Temples, The Ritz, Manchester, 06/12/14
For want of a better word, Saturday night at the Ritz, a 1920s dancehall-cum-rock venue, was all a bit posthumous. It might be unnecessarily critical to say so, but the lads’ nicely trimmed, proper seventies barnets (see below) were almost symbolic of this decades-old crisis from which psychedelic music cannot escape. That’s not to suggest we don’t like their tunes, and we were surprised by how well they turned up. And their support band, as support bands go, were decent. But there was this lingering thought after the gig that psychedelic music has entered an artistic cul-de-sac, into the inescapably ‘post-authentic’. How far contemporary psychedelic music can go without sounding like a reproduction of its genuine 70s roots is something that has, and will, remain an issue. But, fortunately, escapism is one of music’s timeless virtues. And even if it inescapable to some extent, thinking in those terms is perhaps a vain preoccupation, so we may as well just enjoy the music. But it’s definitely something that Saturday’s gig has brought to mind.
Temple’s support band, Superfood, were very much at home in Manchester. Stone Roses fans will have felt a familiarity with Superfood’s best performed ‘You Can Believe’, that Manchester twang, although the vocals, an unnerving reminder of the Wombats, didn’t add much to what is an already established Manchester sound. Their ‘Mood Bomb’ had a peculiar similarity to the Arctic Monkey’s ‘Dance Little Liar’, albeit a lighter, poppier version; and their closing song, ’Superfood’, probably didn’t justify an eponymous title; it just didn’t really go anywhere, and it’s uninspired lyrics didn’t do much to help. But still, they had a respectable setlist, with some catchy tunes, which was reflected by a respectable following in the crowd.
After that, Temples performed well, and the Ritz’s acoustics held it together. Irrespective of idle debate, Temples gave everyone a good trip on Saturday, with a great set in front an oil wheel that was projected onto the back-screen. The four-piece certainly deserve more credit than to be portrayed as modern mimicry, for they do have their own superb sound. Their lack of radio time attests little to that, if not confirms their psychedelic integrity. Not to say they don’t have the potential to reach out to more mainstream listeners; ‘Shelter Song’ certainly had that borderline pop tinge, one of the more Beatlesesque tunes played on Saturday. But you wouldn’t hedge your bets on them producing tracks as popular Tame Impala. Neither would you want them to care. For if there’s any glimpse of hope for the honesty of neo-psychedelic music, Temples will sustain their truer obscurity that does detach it from the radio playable, particularly the album’s glam element; those chunky guitar riffs resonant of T.Rex’s ‘Slider’.
Opening with ‘A Question Isn’t Answered’, the four-piece closed the night with a diversion from their more conventional, high energy set which distinguished it from 70s psychedelic bands, into a more arcane four bar acid jam loop. The energy of the gig was greater than we’d expected, and the crowd definitely played an important part in that — few could have anticipated moshing from the intro of ‘A Question Isn’t Answered’ prior to the gig, but it didn’t feel forced at all.
And while an acoustic guitar didn’t feature, the four-piece actively sought a 70s sound through the use of modern tube amps, rather than going so far as to use amps that were actually made in the 70s. It had the dynamic of a rock concert, more acid-influenced, Beatles rather than Pink Floyd, which we found surprising as there was little to suggest from their recent album that that would be the case. Their setlist saw their more popular songs feature midway, your livelier ‘Sun Structures’ and ‘Keep In The Dark’, as if to tactically draw attention to their lesser known songs, however this was obviously not the case here as Temples were the headline act. And deservedly so.
At the end of the day, we should probably be content that the 70s happened, and appreciate the neo-psychadelic renaissance as the best there is to offer in forward-thinking reflection. Temples certainly haven’t fallen short of quality music, and their live performance, albeit slightly more structured than psychedelic fans may like, was still excellent. While it’s unlikely you’d want to pay £40 to see these guys (although some did successfully flog their tickets for that outside), if you can catch a ticket for its modest £12. 50 face value it would definitely be worth it.
Sam Considine and Scott Clarke