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A blog for Seattle music lovers of all stripes, from hip-hop and indie rock to jazz and world music.

March 31, 2014 at 2:03 PM

London Grammar and Highasakite soar at Neumos | Concert review

Highasakite surprised at Neumos on Saturday. Photo by Hilde Mesics Kleven.

Highasakite surprised at Neumos on Saturday. Photo by Hilde Mesics Kleven.

Most of the people who sold out Neumos Saturday night were there for London Grammar, and the rising English trip-hop trio did not disappoint. But it was a forceful performance by Highasakite, a little-known outfit from Norway peddling in big, layered anthems that was the surprise of the night.

Highasakite, fronted by the laser-voiced Ingrid Helene Håvik, has been on tour with London Grammar for the past two weeks testing out material from their debut full-length album, “The Silent Treatment,” due out April 8. Perhaps because Saturday was the final night of the tour for them, the band seemed to be in an unstoppable groove.

They used the joyous “Leaving No Trace” to set up “Hiroshima,” where the band used its five members to create a moment of electronic pop bliss and revealed its true intentions. By the time Highasakite unleashed the cheeky “Darth Vader,” the crowd had been won over.

Just as importantly, Highasakite had sated the crowd enough to make them perfectly satisfied with a short but intense set from London Grammar. They got their set started with the title track of their debut full-length, “If You Wait,” released last fall, and the power singer of singer Hannah Reid was immediately apparent.

At once luminous and capable of gale-force blasts, just how well Reid was able to replicate her album performances was impressive. At first, the band stuck to mostly restrained pieces, such as the contemplative “Interlude,” which served as a fine vocal showcase despite being somewhat sleepy.

The infectious “Wasting My Young Years” perked both band and crowd up, with plenty of people singing along as the show started to develop some kinetic energy. That energy transferred when the band threw down a menacing gauntlet on “Flickers,” after which Reid gracefully excused herself for a short break.

One of the best moments of the night came on the Kavinsky song “Nightcall,” which London Grammar covered on “If You Wait.” Softening the harsh electronic edges of the French artist’s song, which the band first noticed in the film “Drive,” and putting Reid’s voice at the forefront gave the song added poignancy — especially as things came crashing down at the end.

London Grammar is a great band to see live, but the question remains whether a venue like Neumos is really the best atmosphere for their restraint and nuance. There were the usual Capitol Hill denizens, but an awful lot of the band’s fans seemed a little older, a little grayer and a little more likely to enjoy the show from the comfort of a seat.

That’s a weird sentiment to have about a band that was described by Britain’s The Guardian newspaper as having recorded a “quarter-life crisis” album, but it’s impressive they can speak to such a wide group. Next time they come through Seattle, a bigger venue might be in order.

We’ll leave someone else to decide whether there will be any seats.

-Owen R. Smith, on Twitter @inanedetails

Comments | More in R & B/Hip-hop, Rock/Pop | Topics: highasakite, london grammar, Neumos


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