Opening their set with ‘All Worked Out’ we are gently introduced to the band. Heavy harmonies and a steady, rhythmic drum beat that shows up what it is that O EMPEROR are truly great at; the ability to start a song from a very quiet point that builds in a symphonic crescendo. Along the way we are treated to a solo on the keys. They then followed with the first song from their album, “Hither Thither, ‘Don Quixote”. A song filled with howling again beautiful harmonies. They then played a song off their newest album, Vitreous, called “Land Of The Living”. A smoother song with an oldie feel sang by the keyboardist that ends with a Strokes-sequel guitar solo.
“Whitener”came next. I loved the pace of this song. The drums kicked in at a galloping pace. You can really see the difference between their old and new songs, this one is off the new album and again we are met with an ethereal synth sound combined with slow build. “Don’t Mind Me” came next. All five guys singing in unison gives the harmonies a real ‘Grizzly Bear’ feel. The slide guitar in this song particularly stood out as well as the whistling at the end.
“We were the ones who never lost but never really won”-lyrics from their next song “Sedelia”. This song was a whole lot of things. There are echoes of “Pink Floyd” here as it descends into a beautiful chaos. Extremely staccato keyboard playing combined with a slide guitar, which really sounded like a Theremin. This was by far the most interesting song so far. My favourite song of the entire set came next with “Holy Fool”. There was no gentle build here; the song starts off at that fast, galloping pace. This cosmic sounding number with crazy fast keyboard playing gave off a distinctive Strokes-vibe on the guitar but the singing was a completely different animal. That was followed by “Grandmother Mountain”. This one started off quietly and it was at this point I noticed how loud the crowd was. Thankfully this song did not stay quiet for long. When this kicked off the floor vibrated so much that even a deaf person could hear it.
They started doing something new throughout the second half of their set, which involved blending songs. As one would finish the guitarist would start using his hands on the pedals creating a new rhythm, which would segway one song into the next. They played ‘Taloned Air’ which was a nice mellow tune that then blended into “Minuet”. These two songs provided a nice, mellow respite before the band started playing their last few songs. “Electric Tongues” came next. A song sang for the most part by the drummer. What particularly stood out for me though were the keys. The keyboardist was playing the keyboard like a bongo, hitting the keys with such an immense amount of speed and intensity. A tremendous effort “Some Small Matter” followed. I LOVED the singing in this. Coupled with the tambourine and backing vocals this certainly was powerful.
They then played their new single “Contact”. To be honest, not my favourite song and the sound quality wasn’t the best because it came across as being a bit too loud. Their last song pre-encore was eerie vocals and a slow deep build with more and more tension with a gradual climax. But it ended on a sensationally high note
They left the stage, but not for long, the crowd was screaming for more. They returned and played “Erman Gou”. This was another gem of a song, gentle with a steady laid-back drum and bass rhythm with a psychedelic feel and cascading keyboard playing. They ended their set with the aptly named ‘This is it’. They couldn’t have chosen a better song to finish with. More psychedelic building with synths and more heavy guitar sound. What more could you want?
Overall they played a very varied and thought out set, providing a fair mix of old and new music. The atmosphere in the place was great and the crowd was singing along during the better-known songs. I particularly loved the amount of time they devoted in their songs to individual solos and the new psychedelic/synth sound they are developing and refining. A great night out, don’t miss the opportunity to see them when they return!
Review and photos by OISIN FEENEY