Live Review

Wildbirds & Peacedrums, The Lexington, London

Artists in the truest sense of the word.

Wildbirds & Peacedrums are from Sweden and they are awesome. Technically speaking, that’s all you really need to know, but since you’re reading this now anyway, I’ll let you in on why exactly they have come to be this awesome. Mariam Wallentin and Andreas Werliin formed the band in 2006, when they were both studying musical improvisation in Gothenburg. More recently, their third album, ‘Rivers’, was released only last week and this called for a special one off gig in London.

But before this illustrious duo has the chance to use some of that exotic Swedish charm on us, Dan Michaelson & The Coastguards provide some support. Dan Michaelson has a voice that makes one think he smokes cigarettes by the carton and drinks whiskey by the pint. Women would swoon at the mere sound of his voice, if the rest of the band weren’t there to keep us girls at bay by showing just the right amount of hairy man-cleavage (if you’re the type to go for that sort of thing, you’d be lost at this point). They deal in singer-songwriter type ballads, more up tempo country / soul inspired tracks and a lot of entertaining stage banter.

No matter how entertaining these Coastguards are, they are no match to the thundering river of Wildbirds & Peacedrums. It’s just the two of them on stage, but with a voice like Mariam’s that is really all you need. As they’re Swedish, extravagance and excellence comes natural to them, so their minimalistic approach might strike some as surprising. Andreas is responsible for some utterly tight percussion while Mariam sings and occasionally overwhelms us with a magnificent display of the steel drums. Both of them are artists in the truest sense of the word.

All three of their albums are covered in the set list, with a focus on ‘Rivers’ which is actually a re-release of two EPs from earlier this year: ‘Iris’ and ‘Retina’. ‘There Is No Light’ off their second album ‘The Snake’ is a real gem which allows Mariam to show off that jazz-trained voice of hers. She switches between singing and scatting and at times doesn’t even need a microphone: her voice easily silences even the noisiest people in the back. As confident as her singing is, that’s how shy she seems when it comes to actually addressing the audience. The words she does direct at the gathered crowd are heartfelt though. She tries to explain how she feels about releasing the record into the world as if she is talking about giving her newborn child up for adoption: she knows it’s the right thing to do but just seems to want to hang on to it a bit longer.

‘My Heart’, one of their more accessible pop songs, is the song they choose the end the set with. It contains the both simple and brilliant line: “Don’t run / I’m lost without your rhythm”. If you haven’t fallen in love with them before this moment, you certainly will now. Of course there is an encore, and surprisingly they start with a cover of ‘Wild is the Wind’ by David Bowie / Nina Simone / Johnny Mathis (choose whichever version suits you best there, and Wildbirds & Peacedrums would still be nothing like it at all – in a very good way).

With just the two of them, they really manage to blow you away. I can only dream of what they will be able to pull off when they’re supported by an entire choir on their return to London in November to perform at the Union Chapel.

Tags: Features

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