On home turf, Bear’s Den showcase their folk-rooted sounds at a sold out Hammersmith Apollo.
Brief and honourable mention to enigmatic support act Seramic. With his abundance of soul and questionable dance moves, he and his eclectic band put on an almost show-stealing funk-filled display. If Jack Garratt and D’Angelo somehow had a lovechild that lovechild would be Seramic. Or if Chet Faker was a Russian doll, Seramic would be one of the pieces inside.
However, the night belonged to Bear’s Den. Recently reduced to two hairy mammals, Andrew Davie and Kevin Jones, but surrounded by four talented multi-instrumentalists, they utilized atmospheric 2016 album, Red Earth & Pouring Rain as the gigs’ centre-piece. With its brooding electric feel filling the vast venue, the title track was an apt opener, and songs like Emeralds and Auld Wives entrancingly emanated throughout the Eventim Apollo.
The band aired December’s stand-alone single, Berlin, and Bear’s Den loyalists will welcome the return to the sound of superb debut, Islands, as a banjo-orientated number. Largely neglected on Red Earth & Pouring Rain, dropped completely by folk titans Mumford & Sons for their most recent effort, the pleasurable plucking on Berlin, Isaac and New Jerusalem prove it’s an instrument not limited to buck-toothed, tobacco-chewing, dungaree-sporting hillbillies utilizing their extra fingers to best effect.
Frontman, Davie’s lyrics and honest vocals give the impression that he’s both a hopeless romantic and that he’s had his heart ripped out of his chest, put through a shredder and then fed to ravenous dogs, such are the tragic words that are even more heartbreaking when heard in person. This allows emotionally-charged sing-a-longs to Above the Clouds of Pompeii and Stubborn Beast, and builds to a riotous set-stealing When You Break. While we are treated to a fair share of the new album, it’s this material from Islands that is best received by the London crowd.
Davie was visibly overwhelmed by the deafening ovation that welcomed the band back onto the stage for their encore. Lost for words, a stripped-back rendition of Bad Blood minus microphones completely reduced the 5,000 strong crowd to silence. A rousing finale of very first single, the now-anthemic Agape, concluded a triumphant evening before the Bear’s retreated into hibernation, ending their biggest British tour to date.
I spoke to Bear’s Den back in November, you can hear that interview and see that awful photo here: