The Drums at Shepherd’s Bush Empire
Some bands “lose it”; the freshness and inspiration for their music and lyrics very often fade after a couple of records. Sometimes, though, it evolves and gets even better (The Beatles aren’t a bad example). The Drums’ fourth album – Abysmal Thoughts, released last June – is a return to their earlier sound, driven by pop guitar riffs and drum-machine beats.
Last Saturday the New York band – now a one-man act, formed and fronted by Jonny Pierce and three touring members – came to the Shepherd’s Bush Empire to play a one-hour, 18-song set. The show began with I Fight for Your Life and continued with one of their most popular pieces – the Smith-esque Best Friend – and a personal favourite of your reviewer, Book of Stories.
The setup – everything at the back – left plenty of space at the front for Pierce’s stage antics, the visual highlight of the performance. Watching him was a treat; he had a very personal choreography for each track, which was genuine and never self-absorbed. There were many classics during the first half of the concert, including Days, Let’s Go Surfing and Money. It ended with the fantastic Blood Under My Belt; the lead single of their latest album is the perfect summary of what makes The Drums so special: a harmonious contrast between lighthearted, playful music and deep, thoughtful lyrics contemplating love, life and death.
After a little break, Pierce gave a long speech to explain what had happened to him and the band lately. He shared how miserable and lonely he felt when the UK press in 2010 hailed them as the new Smiths and Strokes, because he didn’t have enough confidence. Even until the third record, Encyclopedia, he still was looking for himself: a turmoil good for songwriting rather than real life. He said it was time to face the elephant in the room: the bittersweet absence of his music partner Jacob Graham, who left him at the same time as the divorce with Jasper Rischen. Pierce decided to take the opportunity to use these sad and angry feelings make a new album alone, focused on who he is rather than other people. “I had Christian, anti-gay parents, and I waited 30 years for them to come around […] I was holding a room for them in my house. I wont’ wait any longer, when we die we die. Honour who you are, respect who you are and love who you are.”
The second part of the show saw the even mix of classics and new pieces continue. What You Were, The Future and Down by the Water clearly stood out but The Drums reached a peak with Mirror, one of the best and most meaningful songs to date.
Filippo L’Astorina, the Editor
Photos: Filippo L’Astorina
For further information and future events visit The Drums’ website here.
Watch the video for Blood Under My Belt here: