Live Report: two nights with Black Peaks

When a good band comes to town and you’re available, you go and watch that band, right? If they’re a really good band you might even watch them a couple of times in the same year if they pass by your way enough times.

So, imagine the prospect of watching a truly magnificent band play live twice in the space of eight days – pretty tempting. No prizes for guessing what we got up to when Black Peaks made two stops in our part of the world this month then.

We got out there and soaked in a band on a distinctly upward trajectory.

Well, we at least joined the painfully slow-moving queue for round one, a date at Birmingham’s O2 Academy opening for Enter Shikari on the first night of February.

25 minutes just wasn’t long enough to get through security in time to see Black Peaks actually take the stage, meaning their opening song was sadly a mysterious, distant rumble of bass; ‘Glass Built Castles’, if is to be believed.

This first show was always going to be an appetiser. But, even knowing that, only getting to taste four songs barely touched the sides.

That’s not to say they weren’t enjoyable though. Far from it. ‘Electric Fires’ and ‘Can’t Sleep’ filled the huge room with the kind of ease you always knew they would, while the monster riff of ‘Eternal Light’ fair exploded into a riotous anthem.

Most impressive had to be the finale ‘The Midnight Sun’, due in no small part to that incredible scream from vocalist Will Gardner. If you think it sounds big on record wait ’til you hear it live.

Quick as a flash Black Peaks were done and we hot-footed out of the venue with similar speed, not risking even the slightest chance of having to hear Palaye Royale. Had this been simply been a one night stand with Black Peaks we’d have had fair reason to feel short-changed, but the knowledge that more was to come made it seem bearable.

What was most interesting here was seeing just how comfortable this band is on a big stage. How at home they looked. Hopefully next time they’re in a venue this size it’ll be on their own terms.

Fast forward one week and one day and we were at it again. This time, however, it was different.

For round two we were back at the Craufurd Arms in Wolverton, which had done a grand job of defrosting since our visit the previous week. Black Peaks were actually headlining this time around and we even had enough time to enjoy a rather fine pre-gig curry and still make it into the venue for the support act.

That support act happened to be Phoxjaw who – credit to them – did a fine job. They have riffs the size of a dinosaur – fitting for a band with a song called ‘Triceratops’ – and attacked their slot with plenty of gusto and bounce. Good stuff.

Then, eight days after our starter, it was onto the main course of a Black Peaks headline set, which proved to be every bit as haute cuisine as this increasingly terrible metaphor will allow.

Rather than romp into their set, the band set the atmosphere with the lumbering ‘Slow Seas’, before a 1-2-3 punch of ‘Electric Fires’, ‘Saviour’ and ‘Can’t Sleep’ lit the touchpaper and set things ablaze.

‘Across The Great Divide’ followed, quickly trailed by ‘Home’ and the astonishing ‘Aether’, all three songs sounding so monstrously large that you wondered quite how the tiny venue’s walls keep them inside. Not to be outdone, a triptych of ‘Say You Will’, ‘Glass Built Castles’ and ‘To Take The First Turn’ from debut album Statues came next and also sounded gargantuan.

By now, everyone in the room had fully gone with the band, who looked like they were having the time of their lives, leading the crowd into walls of death and circle pits galore; Will even proclaimed the show to be “a night to remember for all of us” and who could argue?

That night to remember came to a close soon after with ‘Eternal Light’ and ‘The Midnight Sun’ – again, that scream sent shivers down the spine. It was nothing short of a triumph and well worth the wait for this second serving.

When it comes to live bands there are few as brilliant as Black Peaks right now. They are technical wizards without being showy, they create the kind of dynamics you wouldn’t think possible from just guitar, bass, drums and a voice, and they are an entirely captivating and engaging watch.

With a return to Castle Donington for this year’s Download Festival in June, the sky really is the limit for this band. It’s certainly difficult to imagine them returning to Wolverton any time soon. They’re a band on the up. Catch them while you can.

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Dave Musson