Review: Los Campesinos! @ Exeter Phoenix, (20/3/12)
It’s goodbye sadness, hello Los Campesinos! after a barnstorming performance at the Phoenix.
In terms of the live music circuit, Exeter is often perceived as being too 'out of the way' by most tour bookers.
Thankfully this was not the case for the masterminds between Cardiff-based indie outfit Los Campesinos!, who kicked off their UK tour on the back of the November release of their fourth album, Hello Sadness.
Any preconceived doubts about how new members Jason, Rob and Kim would fare were shattered as LC! blew through set and album opener "By Your Hand".
The new set-up proved themselves to be one of those live acts who reproduce their recorded work with a kick of adrenaline shot straight through the cochlea and into the heart, hammering through third album title track "Romance is Boring" and new single "Songs About Your Girlfriend".
Frontman Gareth Campesinos! was the archetypal showman, committing himself to every melody and punching raw feeling into every lyric. In between songs, he was wry, asking the obligatory gig question: "Any couples in?", before following up with "…odd decision to bring them to a Los Campesinos! concert…" When a heckler revealed she'd met her partner at the last one, Gareth quipped "Seems like an appropriate book-end…"
Much of the appeal of LC! is their ability to switch between euphoria and desolation. Nowhere was this more evident than in their performance of a lachrymose "The Sea is a Good Place to Think About the Future", the audience shouting every word back at the band, mirroring the angst of the frontman.
After the song's climax, Gareth commented on how different songs resonate in different locations, with particular reference to the lyric "But you could never kiss a Tory boy without wanting to cut off your tongue again", one which was bellowed by the crowd with utter ferocity: "If there's anything anyone should be persecuted for, it's voting Tory – the next time you're in a club putting your hands down someone's pants, make sure you check…because those cunts don't deserve it."
The band attempted to sneak off after a furious rendition of "Baby I've Got the Death Rattle", but the crowd were having none of it, beckoning them back for an encore of "In Medias Res" and their debut album finale "Sweet Dreams, Sweet Cheeks".
Limbs flailed, lager flew, and hearts burned: and then it was over. LC! were down to earth enough to meet the fans after at the merchandise stand, and whilst my friend was utilising Gareth's inhaler following an asthma attack (thanks again for that), I was lucky enough to grab a brief word.
MMc: Gareth, I'll be honest: I'm a huge fan. No-one else is currently writing lyrics that are as resonant as yours.
GC!: …I really don't respond well to compliments.
MMc: OK…maybe one day you'll be as good a writer as I am…is that better?
GC!: Ha, much, thanks.
MMc: A lot of your songs use football as an allegory. I've got to ask, which team do you support?
GC!: I'm a fan of Welton Rovers (a Somerset side currently mid-table in the Toolstation Western Football League Division 1) as that's my local side. But I'm also of that generation where I can follow Manchester United.
MMc: I'm young enough to hate Chelsea.
GC!: Now I feel old, ha!
All in all then, a rip-roaring return to the South West for Los Campesinos!. It's a crying shame that this was the first night of a UK tour and not a residency at the Phoenix.