LIVE: The Growlers @ Roundhouse

The Growlers treat London's Roundhouse to a life-affirming love-in with their marathon set
Posted: 26 February 2020 Words: Tom Curtis-Horsfall
The age-old balancing act; once an artist achieves a certain level of mainstream success, appeasing both a die-hard fanbase by playing the ‘older stuff’ as well as engaging fresher faces with more recognisable tracks can prove tricky. It’s hard to please everyone.

The Growlers sought to niftily circumvent this ever-so-common predicament by ousting a support act for their show at London’s Roundhouse, instead performing themselves for what was a marathon 2.5 hour set. And once the curtain drew on their career-spanning set, it proved a welcome tonic.

‘Something, Someone Jr’, the first single and first track from their debut album Are You In Or Out?, felt an apt starting point for a setlist that plucked out some lesser-played gems from their now-extensive back catalog. Though, songs from earlier albums, defined by spooky Balkan-inspired rhythms seemed to bewilder albeit fascinate sections of the Camden crowd.

Under the governance of producer Julian Casablancas, 2016’s City Club saw the Californian five-piece distance themselves from their once-trademark surfy, circus-like sound, instead incorporating thicker grooves and a stylish, even streetwise sheen in terms of production. ‘Night Ride’ and ‘Dope On A Rope’ exemplify this evolution and coupled with singer Brooks Nielsen’s raspy vocals, live it certainly goes some way to replicate that sordid backstreet club ambience.

Speaking of Brooks, nowadays he’s a scintillating frontman; waltzing to and fro, he openly ruminates on tales of parties past and previous excesses, both of which have been replaced by statements of personal progress and gathered wisdom. All the while, his unique Calexican growl (for want of a better expression) switches between incomprehensibility in some moments to clear-as-day hand-raising affirmations in the next - covering The Shirelles ‘Mama Said’ mid-set, for instance, ensured there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.

Through no fault of their own, however, sound production was a tad muddy (as is regularly the case at Roundhouse shows) throughout the first hour which affected the clarity of The Growlers chunky synth-funk rhythm section, but nevertheless didn’t stop feet from shuffling during their 33-song setlist.

‘Love Test’, ‘Someday’, and finale ‘Going Gets Tough’ particularly stand out from a dense but infectiously enjoyable set, and while The Growlers may continue to muse over the pitfalls of monogamy and modern love (as the aforementioned song titles suggest), they at least reiterate that loosening up on a hallowed Friday night is the best remedy to stop taking these relatable struggles too seriously.

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