Quite astonishingly, after a 10-year+ career and several visits to our shores, tonight marks the first ever time Minus The Bear play a show in Kingston-Upon-Thames, making a pit-stop at Banquet Records’ indie clubnight New Slang on their UK tour celebrating the recent release of their fifth full-length, ‘Infinity Overhead.’
Before their headline slot, London-based Axes warm us up with their obfuscating and complex brand of math rock. Just like MTB, Axes are a recent signing to the prestigious Big Scary Monsters label, and their sound fits somewhere between labelmates, the widescreen vision of Talons meeting the stop-start dynamics and fretboard dexterousness of Adebisi Shank. Axes boast a mighty USP setting them apart from their peers, in the phenomenal talents of bassist Stacey. Her four-string thrumming, in the style of Rush’s Geddy Lee, forms a strong rhythmic foundation for the two guitarists’ technical talent to stand upon, and the vocal-less outfit keep attention rapt for the entirety of their set, as they showcase tracks from their recent self-titled full-length. (4/5)
Minus The Bear arrive on stage to be greeted by a packed-out venue, resonant with cheers, whoops and hollers, and do not waste a moment before ripping into ‘Infinity Overhead’ opening number ‘Steel and Blood.’ The Seattleites set gives Kingston what it’s been missing all these years, with their grooves causing bodies to start moving on the dancefloor, and their pedalboard theatrics getting guitar nerds a little hot under the collar. The setlist concentrates heftily on the latter part of their career, though surprisingly the largest source of input is from 2007’s ‘Planet Of Ice’ than either of their more recent records, and début record ‘Highly Refined Pirates’ barely getting a look in at all.
This is the second date of their UK jaunt following a European leg, and their set has a real mid-tour feel to it – they experiment with songs they clearly haven’t played as much on this tour, and the effect is a little disjointed. The band bring it home with a strong ending of ‘Menos El Oso’’s key track ‘Pachuca Sunrise’ and an encore of ‘Planet Of Ice’s ‘Knights.’ but after the band have finished, you can’t help but feel it could’ve been a little better than it was. The band are on great form tonight, but it feels as if something is being held back – just what that is, the crowd at their sold-out show at the Highbury Garage might just find out. (3.25/5)
Words by Ollie Connors