Listening to Will and the People’s last album, I had thought it was reasonable to pigeonhole them into the genre of ‘reggae pop’, or at least something along those lines. However the reality is far from that nice little stereotype. They have so many more layers to them than just that one genre.
I am not sure why I was surprised when these five guys strolled on stage dressed in hippy stoner clothes. I had previously thought (for what ever reason) that this was more of a pop fabricated, 'mass produced' band, which just had a good producer behind them. But as I have learnt shows in Amsterdam can always take a turn for the better, and occasionally for the worse, than all of my preconceptions that I bring into a gig.
So as the show rolled on it became very evident that this group was way more diverse than I had given them credit for. Okay, so they do play most of their songs in the same vein, but every now and then I would catch myself thinking “this track really rocks, is it a Pixies track”……and on one of the occasions it actually was. And not just a good version of “Where is My Mind” but a stellar version. All up I think they threw in at least three covers or parts of covers) and over the course of the evening I found myself comparing them to The Arctic Monkey’s, The Cat Empire, and of course The Pixies.
I have tried to get my head around what the energy was like it the room and the best comparison that I have got to was that of a Phoenix gig I went to a couple of years back. You know the type of show where before the band even takes the stage everyone is almost at fever pitch. Not in a negative way, not like it’s all about to kick off, more hat they just can’t wait for the band to take the stage. On top of that the band was having so much fun once they hit the stage that it spills into the crowd and gets them all dancing and even more involved.
When they got to their version of 'Lion in the Morning Sun' their energy and stage performance resembled that of The Cat Empire and for all intensive purposes the band could have also been the same group of people.
The audience was notably younger than most of the shows I have seen recently and the soft versions that the band cranked out of Blue and Misunderstood were adored by the amassed teens and they all sung along with an amount of joy that would have even made the likes of Phoenix envious. On a side note, who couldn’t love the beginning to album track of ‘Misunderstood’ which starts with Will Rendle saying “ahh, fuck it, that was really good”.
The depth and emotion in their live version of The Game was exceptionally impressive. And I remember thinking that if you had got to this part of the show and hadn’t realized that this is an exceptionally talented band then you may have just needed your head read. Oh and that being said there were also plenty of punters that were happy to chat at the bar, oh how this made me feel like I was at home……
It was really great to see a band enjoying their gig. At one point a person in the audience passed up a joint up to the band and as Will took a drag he commented, “naughty” and then stopped and thought about it and said, “no, actually legal”. The crowd roared with laughter.
Furthermore to understanding just why this band was enjoying this show so much was that the last time they were playing Paradiso they were down in the basement. It is probably the part of the venue that holds a mere 50 people, and here they are at a sell out show on the main stage. In one year in Europe they have come quite a way.
By the last song, the crowd had already chanted “we want more” (a chant not often heard at Dutch shows) and the lead singer had decided to invite a couple of people up onto the stage with him. The process of inviting a “couple” of people on stage never really goes particularly well for restricting it to just a couple and tonight would be no exception. With the stage now full of people, Will decided it was time to run straight off the stage and dive head first into his adoring crowd, or at least the ones not already up on stage with him.
It was an appropriately chaotic and energetic end to the set and logistically speaking, probably the only way of removing the hundred people non band members off the stage which was always going to be tricky…
So the first show for me of 2013 was a total success, these guys who I thought had a solid album really out performed any live expectation that I may have brought in. And it is really funny thinking that they have gone from playing for 50 people to a couple of thousand in a year, and to where they might be next…..well I hope they come back and play 5 sell out nights in row at Paradiso, rather than play a much bigger venue!