There’s something deliciously ironic about a band as self-deprecatingly cynical as Los Campesinos! getting into the habit of putting out Christmas songs, Christmas themed merch and playing Christmas gigs, but for the second year in a row I decided to fight the hand-numbing cold to go and see the six piece do what they do best. For a band that have been together for eight years, there’s no signs of them losing any of the passion or maverick spirit that have made them so indispensable amongst a hardcore cult of fans. Starting with ‘Cemetery Gaits’ from 2013’s ‘No Blues’ it’s clear from the start that the band is out to impress, with a frenetic energy coursing through each of their songs.
Live favourite ‘Hello Sadness’ comes without the trademark hand gestures that accompany the song, with singer Gareth favouring a more frantic, stilted and (dare I say) vaguely twee dancing style. This is a trend that continues, with the band abandoning some of the composure present in most of their shows in favour of a more nihilistic attitude – with no future shows booked, Gareth admits that the band made an active decision to let loose.
It’s this humble demeanour that endear the band to the crowd, with their obvious delight at the surge forward that accompanies their biggest hit ‘You! Me! Dancing!’ and the look of disbelief as the crowd chants the refrain to ‘Sweet Dreams, Sweet Cheeks’. Despite this, what Gareth jokingly describes as ‘every fan’s favourite – a mid-tempo album track’ ‘You’ll Need These Fingers for Crossing’, a live rarity, is just as well-received.
It’s also a testament to their cohesiveness as a band that the track ‘When Christmas Comes’, from their new Christmas EP ‘A Los Campesinos! Christmas’ sounds just as tight and practiced live as the oldest of their back catalogue, and also receives some of the biggest cheers from the crowd. The biggest moment of the night however belonged to ‘Baby I Got the Death Rattle’, one of LC!’s cleverest songs both lyrically and musically. The composition is spot-on, with distorted guitars resonating in the high-ceilinged acoustics of the venue, and the never knowingly subtle Gareth’s grief-stricken rendition of the chorus was particularly heartfelt in light of the emotion throughout the show.
An underground band in the truest sense of the world, with a DIY ethic even after five albums, Los Campesinos! deserve so much more success than they have achieved. Saying that, part of their charm is the fact that I’m still dubious to whether they’d want it if they could have it – to witness the way that the band’s sound had progressed without losing any of its vitality in a show with cuts from all five albums was a special experience. A Los Campesinos! Christmas, indeed.