Hayden Thorpe @ Stereo, Glasgow, 25 Nov

Powerful vocals feel steeped in sadness, as Hayden Thorpe delivers moments of beauty in a somewhat subdued performance

Live Review by Kenza Marland | 28 Nov 2019
  • Hayden Thorpe

It is a noticeably subdued start to Hayden Thorpe’s gig this evening – partly due to it being a chilly Monday evening, partly due to the remarkably low turn out, and partly perhaps because of the ambient sounds of Brian Eno playing during the wait.

As Thorpe takes to the stage there is a smattering of applause. The setup this evening is simple: Thorpe on keys and vocals, occasionally using a sampler, and joined for the most part by his guitarist. The set opens with Thorpe counting to 20, before the audience are reminded in an instant of his exquisite voice. Its distinctive, falsetto-esque tone, so familiar to all Wild Beasts fans, has been sorely missed since their performing days and it is a treat to hear him sing live again.

His evident harmony with the piano shines on Diviner, his recent solo album’s opener and namesake. It is one of the stand-out pieces of writing on the record. The chord sequence and melody form a song that feels simple to the point of wonderful. Thorpe takes a handful of tracks to warm up, however.

For the first half of the set the moments in between the music are quiet, whisper-filled and bordering on awkward. Stand-outs include Stop Motion, Earthly Needs and his tongue-in-cheek professed "banger", Love Crimes. Thorpe’s vocals are fantastic. He is at one with his keys and there are moments of real beauty in his composition.

But there's something lacking at points. For a performance based on simplicity and rawness, perhaps a piano rather than keyboard would have done a lot for the overall sound. It felt at times like a melancholic recital, lacking in audience connection and steeped in sadness.

Thorpe’s album is a strong, fresh start, and endless comparisons to his time in Wild Beasts should soon become futile. But, after so many years with the band, delivering such a powerful and unique sound, it's hard not to see Thorpe’s single figure playing with backing tracks as a bit of a fall from heights. It feels lonely.