Review: Wild Beasts at Varsity Theater

The British art rockers hooted and howled through last night’s show at the Varsity.

Hayden Thorpe sings with band Wild Beasts Tuesday evening at the Varsity.

Erin Westover

Hayden Thorpe sings with band Wild Beasts Tuesday evening at the Varsity.

Joseph Kleinschmidt


Before effortlessly launching into âÄúThe DevilâÄôs CrayonâÄù last night at the Varsity, Wild Beasts singer Tom Fleming remarked how strange it was that his band once practiced the song in a dreary basement in Leeds, England.

The standout hour included the hypnotizing singles of past albums âÄúLimbo, PantoâÄù and âÄúTwo Dancers,âÄù but the group soared to cathartic heights with the tracks off their latest release, âÄúSmother.âÄù What defines the Mercury Prize-nominated band must be the way both Fleming and Hayden Thorpe raise their falsettos to enormous scope and power.

Altogether seductive, ThorpeâÄôs breathy vocals rise and fall with the emotive force and theatricality of The Smiths or contemporaries Antony and the Johnsons. Distant lyrics are laced with amorous verses. âÄúBed of NailsâÄù from âÄúSmotherâÄù highlights the minimalist dream pop theyâÄôve incorporated. Singing with subdued exasperation, Thorpe begs with the mysterious hymn, âÄúI would lie anywhere with you / Any old bed of nails would do.âÄù The songâÄôs references to Shakespeare and Mary Shelley frame a mythic backdrop. Vulnerability and need similarly drenched ThorpeâÄôs blustery cries throughout âÄúLoop the LoopâÄù and âÄúAlbatross.âÄù

The reverie-induced tones were coupled with brief respites during songs. Wild BeastsâÄô affable personalities grounded these evocative tones. Keyboardist Katie Harkin told the crowd later on, âÄúYou really are our favorite!âÄù Thorpe praised famous Minnesotan musicians like Prince and Hüsker Dü before rapidly bouncing into another set of songs. Ethereal guitar chimes and bass notes climbed to soaring heights on âÄúReach a Bit Further,âÄù then abruptly fade out.

Wild Beasts excel at this talent for combining bright pop with surreal overtones, sounding as if theyâÄôre in widescreen. The groupâÄôs explorations with synthesizers fill songs from âÄúSmotherâÄù with rich introspection. However slowly they played these waltzy tunes, the live performanceâÄôs lasting appeal came when drummer Chris Talbot commenced another energetic dance. âÄúHooting and HowlingâÄù marked another high-point to the reverberating infectious hooks springing from the VarsityâÄôs stage.

Thorpe and FlemingâÄôs trade-off vocals embarked on mysterious tales of romance and desperation during the set, embodying âÄúSmotherâÄù and Wild BeastsâÄô continued evolution in spirit and sound. What defined âÄúLimbo, PantoâÄù may have been the comic droll of ThorpeâÄôs playfulness, but âÄúSmotherâÄù courts audiences with vivid vitality. One of EnglandâÄôs most exciting and innovative bands, they defy boundaries. âÄúEnd Come too SoonâÄù signaled the bandâÄôs enduring lyrical plea for acceptance throughout the performance. The pleas may have been figurative, but the crowdâÄôs hooting and howling cemented rare Wild BeastsâÄô talent. The song rounded out the eveningâÄôs encores and embodied the extraordinary allure to Wild BeastsâÄô music.