Temples Live at Rough Trade – 29/09/19

From left to right: Adam Smith (guitar & keys), James Bagshaw (vox & guitar), Thomas Walmsley (bass)

Close your eyes. Picture four young men. They’re dressed up for a sixties-themed party (fun!), and have gone the full monty. Questionable fringes, heeled boots and all. Oh, and one of them looks like Noel Fielding.

Got it?

Yay! You have just pictured – possibly to a startling degree of accuracy – the band Temples. (I bet at least one of the members has a Pinterest board called ‘60s outfit inspiration…)

Now, when a band’s image is this contrived, it can be pretty hard to take them seriously. The polarised views on their new album don’t help much either. For every claim that ‘Hot Motion’ is a psychedelic masterpiece, there seems to be another labelling it as little more than a nostalgic pastiche. Naturally, this might cast a few doubts for those about to watch Temples play live on their record store mini-tour. Would the band put on a mesmerising set, or just come across as another bunch of millennials ‘born in the wrong generation’? Both options seemed equally plausible.

Luckily for Temples, criticism of the record proved itself to be irrelevant in a live setting. The album had only been out for two days before the band’s gig in Bristol, but those huddled at the front already knew the words to most of the songs. The audience was so immersed that they spent much of the show with their eyes closed anyway, solving any problems that the band’s caricature-like image might cause.

The set did blow hot and cold, though. There were some rather naff moments laden with forced pomp – opening with ‘The Howl’ wasn’t a great idea. Thomas Walmsley pointing his microphone out to the audience afterwards to jokingly ask for ‘A round of applause, please’ was a little disconcerting.

However, there were plenty of strong bits throughout, including the poppy gem, ‘You’re Either On Something’. James Bagshaw’s vocals here were eerily delicate as he sang the infectious chorus and whimsical verses. The band’s new live drummer, Rens Ottink, fit right in, too – he and Walmsley played imaginative, danceable grooves throughout.

‘Holy Horses’ sounded even better live than on record, its unusual blend of clean, punchy guitars and choral vocal chants complementing each other brilliantly. There was also an entertaining moment during the eastern-tinged hit ‘Shelter Song’ where Bagshaw began laughing uncontrollably and had to stop singing. He apologised for this bout of ‘corpsing’, saying it was most unprofessional, making everyone else chuckle too.

No ground was broken by Temples that evening, and some parts of the gig are probably best left forgotten. A mixed bag of bangers and flops, it was entertaining nonetheless.

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