Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Birds Of Tokyo - Camden Barfly - Monday 17th May 2010

Birds of Tokyo are one of the many brilliant bands currently streaming out of Australia. This is a scene including such bands as The Butterfly Effect, Cog, Sleep Parade, Dead Letter Circus and, of course, Karnivool. The 'Vool have already begun to make waves in Europe, partly because they write awesomely experimental yet catchy song, and partly because of their ridiculously good live performances. Thus it is not surprising to learn that Birds of Tokyo are best known in the UK at the moment for their singer, for it is Ian Kenny of Karnivool 'fame' that leads the band with his soaring vocals through their wide array of poppy alt-rock tunes. It is unfair to describe the band as a side-project for Kenny, even though that may well be the case, as they have been far more prolific than Karnivool...already gearing up for their third album in a six year lifespan whereas it took the 'Vool 12 years to get two out. Indeed Birds aren't universally popular with 'Vool fans but then they do sound, pretty much, nothing alike. Birds are all about the soaring choruses and are more grunge than they are prog. Thus much of the crowd packed into the Barfly for the band's first UK headline show could be said to be more curious 'Vool lovers than long-term fans.

When I say 'packed' I do mean that the Barfly is sold out for this show (and the following night's repeat performance) but I also mean that is only 'packed' once Birds are about to come onstage. Catalunan quartet Mujeres come onstage to a grand total of...9 people (including yours truly). Their brand of lo-fi garage with a slight folk element is eminently danceable yet also repetitive. Each of their songs sounds pretty much exactly the same but they're still fairly enjoyable and get involved in some football banter, which must be a good thing. Second support act Little Fish are better, although frontwoman Julia Sophie talks a bit too much. Their songs are pure garage rock and whilst some of them are pretty good, some of them are pretty average as well. They're a lot better than Hole though, whom they've recently been supporting. They also don't seem to have thought getting off the stage after their set through very well. The keyboard/synth set up is particularly clumsily taken off, thanks only to the acquiescence of crowd members getting out of the way.

Birds of Tokyo finally reach the stage around 10pm and are worth the wait. The set features a mix of new material, including stomping new single 'The Saddest Thing I Know', alongside choice cuts from their first two records, highlights of which include 'Wayside' and 'Broken Bones'. Kenny is an engaging, if slightly bizarre, frontman as ever and the band's live sound is fleshed out by the addition of a keyboard player to back up Adam Spark's understated guitar. Kenny meanwhile dons an acoustic guitar for superb renditions of 'Head In My Hands' and 'Train Wrecks'. The band seem genuinely pleased with the reaction they get from the crowd and look especially delighted whenever a singalong starts up. The band have also managed to get the best out of the Barfly's sound system it appears, at least from directly in front of the stage where I stand, with Kenny's vocals as clear as the guitar solos and Anthonny Jackson's thudding basslines never threatening to swallow up the rest of the sound. The only gripe worth giving much airtime too is that the set is quite short. The band are only onstage for 70 minutes or so and a couple more songs from the back catalogue would have done quite nicely to round off the evening. Very enjoyable show though all the same.

Mujeres - 5/10
Little Fish - 7/10
Birds of Tokyo - 9/10

Birds of Tokyo setlist
The Saddest Thing I Know
Armour For Liars
Wild Eyed Boy
Off Kilter
White Witch
Wild At Heart
Head In My Hands
Train Wrecks
Broken Bones

(pics coming soon)

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