Friendly Fires, playing their second U.S. date (first being Saturday at Santos Party House) to a half-full Mercury Lounge crowd, know how to translate the percussion-heavy sound of their records to the stage. Bassist Jack Savidge also manned a second drum kit; Edd Gibson thrashed around with his guitar like a young Andy Gill; and singer Ed Macfarlane is the most awesomely spazzy dancer to come from the UK since The Rakes' Alan Donahoe. And a hired gun drummer kept things tight and moving forward.
I just wish they had more quality songs. Apart from "Jump in the Pool," "Paris" and "On Board," the songs were funky but indestinctive and lacking in the kind of hooks that have you heading to the merch table afterwards. (Not that this band, who've yet to release anything in America had anything at all to sell.) It's the opposite problem of Cut Copy, who seem to only be able to write singles but completely drop the ball in the live setting. (I realize I am the minority opinion on this but I am right.)
Maybe Friendly Fires do have the songs and they just didn't play them Monday night. They sure didn't trot out "Photobooth," which is one of their best to date and that I was most looking forward to and seems to be one that could easily make the transition to stage. Or maybe if I'd heard their debut, due out in September on XL, I would've been more taken by it all. The highs were high but the other songs had me checking my watch. In the end I left with a sense of promise not quite yet fulfilled.
One of the highs was "On Board" which I shot most of guerrilla-style: