Friendly Fires, Proud galleries, Camden
After the nightmare of January I decided it was time to get my arse back up to London and see what the Friendly Fires were up to since switching from the rockier sound of First Day Back. After getting annihilatingly drunken at the Sexy Bitch gig at the Croft (I was planning a review but was so drunk, all I remember was it was GREAT!) and stumbling still half cut onto the National Express bus I made it to Sussex way (former home of drummer Jack) to get ready for the evening’s shenanigans.
After catching up with old faces – was great to see John Prancehall, it has been too long; we headed down to the Proud Galleries. My god, this was a perfect reminder of why I left London for Bristol’s calmer climes, the place was heaving with coked up posers, and I have just gotten way too used to Cosies, but it was cool, because they all had come to see the show, and what a show it was!
Ed is such a natural front man. He kind of has this lovely mix of being very involved with the music and his performance, whilst still completely interacting with the audience. It is a semi introspective, semi extrovert thing he has going on, which I am failing to put into words. I guess it was best summed up by the moments when he turns his back to the crowd and sings to the skies, whilst the audience are completely held in his thrall. Suffice to say, he has them hooked. His voice soars over the instruments, moving from deep dark sounds to ecstatic singing that rises with the tempo of the drums and guitars.
It has been a while since First Day Back switched to Friendly Fires, and the music has grown with the boys. There’s a lovely use of electronic and keyboard samples to complement the drums and guitar and bass, I guess in a kind of nu rave fashion, although nervous about using such terms. Jack’s drumming brings huge power to the songs, he goes for it flat out, and as you watch him play you can’t help but get caught up with him in his enthusiasm and the way he helps frame and build up each track. Both him and Ed on guitars sing along to Ed at the front, bringing a harmony to the songs that not only adds depth to the music, but also just gives the whole band this happy attitude, where the audience can really feel the love the guys have for music, it is like they can’t help but sing along, and neither can the crowd. Sounds a bit hippy, but there you go. The tunes are catchy whilst still being intelligent.
One of the most exciting things about the gig was the sheer variety of instruments brought in to the mix, and this was also the biggest move away from the more traditional sounds of First Day Back. I also really feel that it is innovations like this that make Friendly Fires stand out more than a lot of new bands around today who stick to the basic guitar drum bass vocal format. I guess that this comes a lot from the musical influences of electronica and techno that Jack djs, where greater experimentation with samples and different, more unusual sounds is more prevalent. Not only was there the gorgeous use of electronic sampling mentioned before hand, but maracas, cowbells (I love cowbells! Kind of irrational, but there is something about them….) wooden blocks and my personal favourite – a dust buster! This was used to huge effect to build up great cacophonies of distortion that were pretty mind-blowing, using it against the guitar strings and amping it up – wicked!
The thing is, it isn’t just that the music is great, which it undoubtedly is. The boys are polished and the performance is really tight, and as I have explained, they are catchy whilst innovative. But they have this certain extra thing which I can only attempt to explain by how they absolutely seem to love the music. This combines with a real empathy and understanding between them that can only come from having played together for a long time and having a real appreciation of music beyond the style that they play themselves. The audience cannot but help get caught up in thier enthusiasm, which in turn makes it impossible for them not to enjoy it as much as the Fires do.
Check their site : www.myspace.com/friendlyfires