Riffs: The Portland Arms probably hasn’t seen as many gurn-inducing riffs as it did on Thursday night for a very long time. Arcane Roots are currently on their biggest tour ever, appropriately dubbed the ‘megataurus rex’, and came to Cambridge with support from the equally eminent Black Peaks and Gallery Circus.
Despite the fairly sparse crowd, Gallery Circus opened with hugely endearing vigour, and quickly exploded into a remarkable set. The Geordie twins made the stage look inadequate, frantically jittering from one corner to the other, while thoroughly unpredictable and intriguing sounds blasted from the brothers’ respective weapons. Literally stand-up drumming twinned with futuristic rock n’ roll-esque guitar riffs made for a captivating show that intensified exponentially. The beaming pair announced their departure with one final show of their almost unparalleled on-stage chemistry, the final song featuring – not for the first time – their mastery of the stop/start antics that so many would find near impossible.
Black Peaks have experienced something of a meteoric rise of late, and are making several festival appearances this summer, which will only improve their chances of blowing the heads off as many people as possible. Head-banging is nigh on impossible to avoid while watching these guys. Gargantuan bass lines command the sound, while brutally powerful drums, furiously heavy guitar and a scream that makes Roger Daltry sound like a gurgling baby, make for a colossal show. New song ‘Set In Stone’ is particularly impressive, with front-man Will Gardner ominously staring above our heads before erupting into another almost overwhelmingly deafening scream. The inescapable prowess of these Brighton boys is astonishing during their closing track and main single ‘Glass Built Castles’. If you want to witness god-like power in musical form, go and see these guys, you won’t regret it.
As Arcane Roots take the stage in front of a now adequately warmed up crowd, the realisation that the quality of the evening can still get better is a heavenly one. Starting off with the first single from their 2013 album ‘Blood & Chemistry’, ‘Slow’ is an instantly recognisable opener that immerses you in their complex and intense sound from the very first chord. Despite it’s evident intricacy, the performance is flawless, and we are quickly escorted into ‘Sacred Shapes’. Immaculate pinch harmonics bring a well-deserved smile to lead-guitarist and vocalist Andrew Groves, who was clearly having an awful lot of fun, and his ensuing burst of rock-fuelled energy transfers that fun into the already gleeful audience.
‘Over and Over’ comes next, their most recent release from last year, the crowd bounces along with it’s massively sing-a-longable chorus and infectious verse riff, exhibiting the Surrey three piece’s song writing ability brilliantly. A modest build up leads into ‘Energy Is Never Lost, Just Redirected’, the opening track from ‘Blood and Chemistry’, and is followed by another bafflingly energetic yet faultless performance. Those of us in the room who have waited patiently over the last year were excited to say the least by the next track, a new song entitled ‘Leaving’ that will be on their next record due out this September. Featuring typically divine riffs, and some quite ridiculously huge soaring vocals, this song goes down as well as the band could have hoped, and left us all wishing away the months between now and September.
A mesmerising delay-guitar interlude makes way for ‘Resolve’, which is then followed appreciably by ‘Left Fire’ stalwart ‘Million Dollar Question’, which is closed out with something reminiscent of a Muse post-‘Stockholm Syndrome’ riff extravaganza. A rare slower moment is brought on by the intro to ‘Hell and High Water’, which exhibits some of the skill and raw power of stand in Jack Wrench (In Dynamics), who is replacing usual drummer Daryl Atkins. Another new song ‘If Nothing Breaks Us, Nothing Moves’ – due to be released as a single in the coming weeks – arrives next. Groves humbly announces how much he’s enjoying himself – “it feels like I’m playing to family” – before unleashing this provocatively catchy tune that begs the audience to bounce along. The unmistakable drum and bass combination of ‘You Are’ tragically signals the final song of the set, with Adam Burton’s perhaps sometimes overlooked bass virtuosity taking centre stage. The haunting guitar tapping of this songs’ intro is just magical, and is one of many reasons why this song is such a fan favourite. The baying crowd bellows out the final few lines with Groves before the last big chords are played and the night is done.
The musical ability on show was just awe-inspiring. All three of these bands deserve recognition far beyond that which they are receiving currently, and I sincerely hope that more people are at some point in their lives privileged enough to be able to see any or all of them with their own eyes.