Bear’s Den came to town with two supports in tow. Banfi were an indie rock outfit, whilst Seramic provided a sort of alt-soul. Seramic’s performance was defined mostly by the incredible sashaying of their backing vocalist, who had the best time of anyone all night.
Bear’s Den, a motley crew in full with core members Andrew and Kevin joined by four touring musicians, opened their night with the titular track from Red Earth & Pouring Rain. It sounds as gorgeous on stage as it does on record: gentle, minimalist and yet still somehow epic.
In performance a band will generally either strip it back or try to emulate their studio work as closely as possible. The Bears go for the latter, and recapture the misty, soft textures of their latest album work. There’s plenty of that album here with singles ‘Emeralds’ and ‘Greenlands Bethlehem’.
Red Earth & Pouring Rain saw the band begin to introduce electronic elements into their sound, and meshing that with their folkier work is a challenge. However they do so perfectly, with the keys kept mostly subdued except for the exhilarating synth intro to ‘Auld Wives’.
The band occasionally struggle to justify so many people on stage: six players is enough to conjure up a rock-opera. However by the end, when the drummer is simultaneously drumming and playing a horn and the guy on keys keeps pulling out a flugelhorn (I think?) it makes sense. The added hands-on-deck round off their sound nicely.
Given the band’s love of pastoral imagery I would have liked that worked into the stage show. A backdrop of trees and some verdant greens would have been a nice touch, and preferable to the hexagonal light show which gives the show an industrial feel. The lights are used dynamically and change to reflect a range of moods, though whether the use of strobes during a track as subdued as ‘New Jerusalem’ is appropriate, is ultimately a question for a lighting tech somewhere (though the answer is no, not really).
The biggest cheers of the night come for the signature song ‘Above the Clouds of Pompeii’, and when the band play an unplugged version of ‘Bad Blood’. It’s a spine-tingling moment that deserves the arising roar of adoration.
The platitudes here may be familiar (i.e sustaining a relationship is pretty hard work) but they are delivered with an honesty and depth of feeling that can’t be faked. Andrew Davie’s emotive baritone echoes out to every corner of the venue. There’s some banter with the crowd, more than a few heartfelt gushes of thanks, and a general feel that the band are really enjoying being here. This isn’t raucous music, it isn’t especially loud or raunchy either, but it is uplifting and cathartic.
The quirks of the band are all there too, starting with the band taking the stage to the theme from The Terminator(?!?!?!) to an extended on-stage conversation about Julia Roberts. Bear’s Den are a serious talent in British rock music and a real treat in performance.