“Sorry, have the support been on yet?” “Yeah, they played for about 45 minutes – bit rough on the ears.” Well, Post-War Years, that’s you soundly dismissed. Not to worry, though, Everything Everything are still a few minutes from coming on stage, so hopefully they’ll be able to make it up to Mr Middle-Aged Stranger. He and the rest of tonight’s audience are tightly packed into Whelan’s, and those returning to their forfeited places with cool, surely refreshing pints are met with looks of quiet resentment, but thankfully, the band are nothing but prompt – 9:30 means 9:30 – and launch into recent single ‘Kemosabe’.
The Manchester band’s second album, Arc, was released last month to widespread acclaim. At times taut and dexterous; others epic and sparse, Arc set a benchmark for the rest of 2013’s LPs to surpass. Relaxed, however, is not a word you could really use to describe the album or its creators, but initially, at least, Everything Everything seem to ease into things. ‘Kemosabe’ sounds about as loose as a song as fidgety and vocally tumultuous as that can be, but everyone joins in on the spiraling chorus. We’re off and away.
‘Torso of the Week’ ups the ante considerably, and its UniLad-aping opening lines seem to go down very well. 400 or so people crying “Girl, you’ve been hitting that treadmill like a freak / Maybe you’re not just the torso of the week” is probably not a sound the band are quite yet used to hearing, and nervous yet heartened expressions are exchanged between the quartet.
Material from 2010’s Man Alive (namely ‘Qwerty Finger and ‘Final Form’) is lapped up and things are really beginning to come into focus. A few lads down the front take turns on each others’ shoulders and use the opportunity to pull some shapes. One could describe such rhythmic contortions as ethereal, if they had been made by, say, a Tibetan monk or Björk’s spirit animal, but this crowd is far too excitable to be graceful or poised. Frontman Jonathan Higgs puts it best: “So this is Dublin on a Monday night?” he wonders. “Jesus Christ.”
It’s not just the congregated, however; the band’s auxiliary keyboardist seems to be having several consecutive orgasmic fits. Nobody notices; the poor guy may need help, but no one cares – such is the momentum that is beginning to build.
Songs such as ‘Choice Mountain’ and ‘Duet’ are built for bigger venues and crowds than what Everything Everything currently have at their disposal, but they still work rather emphatically in all their spectral, heart-stopping glory – the former building to a lush, warming climax, while ‘Duet’ is all climbing strings and pummeling comedown.
The work of guitarist Alex Robertshaw this evening cannot be underestimated, and his versatility is one of the band’s most vital assets. He’s able to pull off pulsating riffs as well as more intricate rhythm work and the aforementioned pummeling repetition when needed. His talent resembles that of a fellow Mancunian guitarist who may or may not have stood outside Salford Lads Club on a bitter morning in early 1986. Mentioning Robertshaw’s name in the same rarefied air as yer man’s would be downright offensive, but they share more than a hometown, and he proves to be the integral component of the band’s performance tonight.
This is especially evident on the one-two punch of ‘Photoshop Handsome’ and ‘The Peaks’. The two songs rise and fall on Robertshaw’s ability to transition between belligerence, delicacy and background atmospherics, with Higgs’ sky-scraping falsetto abetting very nicely. It’s a shocking juxtaposition between the hectic ‘Photoshop’ and the yearning ‘Peaks’, but it is impressive nonetheless and probably constitutes the highlight of this, Everything Everything’s debut Dublin show.
The intensity doesn’t really let up from there, and there’s a good mix of old and new tracks. The schizophrenic ‘MY KZ, UR BF’ kicks the encore off and finally gets everyone’s hips moving (the heads had already been snapping back and forth for a good while). Arc highlights ‘Radiant’ and ‘Don’t Try’ bring proceedings to a close, but listening to them, it is difficult not to think that Everything Everything deserve a much greater forum than this. For now, Whelan’s will do – no offence: it’s a great venue – and the band can’t complain. The audience gave them, um, everything, and they leave humbled by what they’ve just experienced. ‘Cough Cough’ (which unfortunately sounded a bit weedy and anticlimactic on the night) really sums this crowd up nicely – ravenous, champing at the bit, coming alive, ‘aving it now. It’s a gig Everything Everything won’t be forgetting in a hurry.