Thursday, April 29, 2010

Gig review: Temper Trap, Shepherd's Bush

Dougy from The Temper Trap steers an imaginary bus

Every great frontman needs a foil. Bono has The Edge, Sir Mick has Keef, Lennon and McCartney had each other. A fiesty sparring partner gives the singer someone to spark off, to energise their performance, to balance out their ego.

They are also useful to look at during the guitar solos.

Dougy Mandagi, lead singer of The Temper Trap, has yet to find a suitable counterpart. His band aren't short of personality (they've got Angry Anderson on keyboards - FACT!!!*) but they don't seem to be keen on the whole interaction thing.

Jonathon Aherne gives it some bassIt's a shame, because Dougy's soulful, cooing falsetto is catch-your-breath mesmerising. But once the singing stops, he's left floundering. There are only so many times you can turn your back on the audience and wiggle about aimlessly while you wait for the next lyric to come around (it's three times, apparently, or four if you have a very shapely bottom).

That's not to say that The Temper Trap are an unappetising prospect - quite the opposite, in fact. Their swirling, chiming, indie anthems are a four-course feast for the ears. Songs like Down River and Resurrection layer on the tension, building and building to a massive, ecstatic release in the final 16 bars. It's stirring stuff, although a muddy, bombastic sound mix robs some of the more dramatic crescendos of their impact. Here's a hint: If you start quietly, then the loud bits will sound even louder when you get to them.

It's comforting to discover that, like me, none of the audience have been able to decipher what Dougy is singing in his angelic Finley Quaye / Roland Gift voice. During Sweet Disposition, the band's biggest hit to date, a guy next to me ad-libs "A Mormon alive, Nazeem Allah. A kiss, Accrah, I'm right, I'm Rob". I think this is about 90% correct, actually.

Dougy gives it some welly (welly not pictured)A brief technical hitch sees the set-closer, Drum Song, delayed for about five minutes while a roadie fiddles with an effects pedal. It proves again that the group haven't yet perfected their stagecraft. Instead of soldiering on, or breaking out an acoustic guitar for a quick cover of Don’t Stop Believin' (this would have been amazing), they stand around with their backs to the audience, helplessly watching the pedal mayhem unfold.

But these are early days for a young band - and things finally seem to gel during the rambunctious encore, Science Of Fear, when Dougy dramatically dives into the crowd. A gaggle of screaming girls try to tear off his Bruce Springsteen pyjama top, but he prises himself from their furtive grip and makes it back to the stage for the finale, punching the air and belting out his final chorus with all the energy of an exploding volcano.

He had found the perfect foil, after all.

* Not a fact

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