After listening to Mutemath for three years I thought I would never get the chance to see them play live, but I managed to get a ticket for their sold out gig in London, and it was well worth the wait. The experimental New Orleans quartet have never really chosen to fit under any particular genre, which leaves their gig setlist sounding like a festival line-up, instead of a band’s discography. But with their latest album: ‘Vitals’ being synth-heavy, and their reputation for crazy live performances, I was expecting a contained level of excitement, which was nothing to compared to the reality of the explosive energy at the gig.
Determined to seize the opportunity of a European tour with Mutemath, half of the six member band, Fairchild, humbly took to the stage. At first their humble nature appeared more like shyness, but when they began with reworked, acoustic versions of their rockier songs it seemed that they should have had more pride than anything. In their half-form they played well with gravelly lead vocals and guitar similar to some of Ben Howard’s latest material. Their timidity had dissipated as they boldly covered Crystal Castles’ ‘Not In Love’ and left the responsive crowd excited for the main act.
The audience consisted of tried fans that had waited a good couple of years for this event, and what a monumental gig it was! Easing the crowd in with new track, ‘Stratosphere’, the synths throughout the song slowly built up the energy and anticipation for the rest of the show. This anticipation quickly exuded into an unpredictable excitement as ‘Chaos’ literally unearthed frontman, Paul Meany’s charged energy, visible from his obtrusively pumped veins as he played the keytar. This energy was undoubtedly infectious, as Meany sprang across the stage like a boomerang, and often resulted to crowdsurfing during the instrumental parts instead of containing his bouts excitement.
A calming and ethereal interlude was provided by songs such as ‘You Are Mine’ which left guitarist, Todd Gummerman switching between synths and guitar throughout the setlist. The peak of the show was undoubtedly when fan favourites: ‘Spotlight’ and ‘Typical’ were played. Both tracks incited, what I like to call, ‘Paul-Meany-Energy’ into the crowd as all lyrics were belted out back to the band and the talents of Gummerman and bassist, Roy Mitchell-Cardenas were clearly heard, unlike in the more synth-rich tracks from ‘Vitals’. Another random crowdsurf by Meany was surely due.
As older tracks such as ‘Reset’ were played there were less synthetic beats and more stunning drumming from Darren King. King’s monumental drumming fits demanded attention, but he wasn’t just crazily banging out beats; he had the focus and control over his drumset to pause at an instant. His drumming moved the crowd- literally- as he spread the rhythm to the pit, handing out four touch-sensitive drum gloves, which, with a high-five on each hand it sounded a different beat. After managing to get one glove and be part of his four-piece hand drums, I was more than stunned at his talent, and my luck. Mutemath are famed for their instrumental tracks, and they sure don’t disappoint when performing them live. Every single drumbeat and key was attentively played; Meany even ran from drumming on one side of the stage, to jump over his keyboard to press a few keys in time.
The buzzing audience beckoned the band back for the encore, that would only intensify the insane energetic atmosphere. The most publicised single, ‘Monument’, was combined with a one-off performance from avid Mutemath fan, Tolu Ajayi, who was offered a chance to perform ‘Monument’ with the band with his keytar talkbox. Ajayi gleefully joined the band and was supported with, what Meany dubbed as, the “robotic British voices” of the crowd. If that wasn’t enough, another crowdsurf was due: this time on an inflatable mattress, which carried Meany across the supportive crowd.
Bands are hard to come by these days; in most musical groups there is a particularly great lead singer, with a collectively great band, but Mutemath prove every single member of their band to be vital to their overall performance. If a drummer can have just as much stage presence as a vocalist- they must be doing something right. For a gig so long-awaited, the band did not disappoint; I even saw the likes of Nothing But Thieves guitarist, Dom Craik (their US support act) leaving the show on a high.
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