Review of Friendly Fires at The Olympia Theatre on December 7th 2011

Review: David Dooley
Photos: Owen Humphreys

The most striking thing about Friendly Fires live is the energy put into their shows. Just from listening to their two albums you can imagine the amount of energy needed to do these songs justice in a live setting. Thankfully, not only do Friendly Fires do them justice; they play them with such passion and conviction that after hearing them live you know the recordings will never be close to matching the heights of catching them live. On their records the mixes are very safe but thankfully this is not the case live. ‘In the Hospital’ gets a more vibrant, swinging groove from the two-man horn section. Edd Gibson’s guitar on ‘Pala’ features more alluring eastern motifs and on ‘Live These Days Tonight’ his parts become all the more noticeable.

Emerging out to a looped, slow swelling synth singer Ed Macfarlane wastes no time putting his hips straight to work with his infamous dancing (that could put Beyonce to shame) for a horns heavy rendition of ‘Lovesick’. With the extended bridge Macfarlane leaps the crowd barrier to show off his moves to the adoring audience. Watching this from the Olympias top floor balcony offered a great vantage point to watch the photographers scramble around looking for the missing frontman.

Interestingly ‘Jump in the Pool’ comes second in the set, but going by the vibrant performance they would have you thinking it was the encore. A clear sign tonight on how far Friendly Fires are into their set, is how sweaty Macfarlane’s shirt gets, and in turn changes colour from an initial light blue to a soaked navy. A small price to pay by the very passionate frontman.

Their performance can’t be faulted. Playing the majority of the songs to backing tracks of synth loops, sound effects and extra percussion they really shouldn’t be having this much fun on stage but drummer Jack Savidge doesn’t break a sweat keeping everybody in check and keeping the show tight. He even takes a break from the drum kit to share a microphone with guitarist Gibson for ‘On Board’ before returning to the drum stool just in time.

Each song they play tries to reach higher than the one that’s goes before it; not an easy task given the amount of energy put into each song. The only time the tempo drops below Friendly Fires’ default setting of ‘indie dance anthem’ is for the shoe gaze sweep of ‘Pala’.

Pala’s lead single ‘Live These Days Tonight‘ does an admirable job trying to be the highlight with a huge strobe light blaze during a very frantic bridge. However the highlight of the night has to go to the rhythmic layers of ‘Kiss of Life’. It peaks with a huge samba outro that sees the return of the feverish strobes. The strobes follow the band as they pull the tempo higher and higher before eventually releasing it into a feedback loop that holds as they leave the stage having given this Dublin crowd the most passionate performance they were capable of.

Jump In The Pool
Running Away
Blue Cassette
True Love
On Board
Skeleton Boy
Show Me Lights
In The Hospital
Live Those Days Tonight
Pull Me Back To Earth
Hawaiian Air
Kiss Of Life