Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Arcaning It. Live review of Arcane Roots at XOYO

Arcane Roots *****
Verses **1/2***
Empire ***1/2**

XOYO, Shoreditch, 26th November 2012

In the land of fixed gear bikes, sockless brogues, George Bernard Shoreditch beards and all manner of street food, it seems wholly reasonable to compare tonight's offerings to the outputs of chicken shops, kebab houses and pho emporia. 

Empire ***1/2**
First up are Empire. A mixed kebab with lip smacking but indeterminable meat from a variety of sources. There's a heavy but lively and upbeat meatiness topped with searing and blistering vocals from a hyperactive dreadlocked ghost chilli in the shape of frontman Joe Green. 

The songs are tidily prepared and served with fire, soul and enough citric acidity to lift them away from total middle of the road pop rock vanilla. There's more than a sprinkle of complex Mars Volta sauce mixed up with a Freeze The Atlantic alt rock strength. And a definite whiff of chopped up originality.

Notwithstanding the amazing range, delivery and strength of Green's vocals, the only slight grumble would be that many of the songs lack a discernable or killer hook. As a relatively new outfit, I'm sure this will come with time as their song craft develops, but choruses, refrains and sing-a-long chunks were not too evident this evening.

The Empire Doner: Spicy, meaty, with a fresh zingy complex topping laden with face-melting vocal chilli sauce. Probably needs a bit longer to mature into the full monty. Powerful and tasty stuff though.

Verses **1/2***
After a decent and spicy kebab it's time for one of those spring roll type of affairs. You know the sort, tasty enough, but you're really not sure what you're eating. And Verses are more of the Iceland frozen family spring roll than anything more challenging.

Yes it's palatable and quite flavoursome; but it's never really fulfilling and substantial. Having seen Verses develop over the last couple of years, there's no denying that they've upped their game considerably. The ingredients and preparation have been streamlined and refined, but you can't help but feel the need for some extra clout, spice and bite.

There are and have been so many bands in this Morrisson's middle ground, many of whom have been sadly and forlornly confined to the wheely bin at the back of the caff - from Natives and Futures to Francesqa and Coastline - it's bloody hard work and being different is as much of a battle and a challenge as being good.

And good is what Verses are. But that's about it at the moment. While Canterbury, Don Broco, Deaf Havana and LTA stride on in their rampage for chart domination and seducing the nose-ringed, dip dyed sorority, bands like Verses have got their work cut out to keep up.

The Verses savoury spring roll: Tasty enough but all a bit safe. Too many bland but pleasant vegetables with not quite enough meat or gristle. Fills a hole. But leaves you wanting more quite quickly. Nice with a lager though.

Arcane Roots *****
As Shoreditch wipes the last crumbs and grease spots from the amuse-bouches out of its collective strong beard, it's time for the main course. And an absolutely rammed XOYO with it's weird topography and useless bars is salivating and drooling at what's next.

Tonight one of the hottest names in the broader rock genre in the UK are here to stuff our faces with rich riffs, fuck off scotch bonnet bangers and spicy sophistication. And man, do they deliver.

Despite some early stodgy and slightly gloopy sound problems, this is cuisine from the highest of high tables. Adventurous, fulfilling, challenging, spicy, heavenly and sumptuous. This is not fast food, but 3 Michelin-starred deliciousness, suffused with skilfully prepared, curated and cleverly mixed ingredients.

After Energy is Never Lost, Just Redirected, and the magnificent Slow, a hugely clever medley of some of the heavier and hearty bits of the excellent Left Fire (mini) album including Million Dollar Que$tion and In This Town of Such Weather serve as a warm and delicious reminder of where this chef's collective cut its Sabatier-sharp sabre teeth. 

There's power aplenty in every dish served up. The sound sorts itself out and songs from the album of the year Blood & Chemistry including the sublime Hell And High Water are sung back with joy, vigour an emotion by just about every mouth on every hipster's head. Spine tingling interraction that gives a true glimpse of an inevitable stadium-filling future.

The highlight of the evening though, for me, is the remarkable 'song prepared three ways', Triptych. It's the first time I've ever seen it live and it is without a doubt the dazzling centrepiece of what is rapidly turning into the best show of the year. Quite how frontman and beardy guitar wizard Andrew Groves effortlessly flambés such a complex riff while not missing a note with his searing and sizzling voice is beyond the ken of most mere mortals - truly astonishing.

And it keeps coming like a bacchanalian feast or 23 course renaissance banquet: old favourite You Are brings the house down and the testes torturing and bowel bullying riff of Resolve savagely cajoles the boisterous crowd into writhing, half-time infused ecstasy.

By the time You Keep Me here melts into the haunting and choral soufflĂ© for which assorted members of the undercard join messrs Burton, Atkins and Groves on stage, the crowd is stuffed to the gills. Replete. Emotional. Sated. Dribbling. Spent. 

There is no more wafer thin mint of an encore, but no one minds. What we've witnessed here is surely Britain's greatest new rock band playing live rock music of truly world class quality. 

They're just about to be reunited with Biffy Clyro in mainland Europe for more stadium work. It truly won't be that long before this lot of Blumenthalesque magicians are serving up their own delicious and challenging cuisine to stadiums full of their own hungry, adoring customers. A brilliant band. A brilliant night. A brilliant performance. Yum.

The Arcane Roots fusion melange: Delicious. Meaty. Powerful. Sophisticated. Joyous. Gorgeous. Oh, fuck it, just fucking amazing.

Now for a kebab...

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