An exhilarating home-counties hoe-down at this iconic south-west London venue, as Hampshire hot-shots Flight Brigade enthralled and delighted with their soaring brand of alt-pop. Their acclaimed 2016 debut album ‘Our friends our enemies’ drew plaudits for its songwriting nous and sound that combined the widescreen ambition of Arcade Fire and the alluring anthemic style of The Killers.
Assured vocalist Ollie Baines led the line, with a glint in his eye and a hook in every song. In the absence of regular co-vocalist Miriam from tonight’s line-up, electric violinist Dorry McCauley took a bow and attacked her expanded role with relish with strong harmony vocals alongside expressive string skills.
The opening salvo of ’39 steps’ and ‘House fire’ was an immediate hit with the expectant crowd from the prescient opening refrain of “How could it ever be the same ?”, with sparkling guitar jangle and rich melody that recalled Deacon Blue at their best.
The set really soared with the impressive 2017 single ‘Where eagles dare’, which combined the stadium-shaking resonance of Coldplay and Ollie’s versatile voice seemingly channeling Trevor Horn in his Buggles prime. Equally, the Franz Ferdinand meets Marilyn Manson bluster of ‘Hurricane’ blew me away with its combination of industrial strength guitar and brooding synths, alongside its insistent melody.
The WWII tale of interned Czech bomb factory workers, who heroically neutered weapons by removing denotators on the assembly line in ‘Our friends our enemies’ was perfectly conveyed by the chilling arrangement and brooding performance. This revealed the depth of the songwriting craft of the band and the ability to delivery stirring subject matter with verve and soul.
Having been impressed with how they translated their debut release into a compelling live experience, renowned producer Chris Porter (Bowie, De Burgh, Barlow and Bunton) has curated the recording of their long-gestating second album ‘Chased by wolves’ at the state-of-art analogue Visconti studio in Kingston. Following a successful Kickstarter campaign, physical release is now expected in September. The propulsive electronica and strident guitar of lead single ‘Fury road’ and the angular pop of new song ‘Heartbreaker’ reveal a taut sound of Muse at their most anthemic, shorn of superfluous bombast.
Upbeat and electric 2018 single ‘Brainwave has acquired a bittersweet sensibility, as it was written as a living tribute to the perseverance of spirit of Ollie’s brother Seth Baines in facing the challenges of epilepsy. Sadly, staunch band supporter and accomplished video maker, Seth succumbed to cancer in December. Just like the man was described by those that knew him, the song was positively brilliant in conception and triumphant in execution. A fitting tribute indeed.
Based on the post-2016 tracks alone, I’m expecting the new album from Flight Brigade to ignite ears, far and wide, with its effervescent melodies and euphoric heartbeat and further enhance the burgeoning reputation of a band finally on the rise after a decade of slow burn promise.
A final word for the impressive opening set by Port Erin, whose artful style and cinematic style, recalled Sigur Ros and Talk Talk, combined with the commercial appeal of Coldplay. Songs like the hypnotic ‘The fuzz & all that they feed’ and beguiling ‘Just like TV’ highlighted the quality of their excellent album ‘Ocean Grey’ and justifies a rising reputation that has seen them back Nick ‘son of Roy’ Harper on his ‘Lies! Lies! Lies!’ release, under the nom de tune of ‘The Wilderness Kids’.
REVIEW BY: Andy Rawll
PHOTOS: Kevin Ronson
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Event Date: 18-April-2019