“Jules and I didn’t have our normal conversation we have before shows,” says Big Moon bassist Celia Archer after Nothing Without You – all the daftness and zeal of the gym-ribbon -twirling video amped up to reach even the highest tiers – and before the singalong-sparking Happy New Year; “where we decide what we’re going to say”. Staring out at the 1400-odd faces filling KOKO, she wings it: “I can’t believe how many of you there are!”.
It’s been a dizzying ride for Archer, Jules (Juliette Jackson – guitar and vocals), Soph Nathan (guitar and vocals) and drummer Fern Ford, from their first self-produced 7” in May 2015, via their debut album, released earlier this year, and a stint as Marika Hackman’s backing band, all leading to a nomination for the 2017 Mercury Music Prize. That particular plaudit might have gone elsewhere, but The Big Moon probably haven’t stopped moving for long enough to notice, and restless forward motion comes off the stage in waves.
After a suitably astronomical intro – Robbie Williams’ Millennium, the band giving in to the urge to sing along – they plough into the giddily stratospheric Silent Movie Susie, and the restless energy barely dips for the hour or so that they’re on stage. Even the slower songs – Zeds, or a brilliant, heartfelt Formidable – spill over with boisterous brio.
“This is the end of a month-long tour,” Jules says – appropriately enough between a crunching The Road and The End – and all the time they’ve spent together shows. In a tent during the afternoon at last year’s End Of The Road festival, they were a fantastic collision of enthusiasm and noisy pop, but now the layers have been peeled back a little, and Jackson’s grungy, playfully nonchalant songs – drunken parties, clumsy flings, friendship and fretful insomnia – given room.
For all their passion and ambition, they never take themselves too seriously, that firm commitment to capital-F-Fun scrawled across the sky by a version of Total Eclipse Of The Heart, recently recorded for the Onion A.V. Club’s long-running web series Undercover. Making it entirely their own – rather like their take on Madonna’s Beautiful Stranger, sadly absent tonight – they throw in a few lyrical tweaks (“we’re cooking up a pancake and giving out forks” in place of “we’re living in a powder keg and giving off sparks”) and quotes from Pixies’ Where Is My Mind?, and it’s hard to imagine a more aptly-named band tackling such a karaoke evergreen.
But when the moon blocks out the sun, or we get an event like June’s supermoon, all that brightness and apparent enormity is illusory, not down to a change of size but to proximity. And the closeness, the bond these four have – so often talked about as more gang than band – should take them to far larger spaces than this, and further yet than Mercury. The Big Moon have still got their eyes set on the stars, and tonight they proved they can certainly ace the landing.