Live Review

These New Puritans, Leeds Brudenell Social Club

Main drummer George Barnett is extremely unorthodox in his style, truly captivating to watch.

For those familiar with These New Puritans (and specifically with new album ‘Hidden’) the proposition of a live performance by them is nothing if not intriguing. Brass sections, woodwind sections, a childrens choir, six foot Japanese Taiko drums all essential instruments in the creation of said album. In short: how the bloody hell are they going to pull it off live?

By the end of the first track you have a fair idea. TNP’s strength has always been their rhythms and beats – to this end, two drummers are employed to deal with the complexity and off kilter rhythms employed. Main drummer George Barnett is extremely unorthodox in his style, truly captivating to watch. As the extended intro morphs into the programmed horns of ‘We Want War’, the crowd warm up instantly as recognition takes hold. On the album it’s complexity and layered production creates an extremely foreboding, paranoid sound. Live this is only intensified by it’s relative sparsity. It must also be noted that starting a gig with a seven minute long song (that has a three minute choral breakdown) is an incredibly brave decision and real statement of intent.

From there, it’s straight into first album highlight ‘Swords Of Truth’. You won’t find many better opening salvos than that. Given a beefier presence with additional keys live, it’s improved immeasurably and is one of the highlights of the set. Singer Jack Barnett has ditched the chainlink ensemble he used to wear and seems more comfortable on stage this time around. His unconventional drawling singing style remains but what previously could appear as a sneering, holier-than-thou attitude in his performance now seems to be, if not appreciative, then certainly more respectful of the crowd which has come to see him. The midset trio of ‘Attack Music’, ‘Fire Fire’ and ‘Elvis’ is ferocious. Both drummers give it 100% in replicating the intense dancehall/ragga rhythms of ‘Attack and Fire’ and the distorted sub bass is truly imposing. Fan favourite ‘Elvis’ gives Barnett a chance to break out the guitar and go back to the Fall indebted sound of old, something which has been mostly left behind on new work.

The setlist is an intriguing mix of one third ‘Beat Pyramid’ and two thirds ‘Hidden’, tracks almost seem chosen in an order that’s deliberately jarring such is the contrast between them. The encore of ‘Infinity Ytinifni’ is a surprising one, not an obvious choice – but then nothing TNP do is obvious. It works, too. Again, the drumbeat’s intensity almost pushes the song unwillingly into your brain and in a flourish, it’s over and the band retreat. Where on record, the band mix the abrasive and the gentle, live it’s essentially one long onslaught. Long may it continue. They support The XX live over the next six weeks. It’s going to be a truly mouthwatering mix.

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