With debut album Between The Senses produced by The Smiths’ Johnny Marr and just released, here was a chance to see how Haven would translate their material to the live stage without a legend helping them out. The album aped Coldplay to the point of distraction, but live, one supposed, the Cornish indie rockers would be given the chance to show what they, rather than their backup, could do.
Not entirely surprisingly, Haven offered up a slickly drilled set of serious guitar music, heavier than Coldplay but well short of nu-metal – the kind of pop-rock pitch into which Travis have worked themselves so successfully. They pulled off a packed show with aplomb, silencing critics and suggesting that, just like Starsailor, they have a great deal of potential to develop into something special.
Front man Gary Briggs, all sweaty hair and guitar, showed that anything James Walsh can do, he can just about do too. Each note was perfectly pitched and each word was audible above the textured guitar playing. Recent single Say Something and the nearly anthemic debut Beautiful Thing proved live to be moments of earnest appreciation, Briggs declining the opportunity for between-songs banter in favour of getting the job done in a workmanlike manner.
But for all their well-rehearsed earnestness, Haven lacked a vital spark – the kind of thing that would get an audience going. Despite the bewildering presence of bouncers at the front of the tiny Camden venue’s stage – with one minor top 40 single to their credit were they really going to be mobbed? – there was little movement in the audience and at best, non-commital applause of the politest nature after each song.
Where Coldplay debuted with a bang with Parachutes, Haven have shown themselves thus far to be a hard-trying, deserving group capable of writing pleasant, unconfrontational songs. But such writing won’t get them noticed and performances like tonight will leave them wondering how they can inject some energy and feeling into their live set. They certainly have the skills and potential to do it – but whether they are given the chance is another matter.