Wild Beasts - The Arches, Glasgow, Thu 27 Mar 2014
Hayden Thorpe and co play a special set of celestial songs from new album Present Tense
Present Tense, Wild Beasts' fourth album, has been showered with acclaim since its release earlier this month. Rightfully so too: it's an exquisite record which cements the Kendal group's gradual evolution from carnal, loquacious, indie upstarts into masters of poised, sensuous art-rock. Tonight they serve up a special performance to match, enrapturing a capacity crowd and showing why they're now, quite unexpectedly, a band with a top 10 album under their belt.
While the band have become increasingly focused on the subtleties of their recorded output, their theatrical sensibilities are still very much alive on stage and tonight their celestial songs are complemented perfectly by scores of lasers cutting across the tunnels of the Arches. Along with the extra bass-rattling impetus behind the songs, it makes for a rousing spectacle. If it didn't sound so daft, the result might quite accurately be dubbed as 'stadium art-rock', because songs so thoughtful have rarely sounded so huge live.
It's captivating to witness a gleam of lusty red back-lighting the stage while shadowy figures careen around the growling, percussive sway of 'Nature Boy', and Wild Beasts craft that beguiling presence throughout – the swarming, spectral electronica of 'Daughters' is another new highlight. All the Present Tense songs are perfectly realised in the live arena: the velvety electronics sound more robust and they hoot and howl in all the right places as Hayden Thorpe's honeyed falsetto and Tom Fleming's gilted baritone seem more perfectly coupled than ever.
Their showmanship even extends to that most tired of rock cliches, the encore – even if they do acknowledge themselves that 'it's cheap but it works!' The crowd are just glad it's not over; a rapturous reception greets the band's return before a strong close, first with an energetic rendition of 'Wanderlust' then a triptych of old favourites in 'All the King's Men', 'Lions Share' and 'End Come Too Soon'.
That closer is broken down to a sustained luminous drone; as flickering lights cast the shadow of Thorpe's arm held aloft, it looks suspiciously like rock and roll. It's testament to the Beasts' ability to make the obtuse feel accessible, the audience hanging on this one repetitive drone before it slips back into the song and finishes to deafening applause. Wild Beasts were always a band that stood apart, but their rough edges have now been streamlined; tonight it's clear they have stepped up to the next level.