Half Moon Run Live At Shepherd’s Bush Empire

London – Half Moon Run travelled to London for the opening night of their hotly anticipated UK and Ireland tour.  After an explosive year for the band which saw some high profile festival appearances (SXSW, Glastonbury, Reading + Leeds) and massive support slots (Mumford & Sons, Metric, Of Monsters and Men) you’d have allowed the boys a break for the holidays.  However, as the video for first single “Full Circle” rapidly approaches 2,000,000 views on YouTube after a clever sync deal with video game ‘Assassin’s Creed’, the timing is perfect for the Canadian’s to bring their much praised live shows to larger audiences across Europe.  We squeezed into Shepherd’s Bush Empire to see the band up close and personal as they played through songs from recently-released debut album Dark Eyes.

Opening with the haunting “21 Gun Salute”, lead vocalist Devon Portielje took to the stage like a seasoned pro, despite later admitting that the venue is somewhat larger than the bars they played on their last visit to the capital.  After this came impressive album tracks “Nerve”, “Judgement” and “No More Losing The War” as the boys eased into their set.  Whilst Portielje looks after the majority of lead vocal duties, in truth, all four are equally capable of doing so as the band put on a clinic of vocal harmonisation for the packed crowd.

The first of many set highlights came as the band launched into single “Call Me In The Afternoon” – a track not dissimilar to Temper Trap’s “Sweet Disposition” in terms of style.  It’s an unusual song as it manages to increase in energy throughout, without ever reaching a full crescendo.  However, if the quality and consistency of Dark Eyes is to thank for the band’s early critical acclaim, there’s something about the singles which has helped ensure that to date this tour has been sold out night after night.  Without having overly obvious hooks, the tracks are captivating enough that you want to hear them live, over and over again.

After breezing through “Drug You” and “Need It”, Half Moon Run are back in the single groove, with the aforementioned “Full Circle”.  Again, the crowd react with boundless enthusiasm as Portielje jokes that it might be one with which the audience may be familiar.  It’s fair to say that’s a safe bet, as its usual quiet start rings out at full volume thanks to the vocal contributions of the couple of thousand fans packed into the West London venue.

As the evening appears to be coming to a close after a euphoric rendition of “She Wants To Know”, the boys leave the stage, only to return minutes later sans-amplification.   Huddled just a few meters from the audience, the four-piece once again showcase their togetherness, armed with just an acoustic guitar, harmonica and mandolin for a stunning version of “Vampire”.  After once again thanking the audience, the boys plug back in for their final song “Blues” before disappearing proper.

There’s a reason why Half Moon Run can sell out venues of this size without dominating charts. The band’s songs connect with their audience in a way that sales data and airplay stats could never represent.  Although Shepherd’s Bush Empire is a venue which has played host to some of the year’s biggest up-and-comers, there’s a good chunk of the audiences at these types of shows waiting to hear that one song from the radio.  The crowd for Half Moon Run were different and its testament to the debut album the band have put together.  You felt that everyone in the room was on the same page, appreciating everysong, and not wanting the evening to end.  Despite the band playing through almost all of the material on Dark Eyes, I certainly wouldn’t have minded hearing a good few more.

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Photos By Jenn Gardner