After their most recent album, ‘Summer 08,’ received generally positive reviews but enjoyed a relatively lower key and more understated release than breakout third record ‘The English Riviera’ or fourth album ‘Love Letters’ had before it, it seemed almost a testament to the solitary nature of Joe Mount’s studio work this time round that Metronomy didn’t tour the album last year. However, after tickets were released months ago announcing a few dates almost a year after the album’s release, fans jumped at the chance to finally hear the new tracks live as well as experience a band who have become a notoriously enjoyable live prospect. Hence tonight they play a sell-out show at Brixton, after two recent gigs in Glasgow and Manchester.
Two Netherlands-related acts kick us off tonight, with Dutch outfit Klyne opening, providing deep electronic grooves for a sparse crowd before being roundly booted off by security for running over, not that anyone had noticed. Next, Dutch Uncles (Dutch by name, Mancunian by nature) kick the excitement up a notch with their brand of quirky, jumpy Indie pop livening up procedures. As the crowd grows, the band goes down well, with frontman Duncan Wallis cutting some serious shapes and new tracks such as ‘Oh Yeah’ and ‘Big Balloon’ getting the audience moving with him. If anything they are the perfect warmup for Metronomy, bringing a similar level of effusive joy and energy as well as instrumental intricacy to tonight’s headliners.
As Metronomy eventually step out, Brixton is full but the crowd is surprisingly well-spaced, which proves perfect for the dance party that ensues. And in effect this is a perfect party band. The fans come to hear sweet, groovy tracks and have a great time and this is what happens tonight, right from ‘Summer 08’ opener ‘Back Together,’ put out last year shortly before the album itself. The band begins with the first three tracks from the album running straight from one to the other, from ‘Back Together’s jolty, jagged guitars to the sultry electro licks of ‘Miami Logic’ and then into lead single ‘Old Skool,’ all of which hit the mark despite the last album’s release struggling to affect fans as significantly as the aforementioned previous two albums had. It could be considered that the album was a return to electronic roots displayed on second album ‘Nights Out,’ my personal favourite of their discography, meaning that it didn’t necessarily have the same jangly pop appeal as ‘The English Riviera’ did. As a result, it is doubtful the album earned the band particularly many new fans, certainly not in comparison with their revered third, the closest the band has come to bona fide success outside its usual faithful indie fanbase.
But in retrospect it seems wrong to suggest that frontman Joe Mount wants the act to become any bigger than it already is. By doing things all his own way (he writes and records the band’s work almost completely on his own, with the rest of the band coming in for live shows), the Torbay native has secured a loyal and rather sizable audience while losing no artistic integrity and giving the records a unique edge over many acts out there today. And tonight, the audience’s love for Metronomy’s way of doing things is unabashed. Mount is a genuine and friendly frontman, with no delusions of grandure or wishes to come across as anything other than a nice normal bloke, which he easily achieves. The rest of the band are about as famous as he is; despite Mount’s solo work on record, Metronomy in the public eye and at live shows are a fully functioning band, and the songs are taken to a different level by the different talents on display in support of the main songwriter. Oscar Cash, the only other surviving member of Metronomy’s earliest three-man keyboard-based live incarnation, always pleases with his eccentric, almost robotic onstage mannerisms and expert keyboard stylings, and tonight he fits alongside ‘Love Letters’-era live addition Michael Lovett, also of NZCA Lines. Bassist and falsetto master Olugbenga Adelekan is a key factor in the pure grooves on display tonight, combining with ex-Dev Hynes collaborator Anna Prior on drums to form a supremely tight and very cool rhythm section. The tracks sound so much warmer live and are given a more human feel by the endlessly enjoyable performers, meaning that Metronomy live are much more than just the records.
That is not to say that the records aren’t any good, however. In my mind, ‘Summer 08’ was a chilled and, funnily enough, summery album on which Mount reflects on a time in the band’s life when they were leaving the simplistic roots of notoriously patchy debut album, ‘Pip Paine (Pay the £5000 You Owe).’ Tonight they only play instrumental ‘Love Song For Dog’ mid-set from this album, sadly omitting old live staple ‘You Could Easily Have Me’ from the setlist. The song plays almost as a nod to the band’s roots but goes down nowhere near as well as established singles such as ‘The Look,’ which is the closest the crowd gets to a mosh, and the ecstatic ‘Love Letters,’ prompting the loudest singalong of the night. The only two ‘Nights Out’ tracks played are ‘My Heart Rate Rapid’ and ‘On Dancefloors,’ with the reaction for the second proving slightly lukewarm for a song which years ago would have been a live highlight. Ultimately, an near-rejection of the old songs (fan favourites such as ‘Radio Ladio’ and ‘Heartbreaker’ are omitted) makes way for 9 out of 10 of the tracks on ‘Summer 08,’ with tracks such as ‘My House’ and ‘Night Owl’ provoking some serious crowd response, as well as the slower groove of ‘Mick Slow’ acting as a chilled out lull in the set. Unreleased track ‘Lately’ sparks excitement in fans, with some full-on Indie Rock guitars perhaps hinting at yet another different direction in the band’s future. The band return for an encore of mournful album track ‘Love’s Not An Obstacle,’ with Mount amusingly ‘just remembering’ how to play drums, before Anna Prior sings the band out with ‘Everything Goes My Way.’
Ultimately, the set is euphoric, with the new tracks sounding fresh and the audience grateful for the opportunity to at last hear them live. The ‘English Riviera’ songs play the best, as they always do, but the set is a well-rounded reflection of Metronomy’s direction on that album and in the two since, with the presence of a new track amongst a host of songs from just last year suggesting the band is firmly looking into the future. Long may it last.