Gig Review – Car Seat Headrest @ O2 ABC, Glasgow

words + photos fae owen yule (@OwenYule)

With the releases of both Twin Fantasy and Teens of Denial, Car Seat Headrest has firmly solidified themselves as one of the most exciting bands on the indie rock scene. At the heart of these records is Will Toledo’s brutally honest lamentation and so, Toledo’s personality seems somewhat contrary to the typical characteristics of a zealous performer. In addition, what makes these records so great was the flawless amalgamation of varies styles of rock – Toledo has never shied away from structurally audacious tracks that manage to evoke the whole spectrum of emotion, and it’s for these reasons that I had my reservations upon entering last night’s venue.

Taking the mature decision to relinquish full control of his tracks, Will takes centre stage without a lead guitar. Rather, he performs with a microphone and his eccentricities. Not only is this decision indicative of Will’s efforts to recapture the sincerity of the studio recorded vocals, but also one that enables the flawless execution of the aforementioned complex tracks. This decision is reinforced by the bands performance of Cute Thing, which sees Toledo vocalising harmonies beautifully between the aggressive choruses.

Playing live with a 6-piece outfit, the band makes full use of their camaraderie to recreate the groove of Bodys that invigorates energy throughout the whole crowd. Nonetheless the band was never superfluous with their instrumentation and every note carried weight. The intimacy of tracks like Sober to Death wasn’t lost amongst the 6 members; rather, it was actualised by the efforts of each player. The performance of the track is initially stripped down before coming to full fruition in conjunction with the energy of the chorus.

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Although Toledo’s lyrical poignancy is somewhat derived from his personal anguish and insecurity, he was never a passenger on stage. Instead, he navigated the venue with confidence that brought a new vitality to the music without losing a personal touch. This was foreshadowed in the opening cover of the ever-funky Talking Heads’ Crosseyed and Painless. A track whose reputation is daunting in its gravitas, yet ever so delightfully incorporated into Car Seat Headrest’s live performance. Carrying out the 1980 classic, the band reimagines Talking Heads’ signature groove with cowbell orientated funk.

Their ambition here is carried with momentum all the way through to Toledo’s own rendition of Frank Ocean’s White Ferrari. Well aware of his vocals limitations, Toledo substitutes technical proficiency for heart wrenching emotion that mediates any incapability to recreate Ocean’s vocal expertise (as if one could ever be reprimanded for that shortcoming). Incited, and perhaps somewhat confused by the chants in unison of Glasgow’s very own little concert mantra, the band returned to the stage to encore Nervous Young Inhumans. After moving the crowd with Bodys, inspiring a wholehearted sing along with Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales and awakening mosh pits with Beach-Life-In-Death, Nervous Young Inhumans provokes the very same reactions as all of these tracks in a manner that is equally infectious.

While Car Seat Headrest’s appeal somewhat relies on the expression of alienation on their records, in a crowd of hundreds the band still instigates the same fundamentals of their recordings to their enthusiastic live audience.

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