Friendly Fires - Barrowland, Glasgow, Tue 20 Dec 2011
Triumphant end of year show from the St Albans indie-ravers
2011 didn’t quite belong to Friendly Fires, as some had predicted it might, but they owned significant parts of it off the back of their euphoric second album Pala – not least the flying feet and skyward waving arms of a few summer festival crowds. The St Albans’ indie-rave trio’s big year began to draw to a close at the Barrowland, with this final tour date prior to their gig at Edinburgh's Hogmanay. ‘I’m glad it’s here,’ said frontman Ed Macfarlane, ‘I’ve heard a lot about this place,’ before launching into the taut punk-funk groove of ‘Lovesick’ with the kind of full-bodied dance-like-everybody’s-watching moves which were he to try them in a club would probably see him ‘get punched in the face,’ as he joked with The List earlier this year.
From the post-disco and shoegaze-y stylings of their Mercury-nominated self-titled 2008 debut album, Pala has seen Friendly Fires traverse their sights towards the mainstream – it’s full of sun-kissed choruses for the radio, the production’s super-slick and this was a slick pop show to match, with their live band filled-out by a pair of horns players atop a riser silhouetted against a big screen projecting imagery of the exotic-looking colourful bird from the new album’s cover art in slow-mo flight. But dance music in its many forms equally informs the sound of a band who – whether it was Edd Gibson shaking-it manfully despite the inconvenience of having to play guitar at the same time, or Macfarlane bobbing his head while prodding at synths – never stop leading by example. ‘Don’t be shy,’ Macfarlane coaxed the front rows – earnest words from a guy who moments later was lost in something between a Jagger strut and a camp funky chicken below pastelly purple lights.
This was the band’s biggest Scottish headline date yet, and the roar that met the sugar-rush opening strains of Pala’s lead single ‘Live Those Days Tonight’ underscored the obvious key to their swelling popularity. But that older songs still seemed to go down the better suggested Friendly Fires’ drive at becoming the ‘next big headline dance act’, as they’ve put it, is only half-way complete. It was first-album high-point ‘Paris’, with its dreamy drops, that had the endorphin flowing fastest.
‘Hawaiian Air’ again struck a blissed-out tone come the encore. As the turbo-speed samba beats at the final furlong of closer ‘Kiss of Life’ crashed-in, Macfarlane seemed to frantically try and exhaust every move in his repertoire – contorting his body madly, pumping his fists, throwing air drum rolls and altogether conjuring the uncanny image of a man locked in a desperate fight to the death with an imaginary giant octopus. If that’s not what they call leaving it all on the stage, we’re not sure what is.