It took me almost a full month to attend my first 'proper' gig of 2016, and trust me I'm glad to be back. I’ve been unusually quiet with my live reviews recently, but looking back I haven’t been absent from shows, just lazy with my writing. I’ll try my best to rectify that this year. Anyway, with my glass knees still causing me grief, I arrived in North London to watch Citizen and Turnover, eager to see both bands for the first time. Fade opened, the only Brits performing on the night, and I was suitably impressed by the Alt-rock sound they had going on, but as I was unfamiliar with their work, and with the vocals far too low, it soon slipped my mind.
Turnover were next up and they started strong. Opener 'New Scream' was the track that first won me over and it remains a banger. The warm New Wave influenced tones sounded as welcoming live as they do on tape, and I settled in for more of the same, namely tracks ‘Dizzy On The Comedown’ and ‘Hello Euphoria’ . However dreamy, easy listening doesn't always demand attention, meaning focus can slide just as mine always did during the second half of their 2015 sophomore album Peripheral Vision - which made up the bulk of the setlist.
'Take My Head' was a welcome change of pace, thankfully upping the tempo and the excitement as the proceedings had started to get a little bit familiar, 'Cutting My Fingers Off' received a huge sing-along to end the set, and the audience truly seemed enamoured with the Virginian band. Their sound does hold up live, but they could perhaps benefit from shuffling their songs around to keep the energy up throughout. I’m eager to see them again at SXSW in March, as while I was reasonably impressed with what I heard on the night, I have a feeling their music will be even better in the Texas sunshine than on a cold January night in Tufnell Park.
Citizen came out and soon proved why they were the headline act, kicking off with hits from their debut album Youth, instantly waking the still slumbering audience after the serenity of Turnover. As soon as the words ‘I watched you run’ were screamed from ‘The Summer’ the bodies started moving and they continued as they run straight into ‘Figure You Out’. ‘Cement’ marked the first taste of Everybody Is Going To Heaven, the band’s second LP, although the change in direction isn’t fully demonstrated until ‘Stain’ plays a few songs later.
Mat Kerekes is fast becoming a great frontman (as if he wasn't already) and while he doesn’t employ any tricks onstage, he instead focuses on delivery more than stage mileage, standing rather still but all too physically imposing, especially for his age. His change in vocal style between the two albums is instantly noticeable but it's even more impressive when heard live. Hearing the 21 year old scream, almost spitting out the lyrics to ‘Stain’ whilst maintaining total clarity before instantly changing and singing ‘Sleep’ with almost lullaby softness is truly impressive, a feat that many veteran singers of this ilk would likely envy. He sounds intimidating when he means to, and rather fragile when he wants to, but never weak.
The aggression of the new songs is at odds with the rueful nature of Youth but they seem to coexist well, and the back and forth between the two somehow balances. The battle between the anger and the nostalgia rages on, one minute we’re given ‘My Favorite Color’ and the next we’re brought back to ‘The Night I Drove Alone’.
I was very disappointed they didn't play 'Silo', their brilliant non-album track from 2014 that first marked their change in sound from into darker, Brand New-esque territory, or ‘Ring Of Chain’, my favourite track from Everybody Is Going To Heaven.
Citizen's live show reminded me of the last gig that I had seen at The Dome, coming last May from their Run For Cover label mates Title Fight. That show was an interesting mix of the old and beloved tracks (from their first LPs Shed and Floral Green) and the newer, alternative and untested tracks from their most recent album Hyperview.
Shortly after leaving the stage, they soon returned and dedicated the final track 'Drown' to Turnover, a song taken from their shared 2012 Split EP. It was a fitting farewell on the last night of their joint European tour, and a great start to my year of music in 2016.