Photo Credit: @wearepalace
As the nights started to grow darker and colder and the streets of Bristol slowly turned from leafy brown to icy blue, I caught indie four piece Palace on the South West date of their European tour. Having just released their debut album So Long Forever, this band are riding high on the ‘great potential’ buzz that’s been building around them for some time now. After being featured on most major U.K. radio stations and touring almost constantly in the last couple of years, Palace are a relatively new group with an impressively established sound. They brought this to the Bristol date of their tour with an admirable confidence, leaving us all convinced that this is a band who mean business.
People talk a lot about the power of ‘intimate venues’, which is especially true in the case of Bristol’s The Exchange. Hidden behind a tiny coffee shop and bar, the relatively small stage has played host to a wide range of up and coming stars. Nothing adds to the ‘intimate’ feel of a gig like seeing a band set up their own equipment. Usually this is reserved for fresh faced support acts, who give a grand farewell and then skulk back on stage to unplug their instruments. (In fact, this was true of support act Ten Tonnes (real name Ethan Barnett) who as it stands did an excellent job warming the crowd up. While some of his songs aren’t the most sophisticated, Barnett’s set was impressively cohesive – look him up if you can.) It was surprisingly endearing, then, to see Palace up on stage tuning up before their set, even more so because the crowd largely left them to it. This reminded me of how lucky I am to know this band before they’re huge as they inevitably will be. It was also a signpost for the kind of atmosphere in The Exchange for Palace’s gig: inclusive, patient and all in all up for a good time.
When the band came on officially to start their set, they did so with a modest arrogance; this is a group who know they’re on to a winner, that much is clear, but they seem genuinely thankful for the opportunity. In set-opener Head Above The Water, front man Leo Wyndham’s mouth was set in a smirk that fell on the right side of smug so as not to alienate the audience. As he all but grinded against his guitar to the rhythm, it was clear he was enjoying himself as much as the crowd was, which only heightened the mood. From that onto a personal favourite I Want What You Got, I was impressed with how successfully Palace were able to fill the room; the latter track is relatively sparse, favouring little licks and trills rather than a heavy melody, but every note reached the corners of the room. The band have mentioned that they don’t enjoy playing the slower tracks as much, but personally I think that those are the instances in which they shine. My favourite of the night was the bluesy Veins, which gave the other members of the band (Rupert, Will and Matt) a chance to shine.
By song three, the venue was a sweat box. While Leo stripped off layers of clothing on stage, those towards the front of the crowd started to get into it a bit more, especially after they were told “Feel free to move around and shake your hips!” before fan favourite Keep Faith. By the slower Kiloran, the hip swaying on stage was as prominent as ever; the band’s sleeves were rolled up and sweat was dripping everywhere. I should point out at that throughout all of this, Leo kept his beanie securely on his head, even as he looked like he was about to melt.
In Kiloran, which has drawling vocals stretching and scaling different notes, it was clear to the audience how strong Leo’s voice is. Every note was hit, or at least I didn’t notice any mistakes. While this is obviously an excellent thing for the group, it did mean that the overall sound didn’t fluctuate much. In some ways it was as if we were listening to a recording which is a difficult thing sometimes: the vocals were consistently strong, but that meant they were slightly repetitive; maybe a bum note every now and again would have shaken things up.
All in all, this was a confident, consistent display of rich and atmospheric music. While there wasn’t a lot of stage banter thrown around, there was enough to keep us hooked; while it wasn’t the wildest gig I’ve been to, it was steadily engaging, especially with fan favourites So Long Forever and Bitter, which was the last track. As the indie kids of today try to survive in a post-Maccabees world, Palace might just be the answer. All I’ll say is that if their live show is their audition, they definitely got the part.