“Thanks for coming out to see us,” Everything Everything’s Jonathan Higgs addresses a clammy, tightly-packed Headrow House in Leeds, perspiration already running in rivulets down his forehead two songs in.
Already, the Northumbrian vocalist is unleashing his subversive falsetto with little signs of rust, a kinetically beguiling presence at the front of the tiny stage. This intimate gig, in conjunction with the city’s Crash Records, marks the last of a run of album release shows behind the Mancunian group’s fourth LP, A Fever Dream; as such, it serves as an up-close-and-personal showcase for their eclectic brand of art pop, unspooled in nervous, throbbing fashion.
Higgs and his fellow bandmates – bassist Jeremy Pritchard, drummer Michael Spearman and guitarist Alex Robertshaw – have carved out a sound readily identifiable as their own over their past three records, socially intelligent and euphorically danceable. New material therefore sounds like infectious extensions of their DNA: the motoric swell of opener Night of the Long Knives, all rapid-fire electro, carries the same menacing desperation that raw closer No Reptiles possesses, whilst the frenetic glitchy clatter of Ivory Tower recalls choppy breakthrough single Cough Cough. Live, they beef up the beats – their angular rhythm section swagger through the giddy Desire and turn Spring/Sun/Winter/Dread into an eruption of singalong synth-rock.
It’s on the calmer moments that Higgs recaptures the limelight. A twenty-first-century successor to David Byrne’s crown as art-funk frontman, he jerks and flails through the moody piano pop of A Fever Dream’s title track like a puppet with snipped strings, repeating its refrain as a mantra over and over again. On the niggling R&B of fan favourite Kemosabe, his elastic croon belays high-strung neuroticism, expunged in short, cathartic bursts. By the time the band are coaxed back from an unexpected encore of Run the Numbers, he has been forced to shed the matching navy nehru jacket all four are wearing, his sweat-drenched orange t-shirt clinging to his frame. A decade on from their formation, Everything Everything remain in the ascendancy; a genre-bending curio who’ve earned their place on the British musical landscape.