‘New Ceremony’ is the current single from Dry the River, a London five-piece gazing at the shiny face of stardom. Angelic harmonies of Fleet Foxes? Check. Lyrics with a gloomy hint of the National? Check. A hardcore rock-tinged live show you’d never expect from the likes of Mumford & Sons? Absolutely.
And this is what we learnt the other Wednesday when they played the Electric Ballroom in Camden. It was sold out – good news for a venue that has long-resisted the developer’s bulldozers (since 1938, in fact). And for the band, named one of BBC’s Sounds of 2012, it was their first headline gig, and a return to London (they were no doubt cheering the small luxuries of success, too, like having a guitar technician to fetch you beer).
Frontman Peter Liddle and Matt Taylor on guitar are a scrawny pair, faces hidden behind Jesus-style hairdos. However, their bashfulness belies the strength of their voices, and beauty of anguished lyrics tackling bleak subjects such as alcoholism and depression, and littered with obscure, sometimes Biblical, references.
The setlist comprised songs from the recently released ‘Shallow Bed’. Opening with ‘No Rest’, they stopped only to step away from the mics for an acoustic version of ‘Weights and Measures’, one of their first EPs. For the encore they brought their support acts, Tall Ships and Bowerbirds, on stage and the collective group sung gospel song ‘Down in the River to Pray’ to a happy, swaying crowd.
It was an enthusiastic – and sometimes heckling – mob. For those wanting a more civilised viewing experience, however, a mezzanine curls around the main dance floor so you can observe proceedings at a demure distance.
Either way, it’s a great venue to have on our doorstep so if you haven’t been for a while keep an eye here on what’s coming up.