“I’m not crying, you’re crying” – Palaye Royale’s show at the O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire was one to remember
Review by Deus Kane | Photos by Gili Dailes
Art-rock is a popular craze amongst the perpetually-disaffected youth: unordinary costumes, extravagant behaviour, and an approach to music-making that is both more thoughtful and more varied than the classic rock outlook. Mastering this genre are Palaye Royale, a Canadian-American band of wild-dressing oddly-behaving rock stars. They are currently on the road touring all over Europe and America with The Bastards tour, and their “cult” (as they call them) of loyal followers have been showing up in force wherever they go.
Friday’s gig at O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire in London was sold out, and the queue to get in to the venue stretched around the block. The energy of the crowd was obvious even outside the venue, and only increased inside. Palaye Royale were supported by Charming Liars and Counterfeit, who both did a masterful job of getting the crowd amped up, but also of spreading an atmosphere of love and kindness that would pervade the event. Songs screaming about bloody violence and rebellion against the system were interspersed with apparently heartfelt speeches to the audience telling them that they are all beautiful and that it’s okay to be vulnerable.
The main act started with a howling guitar, followed by a minute or so of pre-recorded music. Once everyone’s attention was on the stage, the words The Bastards suddenly lit up in large blackletter font, shining through the slight mist that had accumulated on stage. Then, as if from out of nowhere (but in all likelihood actually from behind the large curtains on either side of the stage), the band members themselves appeared. Their style for this tour seemed to be a heterogeneous mix of glam rock, new romantic, and a little bit of pop-punk. They began the screaming intro to Fucking With My Head, and the crowd went wild.
The demographic at the event, as well as being quite young, skewed heavily towards women. It seems likely that as well as being extremely talented musicians, this band have become something of a sex symbol, idolised by their fans for their looks and charm as much as their musical ability. There was near-constant jumping and hollering, and all around could be seen groups of fans huddled together, writhing in the throes of what seemed like a hysterical paroxysm at being in the presence of their vaunted idols. I could not help but be reminded of stories of Beatlemania in the 60s. Whether Palaye Royale will reach such an exalted position in music history remains to be seen, but they are definitely one to watch.
Palaye Royale’s performance did everything to maximise this atmosphere of febrile excitement. From the start they were running and jumping around the stage, climbing on gear and jumping off, feeding the energy of the crowd as well as feeding from it, in a chaotic cycle of art-rock energy. But, as is characteristic of the genre, they were capable of quite suddenly shifting gears and evoking more restful joy. Towards the end of the set, front-man Remington Leith descended deep into the crowd and asked everyone to sit down, as he crooned the soft beats of one of Ma Chérie, one of their more melodic numbers. It was a strange oasis of calm contemplation during an otherwise crazy night.
The theme of love and kindness to all that had been built by the support was still present here: Remington repeatedly thanked the crowd and his fellow band members, tearfully remarking at one point “I’m not crying, you’re crying!”. Despite the cancellation of their Glasgow show just a couple of days before, it is very clear that Palaye Royale put the safety of their fans first, with guitarist Sebastian Danzig carefully attending to the needs and well-being of the audience, distributing water and keeping an eye out for injured audience members – stopping a song mid-way through and calling for security when needed.
Of course the band was straight back to chaotic form outside of these short interventions, the energy of the crowd could only be contained for so long after all, and Remington and Sebastian were back to jumping around the stage as the crowd screamed for more. So crazed was the atmosphere, that at one point Remington actually scaled the walls, climbing his way into the balconies above the house, to meet his adoring fans. The energy only really got higher from there, until the band played the last bars of How Do You Do?, and bid the fans adieu before coming back for the encore.
Rounding it off with Mr. Doctor Man and Get Higher, the show might have been over but its emotional impact will live on in their fans hearts for quite some time to come.
Palaye Royale with Charming Liars and Counterfeit
O2 Shepherds Bush Empire, London
Review by Deus Kane, photos by Gili Dailes