As I enter the Broadcast basement Tom Krell, aka How To Dress Well, and his band are belting through ‘A Power’ from this year’s “What Is This Heart?”, what is immediately striking is Krell’s voice, his high soulful tones are if anything more strikingly powerful live than they are on record, this combined with the driving beat and the singers clear enthusiasm, despite jetlag, are immediately captivating.
Krell’s tall gangly figure, from where I stand there is a somewhat Peter Crouch look about him but I’m sure I’m not doing him justice, is obviously not suited to the low ceilinged basement, as beams prove obstacles for not only singer’s positioning and audience view, but interfere with the bands visuals, which Krell hesitantly credits later in the show.
Indeed the singer admits to being slightly claustrophobic in the venue, and follows up a heckle of “do you want us to leave?” with a cool, assured, comically refined reaction.
Indeed as the set grows not only is How To Dress Well more captivating musically than the venue downgrade would suggest, the show was originally booked for Stereo but now has a healthy but not sold out crowd in Broadcast, but Krell’s comfort between songs becomes clear as he cracks wise and demonstrates knowledge most American touring acts neglect, as he dedicates ‘Face Again’ to Scottish independence, giving his first instance of “hating on old people”.
The visuals, which are massively compromised by the space, but still manage to create a delightful ambiance as the band silhouette onto a white background with comforting textures projected onto it.
Some creative banter about childhood bands with very emo album titles, which you can’t quite put your finger on whether are true or not, prelude the bright disco tinged pop of ‘Repeat Pleasure’ as the between song chat becomes a fixture of the set as Krell puts on his “stand-up routine” to discuss old people once more after sitting next to a particularly flatulent one of today’s long haul flight.
‘Suicide Dream 1’ provides a particularly touching moment as Krell reveals the song was written for a former flatmate he was particular co-dependent with, who passed away not long after Krell had moved to Germany before the delightful ‘Precious Love’ bring us back to more upbeat R&B pop territory.
A shout out for a cover of R Kelly’s ‘I Wish’ concludes in Krell revealing they don’t playing it any more because they “forgot for four years that R Kelly is a crazy rapist”, before crowd led chat drifts the onstage chat to the quality of output of Woody Allen and Roman Polanski despite off screen wrongdoings, culminating by the singer stating “it’s one thing dancing to ‘Ignition’ on a Friday night but covering his songs is another matter”.
The breathless pop of ‘Words I Don’t Remember’ close proceedings and only further emphasise the special talent How To Dress Well possesses, there is absolutely no reason why some of the track on offer here shouldn’t be worn in arenas rather than tiny basements, but who knows that could be just around the corner.
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Words: Iain Dawson
Photos: Ruta Karolyte