LIVE REVIEW: Los Campesinos! @ Cluny (30.4.17) | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Norway’s SLOTFACE are the perfect choice of opener tonight, for in many ways they are more Los Campesinos! than Los Campesinos! are in 2017.  Bursting with youthful energy, their indie pop is infectious, with tunes like the frenetic Sponge State and their own tribute to 90’s fictional movie record stores, Empire Records getting the building bank holiday crowd warmed up for the headline act.

They might not have played around these parts since 2012, but you wouldn’t think it as a sold out Cluny mainroom greets LOS CAMPESINOS! like returning heroes from the moment they step on stage. Kicking off with Renato Dall’Ara, one of the many football referencing tracks from their new record Sick Scenes, it’s always struck just how Los Campesinos! can sing about football and girls and not attract the kind of laddish crowd that an Oasis or Kasabian might. But there’s a great deal of femininity and self-deprecation in what Los Campesinos! do, they appeal as much to those that didn’t get picked for the school team and those that didn’t get the girl or boy their heart desired than those who did.

Since the huge line-up change that came even before 2012 and that show at the Academy 2, there’s less of the tweecore that made LC! darlings of the indie scene, so to place fan favourite and anti-love anthem Romance Is Boring so early in the set is a sure-fire winner. It was the Hello Sadness record that changed everything, the album where Los Campesinos! grew up and Gareth experienced heartbreak, and the explosive By Your Hand is up there with anything the band have ever done, cleverly giving fans a taste of the three versions of Los Campesinos! within the first three songs, the perfect hat-trick.

With Sick Scenes only a couple of months old, the temptation to play a heavy set of new material is resisted, recognising that many of the fans packed in tonight have not heard their heroes indie-dance anthems performed live in a long time, indeed judging by the ages of some of the kids down the front, at all. So new songs like Here’s To The Fourth Time and I Broke Up In Amarante are mixed in with mid-period tracks like Cemetery Gaits and the anthemic Avocado, Baby.

Yet it’s the earliest material, most notably from their timeless Hold On Now, Youngster… debut that hits the back of the net with the most gusto.  Knee Deep At ATP, the tale of heartbreak at a music festival and My Year In Lists, the ultimate end of year party song for those whose new year couldn’t come quick enough, hit like a one-two salvo that leaves the mosh pit in a sweaty mess, and those at the back wishing they still had it in them to join in.  Los Campesinos! have always found beauty in the sadness, romance in the places where there couldn’t possibly be romance; Gareth a massively underrated poet for the disenchanted youth of modern day Britain, something he’s grown with and into as his audience have become a little less youthful and a little chubbier around the waistline.  Gareth is sweaty and flabby and full of energy, Kim on keyboards survives as the only remaining female in the band for those oh-so-Los Campesinos! male/female vocal trade-offs, the rest of the band looking disinterested in that indier-than-thou too-cool-for-school way that you’d expect.

Whatever period of Los Campesinos! floats your boat, the lyrics are still as spot on as ever. We Are Beautiful We Are Doomed could be the band’s theme song, “We kid ourselves there’s future in the fucking, but there is no fucking future…” being as much about the state of the world as it is about a broken romance; a song as relevant now – perhaps even more so – than it was back in 2009. It’s sung back at the band with frightening conviction.

With June fast approaching, politicians take note.  The Sea Is A Good Place To Think About The Future, the always intense and heart wrenching tale of watching a loved one self-destruct before your own eyes slows down the frantic dance floor action for the briefest of periods but the one that everyone knows is soon upon us.  The opening crescendo to You! Me! Dancing! is as taunting and teasing as ever before guitars and keyboards almost falter into life before sending the exhausted audience into extra-time and sudden-death all at once.

It’s beautiful, it’s doomed, it’s a sweaty mess and there can be few better feel-good songs ever composed, crossing that line between indie and dance with no need for goal line technology. Los Campesinos! have evolved over the years, and it’s been a few years since Newcastle got to see them at their best.  But they pulled one out of the bag tonight and delivered the kind of man of the match performance we all hoped that they would. 

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