Live Review

The Neighbourhood, Heaven, London

There is a bombastic quality in their live set that isn’t present in their recorded material.

As the lights fade into darkness, so the crowd is slowly whipped up into a roaring frenzy. The screams reach fever pitch when some distinctly human shaped shades emerge on stage amidst the smoky ether that hangs lazily in the air. It’s very much a hero’s welcome for LA band The Neighbourhood; sure they may be over half an hour late on stage, but for the several hundred strong crowd in Heaven, it doesn’t seem to matter.

The Neighbourhood have maintained very strict exposure and aesthetic policies since their emergence early last year and this is clearly still in effect tonight. Dressed solely in black with flickers of white, the band spend the gig in a backlit fog that not only leaves their faces in semi-permanent shadows, but adds an eerie, dreamlike quality to proceedings.

In an almost ironic juxtaposition, the band themselves are actually full of bravado, especially vocalist Jesse Rutherford, who swaggers and grinds his way across the stage, song after song. Dispensing with his bowler hat and leather jacket after the opening numbers, Rutherford’s bluster is on par with most hip hop stars, yet his frequent thanking of the crowd is demure and truly sincere. This is about the music, not the pay-check.

There is a bombastic quality in their live set that isn’t present in their recorded material. The drums on ‘Female Robbery’ are huge, ground shaking monstrosities, punching through the air like huge fists of noise. It’s a trend throughout the set: booming drums beating amongst the maudlin soundscapes of fuzzy guitars. It’s great.

Occasionally trading his mic for a vocoded intercom-of-sorts, Rutherford raps his way through both ‘Let It Go’ and ‘Wires’, a very early track and a pleasure to have in the set, whilst the reverb laden guitars ebb and flow in the background. It’s almost industrial at times, as the syncopated guitar sounds are layered one on top of the other, forging a heady, swirling, soundscape – an aural representation of the smoke dripping off the stage.

Though a five-piece, it’s Rutherford who steals the limelight, with his silky, ashen vocals rolling lithely through the rollicking beats and emotive guitar riffs. When he eventually flexes his vocal chords on ‘Baby Came Home’, it’s as if the crowd are in silenced awe of the young American. Of course, this isn’t the sort of music that lends itself to moshing and raving, but rather an empathic appreciation, oh and the occasional sing-a-long courtesy of ‘W.D.Y.W.F.M.’.

This may be one of the last smallish gigs for The Neighbourhood; from their performance on Wednesday night, they’re definitely ready for the next level.

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