Live Music + Gig Reviews

Tom Vek @ Heaven, London

16 June 2011

It doesn’t begin all that well. A full to capacity Heaven crowd waits impatiently for the reclusive Tom Vek to take the stage. He’s already 20 minutes late and everyone is abuzz as to the significance of the monolithic sculptures at the front of the stage. Frank discussions are being held as to which number he’ll choose to open with. A gaggle of tipsy girls beside us hope that it’ll be Nothing But Green Lights from the debut album, but the bespectacled boys on the other side want something new; maybe Aroused.

When he appears, instead we get a slow, sullen take on early single C-C (You Set The Fire In Me). The song doesn’t manage to start any fires but rather warms the embers. Vek’s voice often veers towards the monotone but it perfectly fits the vibe of the evening. As he provides a droll commentary over his broken down electric funk, those Talking Heads comparisons are unavoidable; he’s surely been watching their Stop Making Sense DVD. But Vek’s modus operandi seems much more than mere revivalism. This is punchier, heavier and a lot more claustrophobic.

Those much debated monoliths turn out to be not much more than lightboxes, but the effect is one of being slowly roasted alive. Stood mostly static in his trademark glasses and a simple t-shirt, Vek isn’t one for engaging with the audience, short of thanking ‘the gang’ for showing up. Instead he’s shy after his initial success, his lyrics conveying an unease as to the significance his songs have had on such a fickle contemporary audience.

He needn’t have worried; there’s not a track played that doesn’t elicit a heady reaction. If You Want gets the crowd revved up early on, as does a lengthy take on Someone Loves You, all crunchy electro beats and dour apocalyptic imagery. But it’s Green Lights (along with obligatory green lightboxes) that gets the most attention. The moment it begins, there are ecstatic screams. It’s obvious the song has touched a nerve with the young audience. Every word is screamed back towards the stage and from then on in, it doesn’t really matter what Vek plays. He’s won this round.

By the time the show reaches a climax with I Ain’t Saying My Goodbyes, the man himself is doing a little victory dance. The newer material may owe a minor debt to late period Radiohead, but Vek is definitely a true original. There’s a reason he takes so long between albums. He has proven quality control and for that we’ll be happy to wait as long as it takes.

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