Other Lives @ St. Giles-In-The-Fields Church, London 21/11/11

November 29, 2011 by  

Other Lives have been in incubation for a while up until now. Formed in 2004, the relatively low-key Oklahoma band released two albums (one under the alias of Kunek) and an EP – all of which fell under the radar somewhat – but with the release of their latest album ?Tamer Animals? in August, prestige is being gained by the second. On the back of a short North American tour with Bon Iver and a UK tour with Chapel Club, this gig formed a part of the band’s own UK tour. Oh, yeah, and they’ll only be supporting Radiohead early next year.

It’s safe to say, then, that the five-piece has quite the busy schedule. It’s also relatively safe to say that a large majority of this schedule doesn’t involve playing to a seated audience in an 18th century church. St. Giles-in-the-Fields isn’t particularly renowned for its prowess as a gig venue, yet, from the very moment I walked through the towering doors, it was one of the most enchanting musical experiences I’ve ever been a part of. The lighting consisted of two large red LEDs at either side of the stage (or, should I say, altar?), and ambient drones gently oozed out of the speakers, reverberating around the cavernous stone structure. If heaven exists, I hope its waiting room is like this.

By the time the band entered the stage, it was a jungle of instruments. Scanning over it all, you could see xylophones, trumpets, a cello, violins, synthesisers, a kind of organ; my friend pointed at something and said ‘What’s that goblet-looking thing?’ – it was a timpani, accompanied by a snare and a cymbal. It was clear that these guys were going to exploit every last resonant inch of this building.

Opening with the timpani-thumping ‘As I Lay My Head Down’, every beat of which hammered its way through your chest, what followed was an aurally overwhelming presentation of pretty much everything the band had ever written. They looked as pleased to be there as the audience was, and lead-singer Jesse Tabish even paused at one point to remark that, after playing to drunk people in rock clubs, this was the kind of setting that the music was meant for. It really was. Band members switched instruments seamlessly, employing loop pedals to make the band sound even bigger than it already was. Jenny Hsu, apart from playing the cello, piano, synth and tambourine, had one of the most haunting backing voices I’ve ever heard ? she was only singing vowels, but was an instrument in herself, like a cross between a theramin and a singing saw.

By the time the band finished, they had literally exhausted all of their material, and played a Leonard Cohen cover for the encore. An epic set, which felt like it had been performed by a full orchestra, the highlight came when the band’s two strongest songs, ‘For 12’ and ‘Tamer Animals’ were performed back to back; they sounded absolutely massive. That’s the thing with Other Lives ? they almost perfectly recreate their recorded sound when they play live, except everything just sounds so much sharper, and more intricate, and bigger, and it’s genuinely interesting watching the musicians dart around from instrument to instrument.

Other Lives were fully capable of flooding this magical venue with extravagant and beautiful sounds. On top of all that, they’re a likeable bunch, who made their way to the foyer afterwards to meet their fans. Seriously, if you like any kind of music, you’ll surely be able to appreciate Other Lives.