At first glance, you could be forgiven for dismissing The Temper Trap as a one hit wonder. In a sense, after all, they are, but to make such an all-encompassing judgment of the band on the basis of ad-producer’s uber-hit ‘Sweet Disposition’ is to conveniently ignore the fact that this band is only three singles old. ‘Sweet Disposition’ is not the be all and end all, but it is very much the crescendo to a live show built on throbbing atmospherics.
Tonight’s show is a slow builder, opening with a mammoth, drum-based intro and closing with the thumpingly intense instrumental of album-stopper ‘Drum Song’ (which sees front man Dougy Mandagi soak his drum in water and pound a cloud of spray into the air). In between, The Temper Trap’s performance works by drawing on the ebb and flow of their songs, flitting from the pointedly intense to tracks that slowly knock along in time with the audience’s heartbeat. Mandagi is a quiet but charismatic front man, hopping about the instruments with a look of impassioned concentration.
The strength, though, lies in that ability to change pace. Singles ‘Fader’ and ‘Love Lost’ both offer part of the padded route to ‘Sweet Disposition’s crescendo, while the likes of ‘Soldier On’ and ‘The Science Of Fear’ take the focus away from Mandagi’s ‘love it or hate it’ voice and even show a brief bass-guitar focus in amongst all the understated electronics and layered keyboards and guitars. ‘That voice’ is without doubt our personal highlight: high-pitched but note perfect in a live setting and clearly the one ‘instrument’ that the entire band is built around. We hear the odd dissenting voice on the way out, and it’s difficult to argue that the pitch and heavy vocal focus aren’t divisive, the only surprise is that those who don’t enjoy it decided to turn up at all tonight. There can’t be many better examples of a band reproducing challenging album vocals so perfectly live.
Perfect reproduction could be a worry, but in the extended intros (that long, monotone throb that welcomes in ‘Sweet Disposition’ is particularly well tweaked) the band ensures that there’s enough variety here to keep us interested, with most tracks extended well beyond their recorded length and several taking on heavy interludes along the way. All the indications are that The Temper Trap are both imaginative and prepared to take risks, which can only be a good thing.
The encore, oddly, contains perhaps the weakest two tracks of the night, leaving a slight dirge on the end of an otherwise tight and nicely rhythmic set. Given The Temper Trap’s clever atmospherics and the emotional highs offered by that powerful, multi-song build up, the odd slip up can be forgiven. Unlike their triumphant Oxegen set earlier this year, it does seem the Australians intend to build a tight, twisting set rather than a slow road to the big-hitting closers from now on. A few more of those outrageously layered peaks along the way and they’ll be on to something truly special.
Photos: Alessio Michelini.