Live Review: Twin Shadow at the Brixton Electric

Brixton’s infamous venue makes for one heck of a night. It’s an incredibly roomy place that still never fails to feel totally packed. I’ve yet to go to the venue where both floors weren’t crowded. Honestly, the place can seem kind of imposing at first (I mean, it is in Brixton), but I think that’s where the place’s bizarre charm comes from. There’s just something about seeing a musician in a crowd that dense that feels so thoroughly right to me – and when that musician is as enigmatic and powerful as Twin Shadow, it’s damn near perfect.

If I may confess (haha!), I breathed a huge sigh of relief when the band took the stage to play their first song, “Golden Light”. While I really do adore their 2012 release, I had heard nothing of how the band perform live, and to me it seemed like it could go either way. They have a sound that’s absolutely designed for crowds and dancing, but it’s often hard to tell if that’s a sound that’s more the work of post-production on the tracks than live chutzpah. I can report, quite gladly, that if Twin Shadow have one thing, it’s chutzpah. I was made a believer – these guys are a band to see live, and it really comes down to the vigour with which they play. When the hooks hit, they would hit hard, and each time hearing those familiar phrases pumped up to 11 made for an awesome surprise every time (really, the gut-punch the first time “You Call Me On” was worth the price of admission). It was kind of disappointing the crowd weren’t more active; this was the kind of set begging for momentum and dancing. There was movement, but really only from the centre of the crowd for the most part. A shame, as the guys on stage really deserved more.

It became clear pretty early on that the band where just playing Confess all the way through, with only a couple of songs interspersed from the older album. I didn’t really mind too much, as I vastly prefer the more refined sound of their more recent work. All the same though – there were people in the crowd who would scream “Slow!” between every song. Playing Confess all the way through also means the set suffered from the issues all straight-up album-sets suffer; predictability. You were always aware which song was going to come next, which was kind of an issue – Confess is by all accounts a great LP, but it does have a serious slowdown around its mid-point, which is never a fun thing to be expecting. It also meant that when the band skipped “I Don’t Care”, we instantly knew what our encore was going to be.

Not to say there weren’t surprises – like I said, there was a lot of (pleasant) initial shock upon hearing the live rendition of Confess. The heaviness really leant itself to the album in a way I couldn’t have foreseen, at times even entering into wall-of-sound territory. For “The One”, Lewis played a far slower, more personal version of the song, featuring just him and his guitar. While it may have slowed the set down a bit, it made for a great demonstration of Lewis’s under appreciated voice. When the song had finished, he jokingly said that that was enough of the “sentimental bullshit” before launching us all back into the sound. When the band played “Run My Heart”, they extended the ending hook – this may sound small, but it’s the extra bit of live emotional oomph that can really win you over on a song.

There was a good amount of back-and-forth between Lewis and the crowd, particularly on the (touchy?) subject of Manchester. When Lewis brought the place up, it elicited several loud boos from the crowd (most likely from Manchester residents, given their known disposition). He mentioned that the show the band had played the night before, despite the fact they gave it their all, was received kind of lukewarm. He said it in a much nicer way, but the inference was obvious; he was thrilled to have a more responsive crowd (and, keep in mind, I thought this crowd was stale, so God only knows what those fellas in Manchester were like).

Something that’s worth bringing up is the incredible light display the Electric had set up for the band. It was clear they had a perfect visual interpretation of Confess, often employing bright, garish neon colours. Strobing pinks, flashing greens and fading purples set the tone for the night, and there was a subtle colour-coding going on for each individual song that I felt was a really nice touch. When the band finished their main set with “Be Mine Tonight”, it just felt perfect. Really, I think that should be the “proper” closing song in the encore rather than the crowd-pleasing favourite from their last album. There’s a cool, energetic kick to that song that really makes it feel like the apex of the set. Made even more effecting by the multiple fake-out’s where the band would pretend to be finishing up the song, only to return louder and heavier for another trip round the main riff.

If there’s one thing to take away from this gig, it’s that Lewis is a showman. He knows how to put on a great performance, and everything from his physical presence to the energy of the songs to the lighting was spot on. If you were having your doubts about how these guys perform live, rest easy knowing that, yes, they are still Twin-fucking-Shadow.

We're looking for writers and editors to join the team. Interested? Apply today!