It’s cold outside, the year is drawing in; it’s the last date of Palace’s tour, but there’s no sign of exhaustion from any of tonight’s bands.
Edinburgh-based Ayakara are up first and quickly melt away any residue of frost from the audience, beckoning them forward as they fire out an energetic set of self-proclaimed ‘adrenaline groove for the soul’.
This is a band who come into their own onstage, combining a tight rhythm section with smooth 1970s R&B rock vibes, a splash of Stevie Wonder mixed in with old-school Libertines and a heady dash of ska.
Ayakara possess just the right amount of swagger and talent to spark up your typical guitar-based indie into something funkier, grittier; lead singer Max McQueen has all of Alex Turner’s charming croon, and their set is rounded off coolly with a tribute to Fidel Castro and a clatteringly fantastic drum solo on the penultimate track.
Ten Tonnes, aka Ethan Barnett backed with full band, brings a mellower vibe to the crowded room; yet one no less expressive, and sprinkled between songs with Barnett’s humble politeness.
Ten Tonnes’ set explores various genres, ranging from mid-noughties indie pop nugget, ‘Lucy’, to the folk-inflected ‘Stop’, which has something of Kassidy’s knack for fusing a catchy acoustic rhythm with snappy drums and rich velvet vocals.
Indeed, Barnett’s voice carries the set.
Obvious comparisons might be with Hozier or Tom Odell, but there’s also something of the expressive power of Pete Doherty at his most eloquent, providing a smooth carriage over sweetly reverberating harmonies and grumbling bass on songs like ‘The Cracks Between’ and ‘Ripping Up the Floorboards’.
Palace emerge from the blue smoke with atmospheric trembling snares and warmly jangling guitars.
The rhythm of their set follows a kind of deconstructed tropical pop; bright, cut-glass guitar shimmers combine over dreamy tempos and Leo Wyndham’s flawlessly elastic voice.
The songs are often slow building, but reach crescendo moments where shrill solos flow entrancingly over soft-thrashing drums.
While Palace often combine laid-back, bluesy bass with upbeat, expansive drum sounds and sun-hazed strumming on the likes of ‘So Long Forever’, ‘Keep Your Head Above the Water’ and ‘It’s Over’, a heavier melancholy shrouds ‘Break the Silence’ and ‘Have Faith’, with languid vocals drawing us someplace darker.
While Palace are certainly more mournfully dulcet than aggressively punk, they pull a gratified energy through their performance which the crowd feed off, exchanging a ping pong game of yowls with the band in-between songs.
Although Wyndham can shine as a soloist, he never lingers too long in the spotlight and often prefers to melt into the songs, delivering a sultriness that well suits the twinkling guitars and pensive bass in ‘Settle Down’ and ‘Veins’ – a romantic, lighters-in-the-air, blues-fringed number which Wyndham offers up with the suggestion, “feel free to do some smooching”.
The set closes with ‘Bitter’, a simmering yet tender album highlight, bringing together lilting, honey-dripping guitar riffs with a distinctive chorus that showcases Wyndham’s pitch-perfect vocal plasticity.
While the lyrics reveal the bittersweet unravelling of a failing relationship, failure is not the order of the evening; this vibrant slice of Palace’s unique take on blues rock unequivocally crowns a successful night of fresh-sounding talent.
Words: Maria Sledmere