With a chest infection striking down the lead singer of Bo Ningen, the Panda Cubs had a large pair of shoes to fill in stepping in as headliners for Stereo’s much awaited gig. Supporting Is Tropical at the same haunt less than a year earlier, this turn of fate offered at last an opportunity at the centre of the limelight. In spite of an immaturity connoted by their name (and a few self-admitted technical difficulties), the starkly dressed group demonstrated a musical maturity beyond that of an infantile band; a sophistication that negated any preconceptions denoted by their coordinated side-fringes.
Opening with Lifeline, the group’s evident capability and commitment became evident in a matter of seconds. Having honestly felt underwhelmed by their rough, online recordings, the quality of their live performance proved a pleasant surprise. Regulated by Matt Lyle’s steady yet experimental drum play, the frenzying, Editors-esque twang of Rich Roxley’s guitar counterbalanced the clear and controlled diction of Christian Silver’s vocals. The venue’s dark, back room provided a blank canvas on which their musical atmosphere reigned; the crowd foot-tapped and head-bobbed in synchrony to the Panda Cubs’ serene, ‘bamboo beats’.
Lead singer Chris engaged with his audience demonstrating an inherently appealing charisma. Though failing to notice that his guitar wasn’t on, his confession to the error at the end of Faithful demonstrated his likeable humility as a performer. Regardless of the issue, the track was performed with a perfect balance of energy and effortlessness; the pre-recorded samples contributing a feel of sublime ethereality.
With much the same ‘sound’ defining their progression through The Heart Bleeds, Find Yourself and Dose, the whole set was unified by a continuous feel. Though largely reminiscent of The Editors, Silver’s vocals had at times the magic quality of Ben Kowalewicz; the drum beat the resounding dominance found in the early material of The All-American Rejects and The Vaccines.
Yet something seemed stagnant in this pick-and-mix compilation. Just as the gentle build-up of new track Romance excitingly felt as though it were to develop into something radically different, the actuality was a chorus and guitar riff that resembled all that had come before. Delivering their material to near-perfection, the group proved their worth. Yet with their indubitable ability as musicians, an ounce more experimental pluck wouldn’t go a miss.