Live Review & Photos: The Xcerts, Yearbook, Saul Goodman & More Than Conquerors – The Borderline, London, 13/09/2012

Album shows are often a tough one to call. I personally like the experience of a band playing a one-off show like The Xcerts are doing tonight. It seems like a fitting end to a touring cycle and gives devout fans a chance to hear songs not normally played live. The atmosphere sometimes tends to suffer though, seeing as bands often play the big hit towards the start of the set, due to its positioning on the album. Tonight was a night when atmosphere was not a problem, however.

Opening up proceedings are More Than Conquerors from Belfast who deliver a peculiar but not unlikeable brand of jerky, melodic indie pop. They sound like a cross between Editors and We Are Scientists with hints of Twin Atlantic but they have a punkier edge to their sound. Jagged riffs permeate their songs and they play on proficiently despite a broken guitar string. A more than entertaining start to the evening.

Photos by Sarah Louise Bennett.

Next up is Saul Goodman, which is actually everyone’s favourite Scottish 3-piece in disguise. That’s right, it’s an Xcerts secret set, complete with Breaking Bad references! The reason for this alias is the chance to play some brand new material from their forthcoming third album. After sheepishly asking the crowd not to record any of the new songs (all are currently work in progresses) the band launch into a confident four song set of jaw-dropping, mesmerising indie-pop. With these new songs the band has clearly hit their stride and is confident in exploring their niche. All four songs sound very complete, more anthemic than their previous releases and hint of a grander sound to come. The third album cannot come soon enough!

After the excitement of Saul Goodman, Yearbook has a tough act to follow. They manage to follow it in particularly stunning fashion however. They have a sound that takes the self-deprecation of Los Campesinos, the maddening poetic style of La Dispute and the raw hardcore power of At The Drive In and creates something quite beautifully messy. I’m not sure how these guys sound on record, but they are mind blowing live. Complex, twiddling guitar melodies scratch against a rough and ready hardcore sound and punk style Gallows-esque riffs punctuate the songs. There is a stunning dichotomy between the softer and harder moments that sounds brilliant live, especially during songs like ‘Everything I Own.’

Photos by Sarah Louise Bennett.

Finally it is time for The Xcerts proper. They play through ‘Scatterbrain’ in order, as expected, and it is such a moment for both the assembled crowd and the band personally. Tracks like ‘Young (Belane)’ and ‘Slackerpop’ are great sing along moments and a chance for the crowd to dance. Brooding and darker songs like ‘Carnival Time’ sound just as brooding and dark live, with Murray channelling the spirit of Jesse Lacey onstage. ‘Lament,’ the closing song on the album, is a real spine-tingling moment. It is not often you see an entire crowd silent and in rapture of what is happening on stage, but this is one of those rare occasions. It is a beautiful moment, perfect in ambience and chilling in its simplicity. As the song comes to the end and the spell is finally broken, The Xcerts depart to a rapturous applause from a crowd that has witnessed not just an amazing album show, but a band on the cusp of greatness. In a few years time, tonight’s gig may well enter into the kind of “I-was-there” folklore reserved only for the greatest of performances.

Photos by Sarah Louise Bennett.

4/5

Words by Tom ‘The Machine’ White (@whiteywitters)

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