All fans of live music, whether or not they care to admit it, are in search of the same thing. We go to gigs in the hope that it will be special and unique, one of those “you had to be there” moments. With Portland band Typhoon releasing my album of the year, hearing the highlights of the incredible new record Offerings in the flesh is more than enough to make seeing them live something special, but the icing on the cake was that it just so happened to be the first show of their first ever UK tour. I battled the “Beast from the East” on my way down to London, bracing snowy conditions (and even dodging crashing cars right outside the venue), as this was not a gig to be missed.
As everyone gathered in the cosy upstairs venue space, a welcome respite from the wintery weather, Scottish singer/songwriter Siiga was the ideal opening act. His wistful folk soundscapes, reminiscent of early Bon Iver, make for the perfect soundtrack for contemplative winter nights. Armed with a guitar and an array of effects pedals, he crafted an expansive sound that conjured up an image of his idyllic home on the Isle of Skye. Granted, the effects were a tad overdone on a couple of tracks, but how this guy hasn’t already staked out a place on every introspective indie playlist worth its salt is beyond me. Siiga has his bittersweet ethereal folk sound down to a fine art, and this was the perfect opportunity for him to shine.
When it came time for Typhoon to take to the stage, I was amazed that they all fit. Even with the stripped back line-up they’ve adopted for the latest album, it felt like a lot of people to cram onto a very small stage. I certainly doesn’t help matters having two drummers, but the added power and scope it affords them is well worth the inconvenience. Despite their jet-lag and lack of sleep, the band were committed to providing their debut UK audience a good first impression. Kicking off with a couple of tracks from White Lighter, they displayed the kind of elegant and grandiose indie rock that Arcade Fire once held a monopoly on, before moving on to newer material.
The band nailed each track, sounding just like the record. ‘Rorschach’ built towards a triumphant climax with calls of “Asa Nisi Masa”, while the electrifying rendition of ‘Remember’ secured its place in my mind as their finest hour, bringing the kind of light and shade that helped make Offerings so captivating. Though the new record may not be the most cheerful, that didn’t stop the band having their share of fun onstage. At random points throughout the night the keyboardist would chime in with the opening of ‘Possible Deaths’ to catch everyone off-guard, prompting the rest of the band to abandon attempts at tuning and throw capos aside to play along.
Closing with a double dose of White Lighter, namely the feel good hit ‘Young Fathers’ and the uplifting grandeur of ‘Artificial Light’, the night drew to a close. My only criticism of the evening was that the epic ‘Ariadne’ never made an appearance. Pedantry aside, their London debut was a rousing success. Hopefully this will be the first of many visits to our shores, but no matter what the future holds I’m glad that I’ll be able to look back on that first night and say “I was there”.