With an album that’s gone top 10 pretty much everywhere that matters, several Glastonbury appearances (including showing up during Primal Scream’s set at Bobby’s request) and somewhat bizarrely a slot on The Andrew Marr Show with Cammo (boo…hiss…he’s behind you etc) in attendance, 2013’s been a pretty good year for Californian sisters Alana, Este and Danielle Haim (FYI it rhymes with ‘time’ not with ‘lame’). It’s not been an overnight thing though. Danielle and Este were in The Valli Girls way, way back in the early noughties before starting Haim in 2006 so they’ve clearly paid their dues.
Before seeing if all this translates to their live show though first up opener Saint Raymond (aka Callum Burrows). He’s apparently had something called an iTunes Single of the Week this year. Not sure who decides that kind of stuff, probably a computer programme somewhere. Anyway he’s also received the attentions of ‘Zane Lowe’ too. Nasty. I’m sure you can get cream for that. Vocally there’s the occasional touch of the Bugg’s about him in places (no surprise as, like young Jake, he also hails from Nottingham…clearly something of a breeding ground for hip guitar toting dudes). He’s a likeable enough soul with two or three particularly strong tracks, Everything She Wants, Bonfires and Young Blood (due for release in early 2014) which has a decent shouty chorus and a vaguely Vampire Weekend-ish feel that you can see going down well with the crowds at V…when they’re not throwing pints of piss at each other that is.
I’d underestimated how popular Haim had become. Their appearance produced the kind of reception normally reserved for visiting deities. One or two of the girls up on the balcony seemed in grave danger of leaping off into the arms of their heroines…a pretty appropriate reaction really considering the first number was Falling. One thing you quickly notice about Haim is that the vocals are a lot rawer live than on record. That’s actually no bad thing as the second thing you notice about Haim is that these girls can really play. If that sounds a little patronising it’s not meant to be. Watch the video for Falling though and there’s zero evidence that they can do anything other than flick their hair around sexily and wear hot pants. In reality the three of them can…cue review cliché…’really rock’…ahem. Danielle (Rock Haim) in particular could well have slotted right into Joan Jett & The Blackhearts and it’s pretty clear she’s the driving force behind a lot of tonight’s best moments. And there were a heck of a lot of them. Falling, classic 80s sounding power pop, is followed up by The Wire with more of a new wave feel. Not for the first time all three share vocal duties and although they all have their own distinct sound they can still bring the kind of harmony that only comes from having inhabited the same womb at some point.
Ignore anyone who says Haim are like Fleetwood Mac. They know not of what they speak. If you’re looking for influences Pat Benatar meets Wilson Phillips is perhaps a lot nearer the mark. Of course they give the Fleetwood Mac crew some ammo by covering Oh Well, although that sounds bugger all like the Fleetwood Mac that most people know and love. It’s a ruddy good cover too, dirty primal blues delivered with a menacing swagger. Baby Haim (Alana) is on vocal duties for this one, “I can’t sing, I ain’t pretty and my legs are thin” she sneers, gesticulating at a shapely pair of pins. Oh well (as it were) she got one of ‘em right.
“Let’s go fucking crazy guys, I want to see you go nuts” yells Este, as if the capacity crowd needed any encouragement. Honey and I and Go Slow pass by pleasantly enough but it’s My Song 5 that reignited the night, adding a mental dubsteppy element underneath Danielle’s punk blues riffs. Listen to this and you can hear something fresh developing, whether they choose to follow that path is up to them but dubstep blues rock…now that’s a concept.
“You’re the best people eva” shouts Este. Awww bless. We try. The crowd’s ongoing rapture is rewarded by Don’t Save Me which get’s the biggest reception of the night so far. A bouncing Baby Haim seems as excited as the audience. Again this version fizzes with an energy that’s possibly understated on the record, Danielle’s choppy guitar playing in particular lifts it out of comfortable MOR territory. Just in case they were in need of some energy after that someone throws a sweet on the stage and Este bravely/unwisely pops it in her mouth and eats it. Let’s hope the hand dryers in the loos were working tonight eh? Urgggh. Forever ramps up the atmosphere another notch with Danielle in particularly throaty form. The band asks for the lights to be turned up and a thousand hands are in the air. For some this is clearly the ‘Haim’ of their lives.
Encores of Running If You Call My Name and Let Me Go finished things off and not even a brief fight in the crowd (swiftly diffused by one of the meanest looking bouncers you’d ever want to mess with) could darken the mood.
I expected this to be a decent show, they’ve got some classic pop songs in their belts, they look good and they’ve got that close knot gang mentality that all great bands have at one time or another. But I wasn’t expecting the degree of musicianship, the energy (both given and reciprocated) and the rawer feel that many of the tracks have in their live form. Whether they choose to continue down the radio friendly unit shifter route or go all death metal on our ass (seriously, I can actually see them doing something much, much heavier at some point) is up to them…only Haim will tell. For now though ‘Falling’ in love with this band’s just too damn easy.