That the hipsters of Shoreditch and beyond were out in force at the East End of London’s cavernous Village Underground venue to watch a 30-year-old in a sleeveless vest sing his pastiches of ’80s Brat Pack film soundtracks may be a mystery to some.
Conveniently classed by many as a typical exponent of the ‘chillwave’ movement that emerged from the US at the beginning of this current decade, Florida native George Lewis Jr’s sound has developed into something much more direct and song-focused than the shimmering mood music of contemporise such as Washed Out and Youth Lagoon, owing more to The Human League and Prince than the British shoe gaze scene. Second album Confess’s big, brash synthesizer riffs and towering choruses could have sounded irredeemably naff in less adept hands, but Lewis managed to pull it off with aplomb and this evening’s show proved he is even better live than on record.
Instantly, Twin Shadow threw the audience a curveball when Lewis appeared on stage alone with just his guitar and proceeded to belt out an impassioned, entirely acoustic version of The One, a standout track from Confess. His powerful voice, like a deeper, less nuanced Morrissey, effortlessly dominated the room before his full band emerged from the shadows to launch into a rip roaring 5 Seconds. Arguably Twin Shadow’s most immediate song, it soon had the Village Underground bouncing off the walls with its energy and irresistible driving rhythm. Already, it was clear that Confess’s songs had even greater resonance live, with additional rock star guitar solos providing extra drama and muscle.
Lewis took the opportunity to showcase some new songs from his forthcoming album, including recent single To The Top, all of which suggested his move towards a classic, conventionally melodic ’80s rock sound is continuing to gather pace. In contrast, tracks from his more lo-fi, indie-flavoured debut Forget were relatively thin on the ground, with songs like Castles in the Snow sounding murkier and less dynamic in a live setting than his later compositions. It was the bold technicolor of sing-along favourites like 5 Seconds and the equally infectious Golden Light that really brought the crowd to life.
Throughout, the band were a tight unit, but with Lewis very much at the centre of the performance, beating his chest and exhorting the assembled throng to belt out his anthems with him. One could argue that he was born 30 years too late, because during the Live Aid era he might well have filled stadiums rather than basement clubs. That said, the dimmed lights and closely packed, slightly claustrophobic atmosphere suited Twin Shadow rather well, making for an altogether more intimate experience which such strident, widescreen music simply wouldn’t allow in more expansive surroundings. Overall, a hugely enjoyable blast from one of the USA’s most compelling and entertaining acts.