Supported by SBTRKT
Friendly Fires live at the Roundhouse

The last time Friendly Fires played the iTunes Festival was in 2009. Drummer Jack Savidge had swine flu, so naturally they weren’t able to do themselves justice. In spite of that, the St. Albans trio are on top form tonight, their fans awaiting a polished performance of the band’s second offering, ‘Pala’.

First up, SBTRKT (aka producer Aaron Jerome) with vocal collaborator Sampha. With their brows covered by tribal masks, they join forces to bring together stylish live drums and effects throughout a superbly produced and eclectic set. Regrettably, their take on crossover bass music is lost on a crowd made up of competition winners and a TV audience members.

SBTRKT’s gig gets underway with ‘Heatwave’. Its looping emotional lyric, “Is this a part of something that your heart does?” adding a soulful touch to the instrumental album track. The next song, ‘Hold On’ plays out with twofold percussion and vocal effects, a live modification that’s part of a series of small changes made throughout the set. Though Sampha stands-in for Jessie Ware during old school garage triumph ‘Right Thing To Do’, ‘Wildfire’ depends on backing track vocals from Little Dragon and extra rhymes from Drake, who, as expected, are both no shows.

The crowd eagerly counts down to tonight’s headline performance, and Friendly Fires rewarding their patience with ‘Lovesick’ – the funkiest track on their 2008 debut. The rumbling ‘On Board’ is in close pursuit, its bass line felt, not just heard, by every Roundhouse attendee. A two-man brass section completes tonight’s ensemble, the set most musically pleasing for the saxophone and trumpet friendly ‘Skeleton Boy’. The only downer of the evening comes from the silly lyrics of ‘Pala’ tracks ‘Hurting’ and above all ‘Hawaiian Air’, where Ed Mac sings about watching a film with a talking dog. Fortunately, Clash’s attention is diverted by Mac’s shuffling dance moves and a job lot of confetti that’s blasted into the rhythm-based samba of 'Kiss of Life'.

Words by Jake Young
Photos by Patrick Ford

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