We Love Music: The Horrors @ Black Cat, 9/30

photo courtesy of The Horrors.

Our friend Ali Lieberman covered The Horrors concert at The Black Cat for us on Friday night.

It’s incredible what three years can do. In 2009, the British band The Horrors opened for the Kills at the 9:30 Club with a presence that could barely fill the stage. They had a unique, campy, goth persona with teased black hair, eyeliner, and death-driven pseudonyms. Fast forward to last Friday night at the Black Cat where they were barely recognizable as the black-clad, emo quintet they once were.

The group took to the stage with the first track off their latest album ‘Skying’, a clean and melodic strain featuring lead singer Faris Badwan’s Bowie-like vocals subtly laced through a tightly intertwined guitar and synth. Their transition into crowd favorite “Who Can Say” from 2007’s ‘Primary Colours’ showed a stark juxtaposition. The fans who adopted them in their goth rock glory days must be shifting uncomfortably with their latest sound rather than head-bobbing with the newly acquired fans. There were a few faces of disappointment in the crowd and shouted requests for their earlier stuff.

Depending on how you look at it, the band has either progressed or rescinded from their dark, melodramatic, post-punk schtick to a shoegazing, new wave resonance slowly inching towards mainstream. Aside from Farris, the members have traded in their black leather for 70’s-style geek attire.

Tom Cowan, a whiz on the synth, could have been processing TPS reports in his short sleeve button-up shirt and glasses. His intensity was noticeable as he methodically maneuvered the atmosphere between the sprawling ‘Skying’ tracks to ‘Primary Colours’’ punchy “gothabilly.” They neglected songs from their debut album, but played a well composed and captivating set.

One highlight from the night featured the lengthy “Sea Within a Sea”; clocking in at just under eight minutes with guitarist Joshua Hayward stretching out magnetic feedback while Cowan pulsated in and out on the synth until finally climaxing into the euphoric opening of “Still Life”; the first single released off ‘Skying’. Drummer Joe Spurgeon emerged on the barely lit stage during “Monica Gems” while bassist Rhys Webb jammed through the demanded encore on “Moving Further Away”.

There’s no question The Horrors have altered their image and seem to be maturing while loosing a little of their trademark quirk. The band that once had the stylings of a 1960s monster movie now sounds like the featured artist on the closing credits to a John Hughes movie. They are fully expanding their presence both on stage and in the indie-rock scene, but they’re running the risk of disillusioning their early followers along the way.

Michael splits his free time between defending the little guy and championing the underdog. He has been haunting the concert halls, dive bars, and greasy spoons of DC for the last 16 years. His interests include live rock music, researching obscure military/political conflicts, and good hamburgers. He is a friendly grump, has wisdom beyond his years, and is on a life-long quest to attain music nirvana. Follow him on Twitter if you dare!

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