The Paper Kites Bloom In Kentish Town

The O2 Forum Kentish Town is unexpectedly packed for a Tuesday night, even to the point where the secret balcony standing area and boxes have been opened. While The Paper Kites have won fans for over a decade for their warm and intimate take on indie folk, with the seed of their success planted in their native Australia and spreading across the world, it’s mostly the Americana scene in the UK which has embraced their sound. This could be the night where all that changes. As vocalist Sam Bentley points out, this is their biggest show to date in their career.

The Paper Kites @ Kentish Town Forum

The Paper Kites @ Kentish Town Forum (Daniel Caceiro)
The Paper Kites @ Kentish Town Forum (Daniel Caceiro)

They accomplish a lot in their show of two halves, to put it mildly. From the second the dim lanterns rise behind the eight musicians precisely spread across the Forum stage, a hush instantly falls. They build an atmosphere of watching fireflies on a church porch in an imaginary village somewhere in the nostalgic south, the lap steel slowly bursting into the crescendo of Between The Houses. The heavier bass tones of Till The Flame Turns Blue creates an enduring elegance which endearingly misses steps as it sways into your mind. Bentley’s a very understated frontman, and speaks in a matter-of-fact tone between songs. Usually, The Paper Kites are a five piece, he explains, but tonight they’ve recreated their Roadhouse Band, formed when they took over a ‘ramshackle venue’ in small town for a month to record their most recent album. Hurt So Good is wistful and seasoned with sunlight, its eerie lushness cut through with banjo, but it’s their more melancholy tracks which have drawn the crowds tonight. “We have a lot of very sad people that come to our shows,” remarks Bentley, “[and a] lot of couples, a lot of lovers come to our shows.” It’s easy to see why a song like Nothing More Than That attracts such an audience, with it’s colder duet adding haunting layers to an already ethereal melody.

At the halfway point of the show, the lights dim and the Melbourne-hailing troupe abandon their instruments. They cluster round a solitary mic like a bluegrass cliche to deliver their breakout hit Bloom. It’s a touching and personal moment that propels us back to their origins with a rush of luscious vocal harmony, their plaintive hope carried through the whole arena like mist.

“We don’t just play pretty folk songs, we really rock n roll sometimes,” Bentley had explained, and he means it, to a given value of ‘rock n roll’. When the last note of Bloom has faded, the chairs are cleared away with theatrical efficiency and they burst into June’s Stolen Car, all smudged shades of Tom Petty meets Kurt Vile in the murmured vocals and chords that stretch to the sky. Without Your Love’s punchy callbacks are softened by Christina Lacy’s shared vocals and a crashing guitar melody like a landslide, and Good Nights Gone flows like a light cotton take on the Springsteen sound, assertive, wistful and lovely. The Tom Petty influence is deeper than you’d first expect, emerging in the bluesy guitar grooves of Black & Thunder. ‘Any Big Thief fans here tonight?” Bentley asks before leading a full band cover of Anything. As one, we drop into an awed silence, the reverent backing vocals just slightly out of sync before the bass bounces and rolls away into the aural landscape.

The Paper Kites know where their strengths lie as they huddle again around one spotlight and microphone to close on Paint. They want to leave us with a memory that’s gentle, the lonely town that they evoke scaffolded by their own show of unity. The ‘pretty folk songs’ which characterise The Paper Kites’ music are delicate in their loveliness, and we’re left in no doubt that while tonight is their biggest show so far, there’s much larger spaces in their future.

  • The Paper Kites @ Kentish Town Forum
  • The Paper Kites @ Kentish Town Forum
  • The Paper Kites @ Kentish Town Forum
  • The Paper Kites @ Kentish Town Forum
  • The Paper Kites @ Kentish Town Forum
  • The Paper Kites @ Kentish Town Forum
  • The Paper Kites @ Kentish Town Forum
  • The Paper Kites @ Kentish Town Forum
  • The Paper Kites @ Kentish Town Forum
  • The Paper Kites @ Kentish Town Forum
  • The Paper Kites @ Kentish Town Forum
  • The Paper Kites @ Kentish Town Forum
  • The Paper Kites @ Kentish Town Forum
  • The Paper Kites @ Kentish Town Forum
  • The Paper Kites @ Kentish Town Forum
  • The Paper Kites @ Kentish Town Forum
  • The Paper Kites @ Kentish Town Forum
  • The Paper Kites @ Kentish Town Forum
  • The Paper Kites @ Kentish Town Forum
  • The Paper Kites @ Kentish Town Forum

Review of The Paper Kites at the Kentish Town Forum on 1st May 2024 by Kate Allvey, photography by Daniel Caceiro.

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