It’s not very often you see a gig where the band’s frontman spends the majority of the first few songs with his back to the audience, but in Car Seat Headrest’s case we’re happy to make the exception.
Entering out to a packed London crowd in the O2 Forum Kentish Town, Will Toledo and his bandmates immediately set about creating an atmospheric mood with hissing feedback through their amps punctuated by the odd crashing chord.
It was a fitting move for a band that have prided themselves on a DIY approach and demonstrated how well they know their rig as they teased wailing note after wailing note from their amps before launching into hit song ‘Fill In The Blank’.
The choice of opening song was an unexpected one considering the majority of their sets have opened with the slow build-up of ‘Vincent’ until now, but it proved a success as it got spectators in the pit immediately thrashing about to the catchy riffs and sing-a-long chorus.
Giving the audience a chance to breath after such an electrifying opener, Toledo then began to croon the melancholic, prom-esque ‘Maud Gone’ before again ramping things up with the superb ‘Destroyed By Hippie Powers.’
The changes of pace became a theme for the night as they interspersed their louder, catchier hits like ‘Unforgiving Girl’ with tunes like ‘Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales’ or ‘Joe Gets Kicked Out Of School’ with their quieter verses escalated into booming crescendos.
After touring around the globe for months previously, Toledo humorously hinted how tired the band were, particularly having performed the same songs almost every night. Thankfully for the crowd, this was a band with a back catalogue that meant they didn’t need to leap across the stage as they efficiently bashed out hit after hit.
There was even room for a few surprises along the way, as they launched early-on into a cover of James Brown’s ‘I Don’t Mind’, with Toledo letting loose with an incredible vocal performance that at times far surpassed even the band’s album recordings.
Even guitarist Ethan Ives got in on the act and showed he has a strong singing voice himself; in fact it wouldn’t be a surprise to hear him in a few songs when they release a new album.
The sound was top notch throughout, with the facilities at the O2 Forum perfect to accommodate both the ear-splitting, fast-paced tunes and more subdued numbers throughout while interspersing ‘Vincent’ with unusual samplings in the intro.
While the band are renowned for songs like ‘Drunk Drivers’ that creep up to a loud sing-along before you’ve even noticed, it was definitely the former species of song that stole the show, with ‘Connect The Dots’/’Gloria’ cover combination for the encore proving a highlight and leaving the crowd thoroughly satisfied with an excellent set. There was even room for new single ‘War Is Coming (If You Want It), which fit in perfectly with the lo-fi aesthetic that characterised the set.
After touring the album for nearly two years, it’s difficult to say how many audiences will get to experience Toledo and co’s back catalogue in this rocky form. But for those lucky hundreds at Kentish Town on a Tuesday night it will live long in the memory.