Radical Face at Scala
Radical Face are neatly encapsulated by the idea that “quiet is the new loud”. Headed by Jacksonville-raised Ben Cooper, who jokingly describes his own work as “folky, depressing shit”, the band are ending their 2016 tour with a small gig at The Scala. Surprisingly for a tour-ending show, things don’t start well.
Declaring, to laughter amongst a knowing audience, that “we’re going to get the happy stuff out of the way”, Cooper and company launch into the flowing cello and acoustic riffs of Summer Skeletons. Unfortunately these rolling chords that should evoke images of an endless childhood summer are smothered by an overtuned synth bass drum. The crowd are a happy bunch this evening though and, in an impromptu spot of public-sourced sound engineering, offer good-natured advice to the sound booth.
With the levels adjusted accordingly the synth drum kit, presumably in a fit of pique, stops working entirely. The band go ad-hoc acoustic whilst the drums are fixed; proceed off-book with the upbeat but undeniably melancholy The Mute. Radical Face handle this upset to their set with aplomb, and the concert is enriched, made more human, by their response.
It’s plain sailing without technical mishaps, and the group are free to showcase their signature sound. Mixing Cooper’s soft vocals (that sometimes draws unlikely comparisons with British icon Neil Tennant) with stirring work on the cello and drums, Radical Face soar through the rest of their set.
From a reprise of previously interrupted The Moon Is Down, through the lingering vocals of Rivers in the Dust and into the blossoming soundscape of Sisters, Cooper’s band embrace their sound to an audience that is almost reverent during each track. Throughout an engaging and intimate set, the musicians are absolutely on form; playing warm sounds off against frequently macabre themes (spousal abuse, survivor’s guilt and broken homes to name a few) in a style that is increasingly their own.
Radical Face wrap up on a high note with the iconic Welcome Home, Son and a good-natured cover of Not in Nottingham from Disney’s Robin Hood (bizarre but great). Barring the initial hiccups, they put on a warm and deeply engaging show for London fans.
Photos: Erol Birsen
For further information about Radical Face and future events visit here.
Watch the video for Rivers in the Dust here: