Paradise Rock, which, I learnt, has quite a history when it comes to discovering some very, very successful bands, acts like the Jam (another fav), Blondie, Sinead O’Connor, the Police, and even the boring juggernauts U2 played there in their early days.

It was a perfect venue, not too big but not too small either. I actually don’t even recall the opening acts, which is fine, since the grit is forgotten once the pearl is created. Although I do remember the first opening act because they sounded like a lot of white noise. I did actually listen to the second act, but that was only because I wanted to get a good spot before the stage.

I was expecting a huge turnout since it wasn’t as though the Wild Beasts are an unknown band. But the 100 or so crowd made the concert feel even more intimate and wonderful, we were not packed in like sardines but more huddled together like around a campfire.

They opened the set with “Lion’s Share” off Smother and right away I knew they were going to blow the roof off the place. And they did. Every one of us was hooting and howling like mad wild beasts in the presence of our masters. We sounded like 500. I have no doubt that if there was some way to measure happiness and enjoyment and real pleasure, the needle on this imaginary machine would have been off the scale. I swear you would have seen our love for this band and their music from out in space; it would have been the glowing heart of life in the middle of Boston.

And they were so genuinely appreciative of the amazing energy from the crowd. I even think at one point I might have seen Hayden’s eyes glistening. But maybe that was just me projecting what I was feeling. In fact the whole energy of the show was so palpable, it was alive, moving around the gig like a demon lover, feeding, mingling. I still, two days later, feel soaked from the band’s energy; I’m wearing it like a coat of multicolored thrill. And if I listen I can still feel the deep vibrations from the amps.

They were such a tight-knit band. And Tom and Hayden harmonize together the way I imagine the great poet William Blake did with his angels. And when Tom burst into “All the King’s Men” (one of my fav tracks, besides “Deeper,” “Hooting and Howling,” “We’ve Still Got the Taste…,” “Fun Powder Plot,” “Loop the Loop,” “Albatross,” “Bed of Nails,” all of which they played) I literally felt an electrical shock, I could tell here was a singer possessed with his art — he was so feral and so in control, too. Fucking amazing.

And Hayden is such a presence, hard to look away from him and his stunning talent even down to his choice of shoes — in this case some fantastic suede ones. As a man who is also shamelessly particular about what I wear on my feet, it was lovely too see that another man likes the idea that the shoe can maketh the man!

I don’t consider myself old, but I’m in my forties and have listened to many bands in my short life and I haven’t in a long time been so crazy about a band like I am for the Wild Beasts (not since the Smiths or Echo and the Bunnymen or Joy Division or Japan or Sylvian, to name a few). They got my heart beating again (which is generally what novels and my family and friends do). But the Wild Beasts have such untamable energy and creative wonderment and they aren’t afraid to take risks — everything which makes great art and artists and makes the rest of us feel alive to the world and the possibilities that are surrounding us but we seem to forget to notice.

As with all fleeting things, the end always comes too soon! I could have listened to then all night long, lost, so beautifully lost.

But as an extra bonus, on our drive back to Maine a real wild beast, a coyote, trotted across the highway, which seemed the perfect ending to our wild night.

If you were to slap my palm with silver, I’d tell you the Wild Beasts are headed for greatness. But I’m no good at augury. All I can offer is that you check the band out and find their magic all on your own. There’s a magic simply in that.

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One thought on “Hooting & Howling

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