All photos by Sebastien Dehesdin
Arriving early into the chasm of the HMV Forum does go a long way to affirm some mindset of what status a band resides in now. It’s grandiosity sometimes overcompensates for things, but in the case of tonight’s sold out Cut Copy show, its environ resonates, even from it’s shell like beginnings, just what understated popularity the band have garnered.
Sure, new album Zonoscope has received deserved acclaim for its – sigh – more mature and accomplished textures, but as with any promotional tour for the dreaded follow-up-to-the-super-smash-success (and despite its own magnificence) the best way to appease this volume of crowd is with some stream of that first album that brought the band so much attention.
Luckily bringing in the outstanding Holy Ghost! to open proceedings in this seemingly mammoth task is a brilliant stroke. Their disco tinged pop anthems could easily lead to them filling the venue as headliners, but for now they seem content just playing support. Their set is littered with the recorded gems that have made them the darlings of DFA and it’s fantastic to see them performing on such a scale.
Playing almost no new material also leaves the beautiful mystery of them to shine. The double whammy opener of ‘Hold On’ and ‘Say My Name’ brings a gleeful smile to both disciples and newcomers faces, not to mention a healthy swing to the floor they very quickly fill. New single ‘Do It Again’ maintains the same amorous swagger in the live setting, displaying their nous of technical ability as well. Guitar solos are rooted through modular synths, iPads are brought in for sampling – there’s enough impressive kit on here alone to make the aficionado swoon.
As the set progresses, their charisma shines through from the apparent initial nervousness – Alex becomes the reluctant pop star his recorded demeanour demands as the band harmonise along with an amazing proficiency, retaining a necessary tightness. Only come the end of their set is something unheard put out, enhancing the mystery and salivation for their forthcoming debut album.
The stage is then split into two platforms with a giant door slap-bang centre stage. Things seem to take a turn to the surreal and could so easily have spiralled downhill in a Spinal Tap moment given the stage props, but much like the band themselves and the tracks they choose to play, all eventually makes perfect sense. Theirs is a suitably professional set from a band that many (even yours truly) could so easily underestimate, but at the same point their synth-pop gems are impossible to ignore in the live (ahem) Forum.
The new material, despite initial apprehension, stands up brilliantly – after a pretty soft opening of ‘Nobody Lost, Nobody Found’, ‘Where I’m Going’ sees the quartet immaculately recreate its Beach Boys surf, with guitarist Tim Hoey throwing himself around recklessly in a whirlwind of reverberated guitar noise. Dan Whitford is the lynchpin of the whole thing, almost re-imagining David Byrne with his theatrical fist pumps and occasional forays to the front to move the crowd.
But such a dance-orientated group could can be forgiven for their obvious bombast with tracks like ‘Zonoscope’, which turns the Forum into some sort of Sonar offshoot. Building on monolithic synths and relentless drum kicks with the percussion maestros going suitably batshit with every touch of instrument. ‘Lights and Music’ then proves to be its perfect foil in creating that same reaction in the crowd. The balance between the two worlds only enhances how warranted their place in such large venues is.
Smashing into a ridiculous electro-house beast half way through the set is no bad way to keep everyone on their toes either. Even in its all-too-momentary guise: it’s an amazing alert, with the centre stage doors metamorphosed into a beautifully apt collection of surreal visuals, before reinvigorating the crowd with a pulsating ‘Hearts on Fire’. Moments like this are hard to come by, and rare in set of relatively muted completion as well. There’s certainly enough on offer here to amplify just why they are in venues so large, so any niggling underestimation is certainly blown away this evening.
Nevertheless, for a crowd of seemingly Sunday casuals something doesn’t quite click. No doubt the calibre is there and, come festival time Cut Copy’s name will be one not to be missed. But in a chasm such as this they need the consistent hysteria to really penetrate. With a bit more time on Zonoscope, that time will not be far away.