Sunday, 1 February 2015

Gig Review: Peace w/Carnabells @ Brudenell Social Club, Leeds, 29.01.15

“We’re having an after party, somewhere in town,” drawls Harrison Koisser, amidst chants of his name, as his band Peace reach the ending track of their encore. “If you’re not comin’, then you've gotta use all your remaining energy now.” And with that, the band fire into World Pleasure, only to have to stop after a minute when the surging throng of stage invaders becomes too much for the tiny surface to handle. Koisser vanishes and it looks like the show has come to a premature conclusion, but after the last straggler has fallen back into the mass and the house lights have gone up, there’s a swish of a fur coat, and he’s back, centre stage, to the roar of the crowd, grinning like a madman with the smile threatening to split his face in half.

“That’s the fucking best stage invasion of the whole tour,” he tells the sell-out multitude, a sea of bodies that, despite the harsh winter snow outside, are dressed in what looks like their Leeds Festival gear from last year; tight crop-tops, a concerning number of hot pants, flower headdresses and glitter. Certainly, whilst there is an age spread, the vast majority of the crowd appear to not even be yet of university age, that college niche who, like many others in the past twelve months, discovered Peace at the end-of-exams, rite-of-passage festival after GCSEs and A levels, when they played a Main Stage slot underneath Arctic Monkeys.
The show poster for Peace at Brudenell Social Club, Leeds, 2015
It’s certainly a younger, and indeed smaller crowd to what the band played when they last visited in the city out of festival, when they played to a near-capacity crowd at Leeds Beckett University’s Student Union. Their show there was a sign of things to come; musically tight with little room for deviation, Koisser’s vocals near-impeccable and the ability to conjure an electrifying atmosphere from every corner of the room. The downside of that show, in early December of 2013, was a patchy sound-system (something that badly affected support Drenge and rendered their music into a screeching noise verging the wrong side of tuneful) and a lighting show that did nothing except illuminate the audience in strobe lighting sporadically. Fast-forward nearly fourteen months, and on the back of an acclaimed support run with Bombay Bicycle Club, Peace have honed their stagecraft, learnt the subtle elements of illumination and, perhaps down to the choice of venue tonight, fixed up quality issues for the listeners.

The venue is the Brudenell Social Club, a favourite in these parts for its warm, homely feel. It’s out of the city centre and considerably smaller than the Beckett Union; a capacity of four-hundred against one-thousand-one-hundred. Peace could have played two shows here and they still wouldn't have matched the amount who attended the show at the latter venue. But their current tour – the J’Adore Tour, in the build-up to and around the release of second album Happy People, has done the opposite of what normal artists would do; instead of promoting themselves further up the venue chain (Peace could probably have a decent crack at the O2 Academy in town, with a capacity of around 2,300, and sell-out), they have instead regressed down to venues under five-hundred capacity, with multiple night-stands, to help conjure a feeling of intimacy with the crowd. The Brudenell stop is one of very few on the tour where only the single show is booked, which makes it hot property; touts are everywhere on the outskirts, wheeling and dealing in the flurries of snow that periodically burst out of the navy skies above.

Support act Carnabells are a local bunch, and they breeze through half-an-hour of moderately enjoyable but ultimately somewhat forgettable rock music. There’s nothing offensive about them, but nothing sticks out as memorable on a first time listen and the crowd applaud politely at intervals. That said, they carve a spot in that keyboard-backed pop rock niche that is beginning to make a revival so don’t expect it to be the last you see of them. One or two numbers know their way around a hook and a lick; it’s simply a case of sustaining interest past the three minute songs.

And so, at quarter past nine, the main attraction take to the very small stage nestled in the corner of the Brudenell. Draped in fur coat, Koisser wastes no time, propelling the band forward into fan favourite Higher Than The Sun, followed sharply by Follow Baby. Both rapturously received, they then take the ballsy call of playing five tracks from the unreleased Happy People in quick succession. It’s a gamble that pays off spectacularly; reaction to Gen Strange is strong, and an intense scream follows the intro do their most deliciously direct pop song yet, Lost On Me, with its chant-along chorus over a distinctly funked-up bass line, backing vocals and guitar work that suspiciously recalls psychedelica and late-era Bee Gees. Fellow new cut Money rounds out the portion of new material for now. The band – Koisser’s brother Samuel on bass, Douglas Castle on fellow guitar and Dominic Boyce on the drums – are all as integral parts as Koisser himself, and are well-drilled and tight, bar the occasional misstep, but there is the sense that for a band whose live centrepiece is a wildly progressive rock-influenced jam around the Binary Finary hit 1998 (Delicious), there is no real experimentation musically on stage, and that such musicianship gives them a static feel, no matter how fine it is.

Festival favourite California Daze follows and girls take to the shoulders of boyfriends to holler along before 1998 arrives to cue a frenzy of circle pits and reckless abandon, bodies hurling around whilst some take refuge on the sofas at the edges to avoid the gyrating melee. It’s an undoubtedly impressive spectacle, and, as mentioned, gives the band a feel of fluidity that can only come from genuine spontaneity or incredibly precise practice; Peace’s methodical approach to their performance suggests that it’s the latter. Bloodshake comes next, from the band’s original EP, EP Delicious, its distinctively Foals-tinged rhythms keeping up the frantic pace, before the band wheel out In Love tracks Float Forever (a personal favourite) and Sugarstone before wrapping up the main set with breakthrough song Wraith. One immediate victory over their Beckett gig is set length; they have eclipsed their total set length of fifty-five minutes last time with an encore to spare.

The break from the stage isn’t long and the band return with new tracks Someday and I'm a Girl before launching into one of the decade’s best two-minute tracks, the euphoric Lovesick, a condensation of what Peace do best in a quick snippet; joyously unbridled packets of indie rock with tropically funky tinges at the edge. One stage invasion later, and Koisser and co finally get into the groove of World Pleasure, before departing the stage for good. It’s been a breath-taking set, just under an hour and a half long, that has showcased the band to the best of their ability, and with the way they are poised for stardom, possibly the last chance many will get to see them this close. That being said, Peace still feel like they are missing something live. They've carved a great image as a tight live band; but, perhaps too tight for their own good. Perhaps a little loosening up could go a long way.