Review / Friendly Fires @ Anson Rooms

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By Mitchell May, Third year English

'Even if you don’t know Friendly Fires, you’ve probably heard some of their songs before', Mitchell May reviews...

Looking back, there was an extraordinary amount of great electronic pop produced circa 2008; La Roux, Empire of the Sun, the list goes on. The St Albans band Friendly Fires came onto the scene in this milieu, with a strong set of singles cutting through into the mainstream; even if you don’t know Friendly Fires, you’ve probably heard some of their songs before. Judging by the age of most of the attendees, this was the soundtrack to their late teenage years.

This being an In:Motion event, the band was supported by two strong DJ sets, Alex Metric & Ten Ven, then surprise guest Lone. Once Friendly Fires came on stage at around 11, the crowd were more than ready. Venturing between their earlier classics and their more house-influenced recent work, their set was tight and always energetic. Frontman Ed Macfarlane has a reputation for his live performances; his Future Islands-esque moves kept the crowd enraptured, with some very prominent cowbell playing thrown in for good measure.

Regardless of the quality of their recent work, it was their earliest and punchiest singles the crowd invariably wanted to hear. ‘Jump in the Pool’ and ‘Paris’, from their 2008 debut album, have an anthemic and addictive sing-along quality, as do stand-out tracks from 2011’s Pala. Their later work incorporates genres such as disco and new wave more strongly, but with a scrappy indie pop sensibility that they make their own. After a hiatus, their new music is going in different directions. Like many bands who come to prominence as part of a wave, there is the dilemma of how to progress; Friendly Fires have a skill for innovating without losing any of their original spirit.

I admire the band’s championing of DJs across this UK tour, rather than sticking to the support/main act formula, but perhaps the Anson Rooms wasn’t the ideal venue for this. After the band had played, most people left straight away, leaving the darker techno sounds of DJ duo Paranoid London playing to the faithful; the amount of empty space reminded me of some nine a.m. English lectures, which is a shame, considering how strong the pair were.

Those who had stayed were turfed out at around 1:30 am, into a rainy Clifton night, maybe realising that 2008 was a decade ago. Times may have changed, but Friendly Fires show us that the spirit and the music can live on.

Featured Image: Friendly Fires/ XL Records


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