Hayden Thorpe sips from his wine glass and waves to the crowd. Around him, the other three members of Wild Beasts resuscitate ‘End Come Too Soon’. From silent ruin, they build a wall of overwhelming noise that eventually, seamlessly feeds back into the song’s coda, to the Olympia’s delight, when Thorpe takes his place at the keys.
Tonight’s closer is a microcosm of Wild Beasts in the post-Smother era – a great, damaging release and a concerted effort to recover both emotionally and sonically in its aftermath. Fourth album Present Tense is proof of a band coming out scathed but smiling on the other end, and it’s appropriate that it dominates tonight’s set list.
It doesn’t always translate successfully. This is a night littered with moments of grandstanding musical catharsis – so much so that it almost becomes repetitive – but ‘Palace’ is poorly mixed and ‘Wanderlust’ just sounds tinny, whimpering where the majority of tracks roar. The opening one-two punch of ‘Mecca’ and ‘Sweet Spot’ is particularly impressive; the latter building to a sumptuous union of voices and guitars. “There’s a godless state / Where the real and the dream may consummate”, Thorpe sings. It might as well be here.
Limbo, Panto‘s ‘The Devil’s Crayon’ gets a showing. There are much better songs on the band’s debut but few that can so emphatically stress how they have changed in the past six years. Its bouncy staccato riff gets some fans jumping up and down; the same cannot be said for ‘Pregnant Pause’, ‘A Simple, Beautiful Truth’ or ‘Daughters’. Though mournful, the former two are too short to make a real impact but tone and atmosphere is built, which ‘Daughters’ takes full advantage of, making its descent into electronic dystopia all the more satisfying.
Awe is replaced by joy, however, as ‘Hooting & Howling’, ‘The Fun Powder Plot’ and ‘Loop the Loop’ come into view. The crowd tries on its best falsetto and tries not to laugh at Thorpe’s puerile wordplay, but they shouldn’t. The atmosphere is fun, celebratory and given a sense of warmth as Thorpe shares news of his current hangover and his plans to nurse another tomorrow. For a band very much still on the album-tour-album cycle, there’s nothing workmanlike about this evening, and the noise given back by the crowd is honestly surprising.
You’d think Wild Beasts, them of shrill vocals, libidinous masculinity and ever-seeking to make their music as small as possible, would be a band to be admired rather than loved but it’s quite the opposite on tonight’s evidence. Of his sorry state, Thorpe blames the crowd and Dublin at large, and they couldn’t care less. At this moment, ‘Palace’ should make a glorious entrance. The only Wild Beasts song that could accompany a bride down the aisle is made for such an occasion as now, but it doesn’t stand up to the task in reality, getting lost in the speakers. No matter, ‘Bed of Nails’ and the monumental ‘A Dog’s Life’ get things back on track quickly, with the lighting expanding into a dazzling overheard show before the band exit for the encore.
Once ‘Wanderlust’ is out the way, another crowd favourite, ‘All the King’s Men’, is doled out, prompting the biggest singalong of the night, but ‘Lion’s Share’ takes its place as the gig’s ultimate highlight. The crowd remain in good voice throughout, but the song is inherently unnerving and powerful, building around an almost metronomic piano riff towards a hysterical climax.
It looks pretty full tonight, but tickets moved slowly. Saying their goodbyes and setting up for ‘End Come Too Soon’, you can see that its moments and adulation like this that keeps the band on this never-ending treadmill of recording and promotion. On many levels, the show was a resounding success, and those that came along to rediscover their affinity for a now-veteran band can go away pleased, safe in the knowledge that Wild Beasts are still the band they loved but continuing to evolve before our very eyes.