To Kill A King

support Dancing Years
author TL date 29/03/15 venue Lille Vega, Copenhagen, DEN

British indie-rockers To Kill A King have had good fortune with getting their new single "Love Is Not Control" picked up by the prominent BBC1 radio station of their home country, which gives you the impression that the group is primed to go places on the back of the song's parent album, the group's self-titled sophomore. One place they've already been though is Copenhagen, where we've already reviewed them in support of pop phenomenon Bastille and headlining themselves in an intimate show at Beta. And on both occasions we've been impressed with both their performance and with the material of their former album "Cannibals With Cutlery", so it was never a question whether we would make the trip again to see what they could do in the slightly larger setting of Lille Vega.

All photos in the article credited to philipbh.com

Dancing Years

To support them, To Kill A King have brought along the quintet Dancing Years from their original hometown of Leeds. The group employs keys and violin in addition to your usual drums, bass and guitar, and step on stage in humble fashion, kicking right into their beautifully arranged mixture of chamber rock and folk, which is best - if not quite directly - compared to their countrymen in Dry The River. Their sweater-wearing frontman sings with an absolutely pristine tone of voice, full of melancholy and yearning, and the crowd is quickly brought to complete silence by songs where each instrument is carefully placed in measured progressions. The drummer strikes a cymbal with one of his brushes and we clearly appreciate the full ring of the instrument, before either the violin or the vocals are up for a line in the lead, while the remaining guitar, bass and keys weave intricate sonic tapestries to lift each composition.

After a couple of songs, cheekily instigated with counting in Danish "1, 2, 3, 4" and closed with "tak", the band takes a break to offer us a modest thanks for our attendance. This breaks the enchantment, and chatter breaks out as the guitars commence the quiet intro to the next song, yet as soon as the vocals come in, people once more fall silent, recognising that here's something worth really listening to. The highlights arrive in form of "Places We've Roamed" and "Here's To My Old Friends", and particularly the latter sends chills down spines when the singer lets his pained facial expression be reflected in a more raw shout at the song's climax, before the violins take over for the piano in a weeping pattern and the drumming intensifies. The band has a limited song catalogue for the time being, so they play us a fine cover of Broken Social Scene's "Anthems For A Seventeen Year Old Girl" before closing the set with their busiest song, where the keys play what sounds like both bass and cello notes, while two guitars are also in use, which regrettably drowns out the brilliant precision that's otherwise characterised the listening experience throughout the half hour. That being said, Dancing Years did well. Really well. You imagine that over a longer set, a slightly more confident appearance and some surprises thrown into their mostly very regimented approach, would definitely do wonders, but for the time being, we're left with a clear desire to hear more from the band.

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To Kill A King

When it becomes time for To Kill A King to come on, a modest Sunday crowd has grown to make Lille Vega look about half-full, yet almost immediately a problem arises with frontman Ralph Pelleymounter's in-ear system, prompting him to tear it off and hand it over to a crew member for a repair attempt. Except for the singer being noticeably preoccupied with the problem, the band plays its first couple of songs tightly regardless, and Pelleymounter finds time - between gesture-communicating with the crew on the side - to also step forward past the monitors to both sing on point and solicit response singing from the audience. "Oh passion" we're expected to respond to "Funeral", and so we do, and with Pelleymounter's in-ears brought back in order, the show hurdles its starting difficulties with barely a hitch.

The first half of the set is dedicated to the band's more electric output, most of which comes from the new album. The additional instrumentation on the albums, such as horns, are replaced here by Ben Jackson's keyboard and all members of the band contribute expertly to the frequent vocal harmonies. It shows that the guys enjoy performing the new material, and Pelleymounter, in particular, looks like he's enjoying cranking his various quirky parts out of his electric. And there are enough of such to keep things interesting, although it feels like both the curious ideas and the elaborate lyrics are a bit restrained in keeping up with the tight momentum at times, despite Pelleymounter's characteristically expressive singing style.

In his charming manner Pelleymounter meets the band at eye-level however, and ensures that tonight's guests have a good time, and it does not take long before there's generous applause and satisfied grooving to the tunes to be seen throughout the venue. The band's potential for magic is only glimpsed though, in the better cuts from "Cannibals With Cutlery", namely "I Work Nights And You Work Days", "Cold Skin" and the penultimate song in the regular set, "Choices". Joined by Dancing Years' singer and violinist, the song holds us hostage with its perfect trade-off between warm vocal lines and catchy acoustic melody, and the guest musicians contribute seamlessly, lifting the song towards its contagious bridge section which naturally ends with the audience joining in on both the words and the "uuuh-uuuh" vocalising.

At this point it's fine that we also get "Oh My Love", then a break and then "Cannibals With Cutlery", "Fictional State" and "Love Is Not Control" - mind you after Pelleymounter has responded in good humour to an out of the blue request to take his **** out, promising to do so on an eventual tour for the band's fifth album. Overall the show is the sort of experience where you feel like the band is well-prepared and has every intention of making sure the audience has a good time, and you can hear how the newer, louder songs can likely come across easier, as the band continues to grow towards bigger stages and audiences. Still though, it's also clear that the magic isn't quite the same as in the deft, acoustically-driven songs of To Kill A King's debut, and especially the absense of "Gasp / The Reflex" is a shame. It is probably fair however, to mark this a trifle, especially considering how the time spent with the band disappears pleasantly and swiftly, spared any of the noticeably distracting drawbacks that tend to mess with the impression of a lot of concerts.

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Setlist:

  • 1. Grace At A Party
  • 2. Funeral
  • 3. School Yard Rumours
  • 4. The Chancer
  • 5. Howling
  • 6. Compare Scars
  • 7. Friends
  • 8. I Work Nights And You Work Days
  • 9. Cold Skin
  • 10. Musicians Like Gamblers Like Drunks Like Me
  • 11. Good Times (A Rake's Progress)
  • 12. World Of Joy (A List Of Things To Do)
  • 13. Choices (with Dancing Years)
  • 14. Oh My Love

Encore

  • 15. Cannibals With Cutlery
  • 16. Fictional State
  • 17. Love Is Not Control

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