Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Live Review: WU LYF, Newcastle Other Rooms, 17/10/2011

Every year can boast a selection of excellent new bands, but it's rare for one to arrive so fully formed that greatness seems virtually inevitable. Manchester quartet WU LYF are, however, one of those anomalies. Having built a multitude of hype through rejecting PR in every form, the band are at long last allowing their music to generate the fuss, and on this first ever full tour they showed just why they're quickly building such a dedicated cult following. Debut album Go Tell Fire To The Mountain was a special way to announce themselves, but many still had doubts that they could reproduce it's magic in the live arena, and that it'd only serve to magnify their flaws and diminish their strengths. But although you could probably count their total live appearances on two hands, this show proved that while imperfect they're very much on the right lines, and in doing so highlighted just how special a band they are.

Arriving to the glorious organ-led 'L Y F,' the quartet initially appeared set to play the LP in it's entirety. After a slightly slow start, in which Joseph Manning's drums overpowered everything else in the mix, the band found their feet during 'Cave Song,' before following it with 'Such A Sad Puppy Dog' and 'Summer's Bliss.' I for one would have been perfectly contempt to watch them perform such a coherent album from front to back, but as it turned out they caught everyone off guard by launching into the ever popular 'Spitting Blood' a song early. That was followed by a simply stunning rendition of 'Dirt,' the apocalyptic percussion of which rocked the venue to it's foundations and in doing so sparked the crowd into life.

It was in moments like this, as well as the slower likes of '14 Crowns For Me & Your Friends' when the band truly showed how good a unit they are, but it was one individual who stole the spotlight with an especially impressive showing. Vocalist Ellery Roberts is hardly in an ideal position to whip up a frenzy behind his organ, but he more than made up for it with his simply excellent vocals. On record he sounds like a wounded savage, yet provides an interesting compliment to such a rich musical backdrop that it's set against. Live, however, his ragged chords proved a thing of true beauty, and were at the centre of everything the band did from the opening salvo onwards. Maybe he made a point out of sounding particularly gruff on Go Tell Fire To The Mountain, but the fact is his voice sounded vastly superior live to what it does on record, and the band as a whole also sounded infinitely better for it. Roberts' actual lyrics meanwhile were just as unintelligible as ever, but that wasn't enough to rob WU LYF's music of the sheer life-affirming quality which means that it just begs to be shouted along to.

The crowd complied, and although few had even the vaguest idea of what he was saying, most were content to either utter undistinguished grunts or improvise with their own interpretations of Roberts' words. Nevertheless, it seemed a wise move to end the set with perhaps their only song which can be sung along to in confidence - indisputably brilliant fan favourite 'We Bros.' A stunning cluster of jangling guitars and gang cries, it provided the night with a euphoric climax, and as with the rest of the gig it optimised everything that makes WU LYF so vital. They're a group that believe 100% in what they're doing, and that shined through in this show despite the fact that they're still relative rookies in the live environment. Bands of that ilk don't come along very often, so it's vital that when they do we make the very most of them.

WU LYF are heading over to the USA in November, full tour dates can be viewed on their website.

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