Big Thief @ Old Fruitmarket, Glasgow, 2 Mar

The Brooklyn four-piece deliver another tremendous live show tonight, showing how they've cultivated so many passionate fans over quite a short space of time

Live Review by Adam Turner-Heffer | 06 Mar 2020
  • Big Thief live at La Belle Angele, Edinburgh

It has been discussed often across various publications, including by yours truly, that 2019 was Big Thief's year. While neither of their phenomenal 2019 releases topped many end of year lists, they both featured heavily (fun fact: if you added U.F.O.F and Two Hands' total points on AOTY they would finish fourth). 

Part of the Brooklyn indie-folk band's astronomical rise over the past five years is due to their intensely brilliant live performances. In half a decade they've gone from playing tiny basement clubs to selling out London's 3.5k capacity Hammersmith Apollo and yet have remained intimate, committed and unphased by it all. In that regard, Old Fruitmarket in City Hall is something of a perfect venue for the band – big enough to house Big Thief's sizeable fanbase in 2020, but intimate and rustic enough to complement their musical style and ideas.

Known for never playing the same set twice, Big Thief come out of the traps hard and fast tonight, releasing a remarkable amount of energy and tension right from the get-go. Front-loading a set with such big hitters as Masterpiece, Capacity, Shoulders, Shark Smile and Mythological Beauty would seem like a massive risk for a lesser act. However, the control and command of the stage these four musicians possess, along with their trust in each other to really "feel" the songs rather than replicate their recorded equivalents all while using relatively simple set-ups.

Frontwoman Adrianne Lenker is more focused and less chatty than some of her previous performances, but she does thank the crowd and venue ahead of playing last year's barnstorming single Not, as she claims the song was, in fact, written while in Scotland. The quartet only slightly take their foot off the gas in the aftermath of the ferociously intense Not with a rockier version of piano ballad Mary, before settling down into a more downbeat and understated second half of the night.

Lenker captivates performing a solo version of Orange followed by a brand new song called Zombie Girl. Big Thief are known for often throwing out brand new songs into live shows, such is their insanely prolific writing schedule, though the five we get this evening does lead to a touch of that pent-up energy escaping the room briefly. However, a rousing version of Forgotten Eyes wakes the crowd back up and into Lenker, Buck Meek, Max Oleartchik, and James Krivchenia's possession.

After stunning versions of Cattails and Terminal Paradise, the band blow all cobwebs away with a particularly intense encore rendition of Contact. Once again, Big Thief prove why they've cultivated so many passionate fans over quite a short space of time thanks to their tremendous live shows. This summer will see their first headline slot at End of the Road festival, but there appears to be no doubt that Lenker and co are not up to the task.