I’ve got a car with a little button that changes the way it behaves – from ‘Sport’ at one end through ‘Comfort’, to ‘Eco’ at the other. Drive it on either of the extremes and you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s two different vehicles. I’m reminded of the little button tonight in the welcoming environment of the O2 Shepherds Bush Empire, whilst watching Kettering three-piece Temples.
The band are undeniably retro, their three albums to date evoking the vibe of a time when men were still learning how to land on the moon. Whilst on record their sound has remained fairly consistent, in the live context they really mix it up – one minute ‘Eco’ (the jingle-jangle pop of Colours To Life or Shelter Song), the next ‘Sport’ (heavy riffing guitars in Holy Horses or dark, brooding keyboards in The Golden Throne). When frontman James Bagshaw isn’t drawing breath, extended proggy, psychedelic instrumental sections abound.
Bagshaw is a willowy figure dressed in a rather smart two-piece plum coloured suit. Give him a top hat and a cane and he’d pass for Willy Wonka. His tightly curled mop of hair is undeniably Bolanesque, though whether that’s by design or accident I do now know. What I do know is that when he was backlit, he looked like a peacock mid-display. A few songs in, he told the crowd that they’re the quietest they’ve ever had. Regardless of whether he meant it, or whether it’s a stock line, it had the desired effect. An immediate roar went up and the isolated goons down the front that had hitherto been filming the show for strictly their own entertainment put their phones away.
When the band played Hot Motion, title track from the new record, the audience viewed it as an instruction. Pint glasses flew and a few sets of feet appeared no longer to be in contact with terra firma. It’s safe to say the fanbase have embraced the new material.
Bagshaw didn’t say a great deal else to the crowd, other than to introduce some of the songs and he did that in a way that didn’t take a lot of thinking about. “It will come as no surprise this next song is about horses” (Holy Horses); “I’ve got one little statement to make here. When you put it in context it makes sense. Vote Labour” (Context); “For this one we need the lights down much lower. Can we turn the fire exit signs off too?” (Keep It In The Dark).
Any lack of imagination in the intros though was more than made up for in the lightshow, which was excellent and highly inventive throughout. The very enjoyable fourteen-song main set whizzed by all too quickly.
The band came back out to play Mesmerise, a cut from debut album Sun Structures and the audience demonstrated their appreciation of the old stuff too by going suitably bonkers. Members of the support band Anni B Sweet joined Temples on stage for some gyrations, though there’s only so much you can do with a tambourine and the length of the extended instrumental breakout resulted in them eventually looking somewhat out of place – a bit like that taxi driver who inadvertently ended up being interviewed live on BBC News 24 by mistake.
Bagshaw finished the show staring at the ceiling of the auditorium whilst being held aloft by the adoring faithful – a fitting way to finish the UK leg of the tour. It must really suck to be a rock star.
Temples at O2 Shepherds Bush Empire – review and photography by Simon Reed. Simon has his own music photography site: www.musicalpictures.co.uk