“The band are still in sound check,” said the brunette at the ticket desk.

I could see that sentence float above the stage in bold Times New Roman all throughout the Bear in Heaven set. In fact, those words were visible even when the support band were still playing their we’ve-just-learnt-the-guitar high school music. The reason those innocent words were ever-present was because the music was too loud that the aforementioned sound check was questionable. Just what did they check?

With everything turned up to 11, one song merged into another as there was barely a discernible rhythm and the vocals suffered the most. Leading man Jon Philpot may as well have been singing wordless verses over heavy synths and reverb. ‘Sinful Nature’, ’World of Freakout’, ‘Idle Heart’; all lost.

Clearly frustrated during the gig, Philpot shouted, apologised then pleaded with the crowd. Maybe if the lyrics of ‘Reflection of You’ could be heard, ("If you come dance with me/I think you’ll like my moves"), it would have breathed life into the mid-week Hoxton audience and enticed them to move their feet. As it stood, they stood still. This left him shouting like an entitled brat as he asked whether the Hoxton Square Bar was a “methadone clinic or a fucking club” (Could be argued both ways).

When the tantrum was over and done with, there were episodic moments when distinct vocals were not all that necessary. Finally, the loud muddle gave way to melodious sounds of retro synth pop with hints of the jangle of the Smiths and the confidence of the Stone Roses. Submitting to a shadowy presence, the echoed vocals added a ghostly element to the electro/pop gems as they drifted in and out of focus.

Nothing was good for a sustained period of time. Everything proved just a little off that night, leaving the band’s performance and the audience’s participation uneven. It can only be defined as shrug-your-shoulders gig.

Maybe they should hire a new tour sound engineer?

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Commenting On: Hoxton Square Bar and Kitchen, London, 16/5/2012 - Bear in Heaven

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