Archive @ Shepherds Bush Empire, 10 April 2015

Perhaps it’s not until the encore tonight, the epic eighteen minutes of Lights, that some people may have first glanced to the wings of the stage, as the first five minutes of the song are basically performed there; built up layer by layer on piano and programming by Danny Griffiths and Darius Keeler, the founding members of Archive, and yet two guys clearly happy to remain out of the limelight, leaving that to the two vocalists who do take the center stage for the rest of the night.

It’s normal at a gig that the focus is on the singer, or at a push the lead guitarist. After all, these are usually the guys thrust to the front of the stage and are the main actors in the performance. And more often than not, the singer is also the main man in the band and has an ego so big that heaven forbid you don’t look at him all night long.

But Archive are an abnormality in this basic concept. The heart of the band stay almost hidden in the wings with their keyboards and electronic paraphernalia, making the wall of sound that allows the others to work around them and the audience to feed on with ecstasy. At times it can seem they are doing nothing except watching the rest of the band, one just waving arms furiously, arms pumping so fast that at times I was genuinely worried he was going to either disconnect his shoulder or punch himself in the face. In fact once your eyes were able to draw away from center stage, this did become a sight that you just had to keep going back to, seeing him do what I’m sure so many of us did as kids, waving arms around, pretending to play guitar or conducting the rest of the band.

The two vocalists complement each other well, enough contrast in their styles that you never really question the need for both of them. Opening tracks “Feel It” and “Fuck U” have an edge to them that work well for the more flamboyant nature of one, while as the tone changes completely for “Dangervisit” and “Finding It So Hard” the softer tones of the second vocalist make it seem as if every band should be doing it this way.

The evening is a build up of sound, there is little pause at all as song after song merges from one to the next, very rarely does a song just end to allow time for applause, rather even as one song draws to its close, there is a natural transition immediately into the next. This isn’t a series of songs, rather a continuation of a sound that lasts from first note of the evening to the very last.

Archive are massive in Europe, and from tonight’s performance you can see how they could hold stadiums and festival crowds in the palms of their hands, slipping from rock band to electronic to god knows what else with infinite ease. It’s just a real shame that for a British band they can go so unnoticed here, and yet thankfully while it could be easy to just go through the motions in a venue so much smaller than what they normally play in the rest of Europe, they still clearly put everything into tonight.

Tonight was a gig that will stick in the mind for a long time, and yet if asked about individual songs, it’s almost impossible to name any, rather it is the overall feel of the night, of the power of the sound, and of course of the arm waving madness of our man in the wings.

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