Live Review

The Twilight Sad, Dingwalls, London

Brutal, exhausting and at times genuinely terrifying.

It’s an eerily quiet night in Camden. It is, after all, only a Tuesday which might well explain why the entrance to Dingwalls is suspiciously empty aside from a surprisingly friendly bouncer. Most people it would seem, have already made their way inside and are enjoying RM Hubbert’s intricate guitar work. Catharsis seems to be the word of the evening, Hubbert’s expert banter between his haunting slices of introspection at odds with his insistence that his mostly instrumental music is his best form of communication. Whilst his timely use of the C-word raises a few laughs, the mood quickly takes a wintry turn with the loud hum of a siren that announces the headliner’s imminent arrival.

Nothing quite prepares you for just how loud The Twilight Sad are. Phrases like ‘wall-of-sound’ or ‘white noise’ have frequently been used to describe their live performances, but even with that in mind, the sheer force of their music is literally staggering. As the throbbing sounds of the alarm meld into the opening bars of the menacing ‘Kill it in the Morning’, it marks the beginning of a truly startling 75 minutes.

Tonight’s set is taken predominantly from the band’s last two albums, the synth-heavy new direction of ‘No One Can Ever Know’ released earlier in the year and the storming ‘Forget The Night Ahead’, yet it is the latter’s songs that get the best reception from tonight’s crowd. ‘I Became a Prostitute’ marks the evening’s highpoint, a perfect blend of gut wrenching bleakness married to huge slabs of bass, whilst vocalist James Graham contorts his body like a man possessed. “I was in a shite mood last night, but I’m feeling much better now, thanks”, he says openly to the crowd.

Throughout tonight’s performance, the singer is clearly agitated, his fist clenched tight through long periods of the evening, his voice seldom a match for the ferocity of guitars that drown out even the usual chatter at the bar. His sense of uneasiness is hard to ignore, the songs themselves a form of relief for both him and the audience who noticeably sigh with relief when the unforgiving assault on the ears comes to a close. ‘Alphabet’ and ‘Dead City’ are each given a new lease of life, live they are a far more fulfilling and intense experience than their electro-counterparts on the latest album.

Then comes ‘That Birthday Present’, which is simply stunning, the drums pummelled to within an inch of their lives, reinforcing the fact that The Twilight Sad are a force like no other, the layers of guitars simply building to a near-suffocating crescendo of frenetic excitement. Frustratingly though, the sound, which has never been the best inside Dingwalls, threatens to devalue some of tonight’s performance. With the reverb-heavy nature of the songs, at times the band lose some of their efficacy as they struggle against a system that simply can’t cope with the storm the five have created onstage.

Brutal, exhausting and at times genuinely terrifying, the evening finishes as it starts, awash in swathes of piercing loops of noise. Immense.

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