22nd May | SWX
Photos: Phil Watson
Naked Giants feed on straightforward yet stirring rock n roll that is deliciously clear, brazenly sharp and is full of melodic clout and a bluesy intensity. While simple in their approach, their tightness as a band is engrossing. The trio are hypnotising whilst remaining concise and striking.
Their harmonies are rasping, short and vital, the trio screaming and cooing as they sing with lyricism that seems laconic and lackadaisical, a contrast to the pace and attitude of the music. It actually fits, giving it a tongue-in-cheek sense of fun, without which it could easily leave their music feeling too serious and overwrought.
It does well to remain substantial; where some bands can get lost in jamming distortion, Naked Giants consistently focus on the succinctness of a song, even when ploughing through a lengthy version of their penultimate track, ‘Twist.’ The crowd is rammed for their set from the off, and deservedly so.
Car Seat Headrest begin quite like Naked Giants end. The aforementioned supporting Seattle trio are joined by more musicians to form a six-piece that delivers a frothing and inspired cover of Lou Reed’s ‘Waves of Fear.’ Slowly it builds, as Will Toledo nonchalantly takes to the stage to mass cheers. They lead into ‘Bodys’ with immediacy, the familiar wire-sharp guitar lines taken on by Naked Giants’ guitarist Grant Mullen as Toledo becomes the assured leader, without an instrument and dancing to the compelling melody of the track. It’s a new side of Toledo we haven’t seen before, bold, open and amorous as he takes on his lyrics with even more gusto.
They immediately whip the crowd into a singalong, and from the off you can tell just how much this band and Toledo’s lyrics mean to them, singing in unison as if it’s a hymn. There is a couple in the crowd, not swaying arm in arm but jumping hysterically and screaming along like their lives depend on it, yet undeniably together. Such immediacy is arresting.
‘Fill In The Blank’ quickly offers another example of Toledo’s penchant for experimentation, his desire and ability to tinker and never quite finish with something. He opens up one of his most beloved tracks to a funkier, more new-wave approach. It’s fantastic, proof that even the best of songs can be given an uplift and retain its resonance.
The band as a whole are powerful and eclectic. There is extra percussion alongside the drum kit, which is random and exciting. ‘Maud Gone’ is given its more measured and solemn performance, Toledo’s burl murmured through the mic, bleak yet sweetly lingering. ‘Destroyed By Hippie Powers’ restarts the unison of hysteria, its embracing powers alight as the crowd sing, “Tell my mum I’m going home. I’ve been destroyed by Hippie Powers.”
What’s great is the balance of appreciation and adulation with which Toledo’s lyricism is met, and the utterly riotous nature of the show and how positive that feels. There’s a reason Toledo is considered one of the best discoveries among songwriters of his generation, and you feel like so far he’s only just scratched the surface.