Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Half Moon Run @ O2 Shepherd's Bush Empire 18/11/2013

Being a person who likes to spend a lot of money on live music (and then wonder why she doesn't have any), I try to think about which bands I spend money on. With festivals, it's different, you're going there for the experience, the people and the weird and wonderful fantasy land you get to camp in for four days, as well as you are the music. But with live concerts, I have to really like them.

So with Half Moon Run, I'd actually been on a Spotify binge (which I can't do anymore due to my subscription running out, sad times) and was putting together a new playlist to a) get ready for Latitude Festival and b) motivate me during the last push of my dissertation. I usually ignore the spam from Spotify telling me to 'check out these bands we think you'll like!' but this time I didn't. And I'm glad I did!

Half Moon Run are a four-piece hailing from Canada, and when I looked them up, Spotify only had one of their songs stored, 'Full Circle'. I knew nothing about them, listened to this track, and immediately added it to my thoughtfully-named playlist, 'SUMMER SONGS WOO'. I then stumbled across 'Call me in the afternoon' and the entire Dark Eyes album. As I used to sing (a bit, not well ha) I think the first thing that strikes me about any band is the voice. And Devon's voice is really interesting. They have harmonies reminiscent of Fleet Foxes and Fossil Collective, and a kind of keening/straining in his voice that drew me in. And they were playing at Latitude, ticking the last box.

Stupidly, though, I missed them at Latitude, and then found out that my brother liked them too, and had managed to miss them at Latitude AND Reading. But we liked them so much we took the plunge and bought tickets. As they've mainly been touring as a support act for bands like Of Monsters and Men and Mumford and Sons, the tickets weren't expensive, and as Connor informed us mid-gig, this was the biggest of their headlining gigs so far.

The support was a little-known artist called Mikhael Paskalev. I only had a look at him the night before the gig, and whilst musically him and his live band were fantastic, the songs didn't really do anything for me. Whilst the harmonies and build-ups were very impressive, it was difficult to find a central melody/ a memorable tune within them to really motivate me to listen again, as he seemed to be playing around with several different genres at once. He certainly looked the part, well, until he donned a weird cap halfway through, which I'm not sure matched the get up, but hey-ho, that's musicians for you. Still worth a listen, I think.

The band came on pretty demurely, there were no big 'bangs' or crescendos, and they led in with '21 Gun Salute', which is quite a slow starter. It surprised me and my brother, who were expecting them to begin with 'Call Me In the Afternoon' or 'Full Circle', one of their leading singles. This turned out to be a fantastic choice, as they used the songs later on in the evening to really churn up the crowd.

The rest of the album went pretty smoothly, having listened to all of it on repeat for the last few months, I'm ashamed to say I did mouth along as much as I could (despite occasionally doing that awkward thing where you know half of a sentence and have to mumble the rest so the other fans don't think you're an idiot.) The rest of the set was a classic up, then down, a new song, then the big two towards the end. I think the resounding thing I enjoyed about their performance was their obvious surprise at such a warm reaction. A favourite moment was when Devon raised the microphone during the chorus of Full Circle and genuinely grinned his face off as the entire venue sang it back to him - I think it's lovely whenever you're present for an artist realising the effect they've had on such a large number of people.

After that, I began to get a bit worried. My favourite track, hands down, is 'She Wants to Know'. I can't pinpoint what it is about the song that makes it stand out, but I think Devon's vocals are incredible, and it was the one I was looking forward to the most. They'd played right through the entire album, and as She Wants to Know seemed to be one of the lesser-plugged songs on the band's Youtube/Twitter, I didn't think it would be used in the encore. I'd expected it about halfway through. However, they actually finished the set with it. And I was just as surprised as the band as I realised that most of the people around me were yelling the chorus just as loudly as I was. All I can say is the fans have bloody good taste.

Their encore was pretty special too. Opting to scrap the microphones and take on a Pink Mountaintops cover, Lumineers-style, It was pretty adorable to watch all four of them crowd together and harmonise without all of the gear. If I sidestep the screaming girls ruining it for everyone else, it was a highlight. That and Conner's response to a bloke yelling 'CONNER I WANT YOUR BABIES' with a wink and a 'You and Me Later'. The final 'Blues' was a humble, yet satisfying finish. Here is a video of the acoustic performance:

Thank you for reading!


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