“This place is smaller than I remember”. That was the first thing that went through my mind as I stepped inside the Shepherd’s Bush Empire for the first time in at least five years. Perhaps it was the fact that I was stationed on the first balcony for that gig, or perhaps it was the swathes of fans that overwhelmed every inch of space available at The Heavy performance last night that it felt just that little bit more claustrophobic than usual. Not that this was detrimental to the show, far from it, and it was in fact a welcome sight to see all sections of the audience, from the front to the back, giving it everything. But, I’m getting ahead of myself.
Support on the night was provided by The Computers, a suited five piece splicing post punk, indie and a hint of rockabilly into their set, which seemed a little lengthy for a support group clocking in at around 70 minutes, but that certainly didn’t seem to bother the locals, with special mention to the rather enigmatic lead singer Alex Kershaw, who made it his duty to jump, run and climb across the stage throughout the set, eventually ending in a crescendo atop the bar opposite the stage. Playing a medley of tunes from their newest album ‘Love Triangles Hate Squares’, by the end of the set the crowd had been more than suitably warmed up for the main event.
And what an event it would turn out to be. It’s fair to say since I first heard ‘Short Change Hero’, I’ve been a big fan; from ‘Great Vengeance and Furious Fire’ to their latest release, ‘The Glorious Dead’, the band has influenced the shape my musical tastes have taken for the past couple of years, and it was almost fate when the opening track happened to be the aforementioned song, probably one of their most well known (aside from ‘How you like me now?’, but we’ll get to that).Perhaps it’s a little risky to pull out such a crowd pleaser so early, but as was proven throughout the night, they started as they meant to go on. This was promptly followed by ‘Sixteen’, a track from their second album ‘The House that Dirt Built’, and represented a shift into a more fervent, less melancholic territory, which was welcomed accordingly.
The next hour or so in the 80 or so minute performance became a fog of blues inspired ‘neo soul’, with a prime list of crowd pleasers and lesser known album tracks, including ‘Just My Luck’, ‘Don’t Say Nothing’ and ‘Colleen’ (arguably the best track on their first album). More recognised songs such as ‘The Big Bad Wolf’ and ‘What makes a good man?’ were mixed in too, but this was a band that had clearly just been on a significant tour. Their set was energised, succinct and electric, with barely a breath to take between songs. The inclusion of the backing vocalists and the brass sections really gave the performance almost orchestral depth, and despite there only being four members in the core band, the stage was crammed with upwards of fifteen performers. This, or course was followed by the inevitable encore of ‘How you like me now?’, an effortless, brilliantly stimulating rendition and a great way to seal a sublime gig.
Overall, I was far from disappointed with The Heavy; they turned out to be just about everything I expected, and considering how highly I regard them as a band, that is a ringing endorsement. Although their current tour ended last night in West London, I can’t wait for the next one.