London – After a somewhat turbulent couple of years, Los Campesinos! followed up 2011’s Hello Sadness with the release of the highly anticipated No Blues in late October. The band’s first album since the departure of founding member Ellen Campesinos! in December last year was supported by a mini-tour at the start of December with shows in Cardiff, Leeds, Manchester, Sheffield and London. We headed down to their gig in the Capital to see how well No Blues translates on stage.
There’s a line in the band’s song “Avocado, baby” which has summed them up on each of the previous occasions I’ve had the pleasure of catching them live – “Oh it wont get better, that doesn’t mean it’s gonna get any worse”. As stalwarts of consistently good live performances, it was an immediate relief to see that despite another change to the Los Campesinos! lineup, (Aleks, Ollie and Harriet have all previously hung up their Los Campesinos! team shirts) the band have remained on top form. Diving straight in with “As Lucerne / The Low” from No Blues it’s a testament to the loyalty of their fans that the song released just a month previous was sung back at full volume.
The band’s set then read like a greatest hits collection with the hugely popular “By Your Hand”, “Romance is Boring” and “Death to Los Campesinos!” occupying some of the early spots. The new album tracks blended in perfectly well and despite being of a somewhat darker subject matter than on previous releases, are insanely likable. Tracks such as “For Flotsam” and the awesome “What Death Leaves Behind” are brilliantly written, and whether it’s the instrumentation of the seven-piece or simply Gareth’s distinctive vocals, the songs are immediately identifiable.
One of the perils of being the sort of band that have occupied more time on the smaller stages of the festival circuit over the past few years, is that the members of Los Campesinos! have had to take on ‘proper jobs’ to continue to making music (one imagines splitting profits seven ways might also limit any individual wealth). As such, you could feel genuine sincerity when the band thanked those that had helped them along the way throughout the evening. There were shout-outs to everybody, from friends of Kim Campesinos! that had travelled up to the gig, to their publicist “without whom we’d have never appeared on a Budweiser advert”. However, the biggest thanks of the night should have been given from the fans. There’s not another band with the same level of support who put on such a stunning live performance time after time, and then get up to go to their day job the following morning. It’s without doubt one of the reasons the albums and live performances are so impressive. Los Campesinos! aren’t making music to fill a contract or to make a quick buck, the band are still playing because they love what they do and this passion in turn, means their output is even better.
The song used by the ‘King of Beers’, “You!, Me!, Dancing!” was given a rapturous rendition as every person in the room seemed to move in unison after a performance of the aforementioned “Avocado, Baby” had garnered the same response. The band then closed out their set with a song which if I were to keep a list of favourite tracks of the past few years, would almost definitely be at the top. “The Sea Is A Good Place To Think Of The Future” tackles a more difficult subject than the majority of the band’s tracks, but is perfectly written. Gareth has often said that he only starts writing lyrics to the band’s music once they’re in the studio, but it’s insane to think that the words were put together in such a short space of time.
The band then disappeared briefly before coming back on to play tracks including “Straight in at 101” and “Baby, I Got The Death Rattle” before again thanking the packed crowd and heading off to man the merchandise stall. On the way home from the gig I checked my Twitter feed to see that the band’s label, Witchita Records, had written that they’d not seen a band “with that much energy, joy and pure love to/from their audience”. It’s true, there’s something about watching Los Campesinos! live which is always a happy experience. You feel like part of a club and that everybody who isn’t there is missing out. The band is heading back to the US at the start of 2014 and based on this evening’s performance the shows will be as strong as ever. For anyone that hasn’t seen them before, be sure to change that in January; it’ll be the best New Year’s resolution you’ve ever made.