It was with some trepidation that I arrived at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire for tonight’s Efterklang show. Having seen the band a number of times before I’ve come to expect a certain type of gig from them; pin drop silences, off-mic vocal parts and an audience that loses themselves completely in the spectacle before them are all part of what really makes an Efterklang show. The last time I went to a comparable gig at this venue was Explosions In The Sky. People talked. It ruined it. Add to that a new album under their belt which seems to be splitting critics into two camps of “a brilliant progression on Parades” and “it lacks the brilliance of Parades” Efterklang had something to prove tonight.
The set was, understandably, Magic Chairs-heavy. Opening with ‘I Was Playing Drums’ the band aired the lion’s share of the record tonight and, for the most part, they cemented its worthy place in their canon. The glitchy electronics of ‘Alike’ were loud and dominating, while the band created a soft bed of accompaniment; ‘Raincoats’ hand-clap intro was gladly taken on by the audience; ‘Mirror Mirror’, with Casper’s calling vocal and its off-kilter rhythms, was engaging and exciting; and ‘Modern Drift’, originally out first taste of Magic Chairs, takes on a new life when performed live. There were however a couple of moments — ‘Harmonics’, ‘Full Moon’ — where, when placed alongside older material, the small cracks in Magic Chairs were exposed.
Fans of old were treated to a few greatest hits from the back catalogue. Parades‘ ‘Mirador’ and ‘Caravan’ were met with big cheers and then hushed silence as the band executed the tracks with near perfection — not surprising given that they’re not long back from touring the record in its entirety. Even Tripper favourite ‘Step Aside’ received an airing tonight, its frenetic beats, swelling brass and beds of harmonies gaining one of the most rapturous responses of the night. Closing the set and cementing the audience’s involvement in the gig was ‘Cutting Ice To Snow’; after the opening bars of vocal harmonies and Casper’s whisper of “Si-lence” a pause followed. There was not a voice or a whisper to be heard in the venue. It’s a strange experience being in a room of 1,500 people where no one is making a sound; it’s a testament to the bands hold over an audience that they can achieve such a thing.
Though the band are more suited to playing in venues like The Barbican or the Queen Elizabeth Hall Efterklang shined tonight. Material both new and old was played and met with excitement and respect from both the band and the audience. After an encore of ‘The Soft Beating’ the exiting crowd chatter was made up of “amazing” and “I can’t believe how quiet everyone was” sentiments. I got the impression that this was a lot of people’s first time. You never forget your first Efterklang gig.
Photos by Amadeep Chana