I was pretty excited leading up Pianos Become The Teeth's sold out concert at Camden Underworld. Not only was it my first time seeing the band, it also comes just a few months after the release of their third album Keep You, of which I was a big fan (#20 in my AOTY).
That being said, the album polarised fans, due to it's shift in sound from their earlier material. Their setlists of late have reflected the change in sound, and have naturally focused on the newer tracks, leaving out many fan favourites. I just tried to go into the evening with an open mind, but with my expectations set high.
I always find myself thinking that it must be difficult for vocalists on the Underworld stage due to it's tiny size. Kyle Durfey stood in the centre, penned between his guitarists, bassist and drummer, finding himself left with very little real estate to really perform on, but did admirably, and sometimes resorted to jumping in the crowd to stretch out just a bit more.
Opening with 'Ripple Water Shine', the band sounded in great form on the last night of their European tour, adrenaline clearly staving off fatigue. The crowd were receptive throughout, but oddly placid for an Underworld audience. The heat, noise and head count were all there, but the movement was missing, and it was likely due to the songs themselves. 'Hiding', which came from PBTT's split with Touché Amoré back in 2013, was greeted well, and serves almost as the musical interlude between the tracks of old, and the band's more recent efforts.
The live show did reinforce a few things to me though. Firstly, that drummer David Haik is a machine. I wasn't watching him to begin, but I soon found myself focused on his rhythmic thrashing of the drums. Secondly, the band sound great live. Whether they're screaming, or quietly plucking along, they hold up to recordings. Will Yip did a fantastic job on the production of their third LP, but he clearly had some good starting material. Also, some of the newer songs sound so common place now, and I mean that in a good way. 'Repine' sounded huge, and 'Say Nothing' was a great closing number.
Having attended the concert with a friend who had never listened to the band before, it was interesting to hear his thoughts and opinions on the evening's proceedings as well. He said that he was at first unconvinced by Kyle Durfey's wavering vocals, but he soon become aware that he wasn't necessarily struggling to hold a note, but more likely struggling to keep himself together throughout the personal songs he has penned. We both agreed that the band looked more at ease during the screamed tracks such as 'I'll Be Damned' and 'Good Times', but mainly because the crowd were more active during these tracks, and it's hard not to feed off that energy. During the rare lull, there were shouts for the older tracks such as 'Filial' so when the band delivered, the fans reciprocated the love.
All in all, the band put on a solid show to a packed out room of adoring fans, and it was a worthy closing night to the tour. I couldn't fault anything they did (ignoring one technical mishap), but perhaps what they didn't do is the main question. I'm very firmly in the camp of 'Keep You is an expansion to the PBTT sound, instead of a departure' but it can't be ignored that playing a few more tracks from The Lack Long After and Old Pride might have taken the show to the next level, or at least have helped with pacing.