A small crowd gathered early to watch New Zealand natives Cut Off Your Hands kick off the evening, opening with “Down & Out” from their recently released LP Hollow. The boys started off slow and were lacking their usual charismatic energy as they played through their new material to an unreceptive audience. The set was marred by poor mixing from the sound desk, causing particular problems to tracks such as “Fooling No One” and “You Should Do Better”. The last half of their set consisted solely of their old material and fortunately by the end of “Still Fond” the sound issues had been resolved and the band came alive, powering through electric renditions of “Expectations”, “Turn Cold” and “You & I”, walking offstage to a massive round of applause.
The wait between sets was exhaustive and the band room was packed to capacity by the time the stage lights finally came on. As expected, the crowd went nuts as Friendly Fires got the party started, opening with “Lovesick” from their self titled debut LP. Friendly Fires play with a fun energy and front man Ed Macfarlane performs with a confident swagger, running wild onstage amping up the crowd with his frenetic dance moves. The set was an even mix of old fan favourites and new tracks from Pala, with highlights being fantastic versions of “Jump In The Pool”, “Skeleton Boy”, “Paris” and Macfarlane getting down in the mosh to dance with the crowd during “On Board”.
Friendly Fires encored with “Hawaiian Air” and “Kiss Of Life” that ended with a long instrumental outro that saw Macfarlane and the crowd going off in a mad dance spree. The one downside of Friendly Fires performance was the lack of spontaneity in both the music and the band’s onstage antics. Having seen Friendly Fires earlier in the year, their set at Billboard was basically an exact replica of their last live show that I watched, with the exception of more new material.
They are a band who play tightly but they seem over-rehearsed to the extent where you could predict what the band were going to do next. While there is plenty of energy in their delivery, there was no special awe inspiring moments where they fully unleashed and pushed the limits of their sound, which was disappointing to see.
Regardless Friendly Fires are a solid live act who know how to get a crowd moving and the majority of punters left the venue with big happy smiles on their faces, having thoroughly enjoyed the show.