We need the Shepherd’s Bush Empire tonight. Why? Certain bands need a certain type of venue to broadcast in a way befitting their ability. Corinne Bailey Rae has got it tonight so I won’t argue with that, but tonight’s bands do suffer nonetheless.
Leeds quartet This Et Al are being heavily tipped for greatness but you wouldn’t think so tonight. Frontman Wu Et Al (don’t ask) and drummer Steve Et Al (you can see where this is going) are sporting red shirts and black ties while Gav and Ben sport the reverse. Wu looks quite a state, sweaty and perhaps a little inebriated. Their druggy punk sounds abrasive and is delivered with like an open can of nerves, far flung from their swaggery, cocksure studio material. Still, the likes of Sabbatical and the Joy Division-esque Wardens eventually warm the room.
There is always a wonderfully DIY moment in the build up to a Pretty Girls Make Graves gig where they look at each other half confused as if wondering when to start or what to do next. They do exactly the same tonight, having been preceded by an extra dramatic twist in the A Clockwork Orange theme playing as their intro tape. There is nothing menacing about the band tonight.
They shift from benign to hearty to intense in the space of a couple of verses. With new album Élan Vital barely a day old in Europe they proudly plough into the hedonistic Nocturnal House . Surprisingly, the new material is reserved to a modest minimum. Much of the evening draws from the New Romance, the title track dropped very early on along with a hymnal This Is Our Emergency.
New keyboardist Leona Marrs has already won herself a male fan club with her striking looks. The accordion, keyboards, maracas and recorder all add more balance to the band live, as well as in studio. Her cohort Andrea Zollo is the usual whirlwind of enchantment and energy, fist ever clenched and ever raised, jet black hair a drenched mess masking her face.
Jaws dropped with the presence of two drum kits onstage. To some disappointment it was only utilised for Parade where Jay Clark put down his guitar for a complimentary part to Nick Dewitt, who in turn dropped his sticks and assumed bass duty for Pictures of A Night Scene. With Derek Fudesco on lead, the big man for once restrained himself from his hulking contortions and turned in an atmospheric duet with Zollo.
In a venue with acoustics far more suited to the sounds of glass, guitars and gobbing, PGMG were doomed by their own big sound. One gets the feeling however, it might be just big enough to get them out of these sorts of places this time round.