Tonight does not start all too promisingly. There are rumours that Ms. Foxes herself, Louisa Rose Allen, is so skittishly nervous about tomorrow’s London show, at the 2,500 capacity Roundhouse, that she wants to cancel tonight. A casual glance over the crowd gives the impression that they are not the types to riot if denied their Foxes-fix, but hopefully it will not come to that. Before an absence pop-songstress can provoke civil unrest there are the support acts. Due to a mistimed bus this intrepid rock journalist only caught the tail end of pop troubadour JACK WILLS’ last song (‘Aeroplanes’), a singalong ‘No Scrubs’-infused acoustic romp that concluded with a cheer-inducing freestyle rap. Wills is notable for being the only musician to wield a guitar onstage tonight, further proving that guitar music is dead.
London-based RIVRS are apparently “part of that young British generation of crossover acts craftily merging sweet pop and future beat”. Simply, they sound a bit like a mix between Bastille and Chvrches, and are pretty great. Their Timbaland-on-a-budget chant-burbling synths and extremely cool, occasionally polyrhymic, live drums make the band sound absolutely massive. Vocalist Charlotte Mallory lends her sultry pipes to the duo’s impressive compositions, including recent single ‘Friend Lover’, and especially striking during an electro pop cover of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘The Chain’ (sadly minus the bass solo). Lacking tasty bass-work aside, RIVRS are rather impressive and ones to watch, though Mallory’s dance moves need some work.
Cloaked in a haze of magenta and to the opening strains of ‘Rise Up’, FOXES arrives, albeit fifteen minutes later than schedule. Nobody cares, its instantly not a problem, especially with the nuggets of pop joy that are unfurled in quick succession: ‘Body Talk’, ‘Holding Out for Heaven’ and ‘Better Love’, breathtaking. Due her full band accompaniment each song sounds monumental next to the comparatively limp studio iterations. Glorious-era tracks are revised with Allen providing sweet vocal modifications as well as structural and compositional re-jigging – the stately piano intro to ‘Youth’ is genius, if only as it contrasts so completely with the song’s dance-influenced essence. Allen herself is having the time of her life, whether noting how many couples made out during ‘Cruel’, covering Justin Bieber (‘Sorry’) or letting out a carefree chuckle post-‘If You Leave Me Now’.
As is to be expected, most of the set tonight is comprised of recent album All I Need, but there is a complete surprise in the form of previously unavailable album off-cut ‘Light Me Up’, a breathlessly infectious number reminiscent of Tiffany’s ‘I Think We’re Alone Now’. From the piano-led ‘On My Way’ to the stomping ‘Scar’, the setlist comes dangerously close to ballad-overload, robbing the gig of any kind of momentum. The red-mist assisted ‘Devil’s Side’ leading into ‘Glorious’ briefly feels like one “slow-one” too many but thankfully the latter has been upgraded with two additional choruses making the song’s already sizeable denouement sound enormous. For a brief moment amid the massive swathes of lovely bubblegum noise of ‘Glorious”s refrains one is seemingly transported to a venue, way bigger than the 500 capacity Library, where Foxes is absolutely killing it.
Her encore comprises of a heart-stopping rendition of breakthrough Zedd-produced hit ‘Clarity’, and the ‘Holding Out for a Hero’-aping ‘Let’s Go for Tonight’, its coda’s half-time drums hammering home the final singalong chorus of the night. The crowd, formerly nonplussed, lose their collective shit for this double-header, the venue finally shaking as per Allen’s previous requests. Despite the ominous pre-gig chatter, no one need to have worried. By the same measure, Foxes need not worry about impressing at the Roundhouse tomorrow night – nothing can stop her now.