A cool venue always makes gigs better. Coldplay are rubbish but were slightly less so when I was in a field with one hundred thousand people wearing flashy single-use wristbands and losing their minds to a steaming pile of tedious mediocrity. Mini Mansions were absolutely a buy-on to Royal Blood’s tour for their debut album, but the classical theatre stylings of the O2 Academy Brixton meant that at least I only wanted to gouge out my ears, and not my eyes.
When you love the band you’re seeing, this just goes even further, especially with venues built from old theatres. Islington Assembly Hall is one such venue. Walking in, you feel like you should be seeing something orchestral or some sort of posh spoken word convention. Even the toilets were hella fancy, unfortunately google has no pictures to prove this.
It’s not the sort of place you would expect to see a couple of bands play some stompy bangers, but alas. Let’s get to the point of this article – I saw Blood Red Shoes there, it was great, and you need to see them too if you’ve ever thought ‘huh maybe not every guitarist is a knob’.
If you do see Blood Red Shoes, the first thing you need to know is that their support acts are usually awesome. The first time I saw them, at Camden Assembly, they had Projector supporting, who any regular readers (hah as if) will know are incredible live from my recent review of their headline show at Paper Dress Vintage.
Support this time came in the form of Queen Kwong and did not disappoint. Their sound is classic – chimey guitars, lots of shimmery reverb and delay, and a haunting vocal, all of which coalesces into an indie sound of the spookier, more twisted variety. Even better, their stage presence is outstanding. I was somewhat reminded of Starcrawler in the intensity of singer Carré Callaway, though in a fortunately less self-destructive manner. Their most recent single Oh Well embodies their live sound in its eventual chaos. Their upcoming EP will be one to look out for.
‘The Punisher’ is probably the best nickname I’ve heard a musician earn on tour. Whether Blood Red Shoes’ Steven Ansell earned it for his treatment of his liver of his drum skins, I know not, but it certainly seems fitting. To say he pummels both is understatement.
If Steven is the unstoppable force, guitarist Laura Mary Carter is the immovable object. Her guitar tone is nothing but shades of fuzz, moving from wild to angry, and eventually to murderous. If a terrestrial sound could kill, the wall of deep, scuzzy fuzz that makes up Black Distractions is probably what would do it, just hitting deep in your core and shaking the flesh off of your bones.
Together, the two founding members of Blood Red Shoes make mega rock and roll look easy. 15 years of experience means there’s no nerves, no posing, no awkward silences between songs. It’s just a barrage of blinders, occasionally interrupted by Steven rehydrating with half pints of tequila and interesting anecdotes about nothing in particular as Laura re-tunes. For once, the London crowd actually enjoys it properly too. Continental crowds lose their minds over these guys if Instagram can be believed, but I’ve not seen a British crowd so much as bob in time. Until I’m throwing myself into a mosh pit as the two minutes of punk perfection that make up Je Me Perds begins – if there was ever a song to get a pit going, this was it.
From the picture above, you may be a tad confused. There’s four people, and they’re meant to be a two piece? There’s a reason, I promise. Fifth album Get Tragic saw the band expanding their sound – it required synths and a bit of bass, hence this lot. The first three and last four songs of the set are all slower, more polished tracks from this album. They work well in the venue, elevating it to a cathedral of sound, benefiting the upmarket aesthetic. All these full-band songs are pretty damn good, especially singles Mexican Dress and God Complex, but I can’t help but feel that perhaps having a couple more of the older, rawer songs would have been more enjoyable.
They’re so good I don’t even have a huge problem with an encore being part of the set. Breakthrough single It’s Getting Boring By The Sea, by this point a live rarity, makes its tour debut just for London, quickly followed up by I Wish I Was Someone Better (relatable). Both are as close to classics as a song from the last 11 years can be. For closer Colours Fade the whole live band is out again, and it truly is a wall of sound as it slowly builds towards a raucous final chorus, the ongoing moshpit still pogoing away.
As I shuffle out past the merch stand, quickly stopping to buy Queen Kwong’s two albums on CD, two things are clear. I’ll be keeping an eye on Queen Kwong, and somehow Blood Red Shoes have got even better in the near enough ten months since I last saw them. It’s difficult to imagine just how mind-blowing it would they’ll be in another ten…