Review: Wild Beasts, City Hall Ballroom

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THE grand ballroom of Sheffield City Hall might seem like an unusual venue for an indie-rock concert, but then Wild Beasts aren’t your usual band, so it suits them pretty well.

They’re one of the few guitar bands since Talking Heads to write songs that people actually dance to. When Wild Beasts play material from their 2008 debut, Limbo, Panto, their fans don’t nod their heads or stare nonchalantly or even mosh – they shake their whole bodies along with the groove.

More recent material from 2009’s acclaimed Two Dancers and the newly-released Smother provokes a less physical reaction, but the crowd are still absorbed by the beautiful way these songs are constructed. Wild Beasts don’t force hooks down your throat, but the rich melodies are constantly present. The delicacy and subtlety of the guitars is completely soothing, but there are fragments of tribal drumming and eerie synths that cast a sinister shadow.

It’s not clear how Wild Beasts are able to make their audience feel at one moment unnerved by their experimentation, then suddenly elated by the invigorating All The King’s Men and Hooting And Howling. They play pop songs, but their music is somehow cloaked in cold intellectualism and enigma.

Of course, as with many great bands, the best thing about Wild Beasts is they’re impossible to work out.

Robert Cooke