The first thing I noticed upon entering the HMV Institute was how small the room Fenech-Soler were due to playing in was. The second thing I noticed was how huge the toilets were. Why are the toilets so big for a room so small? There are definitely some bizarre spacial issues here.
After a few moments of getting a bit too annoyed at this inconsequential problem ‘Paper Crows’, tonight’s main support subtly turned up on stage. A 2-piece featuring Keys player Ducan McDougall who looked identical to their touring drummer something that would have been unusual on any other evening, (but not tonight) and secondly 18 yr old vocalist Emma Panas.
The bass heavy and synth/ FX riddled outfit have a neatly arranged sound similar to Crystal Castles crossed with The xx and Bjork and Kate Bush. I was quite impressed. No lies.
Fenech-Soler postponed this UK tour back in March when frontman Ben Duffy was diagnosed with testicular cancer (thankfully he is now ok), so it’s been a long time since the band last played live in Birmingham.
Back to full fitness and they all look more than happy to be here. Despite having hardly a foot of space to work on the small stage, Ben give it his all as the four-piece belt out opener ‘Battlefields’. Almost at once the front third of the audience turn into un-coordinated lunatics as girls and boys alike brush into each other and start to grope. Through ‘LA Love’ I take a step back to assess the situation properly.
Granted Duffy throws in a few too many ‘Yeahs’ ‘Ohhs’ and ‘No’s’ for me, but I’m never one to knock enthusiasm when you can play such a strong set to a room full of bewildered lunatics. The band go for broke and miraculously their glittery demolishing sound travels from the PA Speakers pitch perfect.
‘Lies’ and ‘Golden Sun’ follow, both ensue massive sing-a-longs and regardless of how thick and diversely structured these songs are I start to realise, to the fans here Fenech-Soler are just a magnificent pop band.
There is still time for them to run through an older song that showed a more jagged side to the band absent before this point. Moments later Duffy sits down at his superb noise-making keyboard and lays out a stripped bare version of ‘Stone Bridge’ that while being against everything else that has happened this evening sounds right at home. Finally it’s all song and dance again, as firm favourite and probably most heard single ‘Stop and Stare’ plays the band offstage.
Tonight may have been a strange evening but if Fenech-Soler continue to run themselves ragged like this they could be well on their way to being a true equal to their nearest counterparts ‘Friendly Fires’ ,and it may also mean they will play in bigger toilets too.
Pics by Ben Thomas