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December 10, 2013 6:09 pm
Haim’s music is poised and bright, a pitch-perfect evocation of 1970s/80s west coast soft-rock, with the odd contemporary resonance thrown in to show that the three Californian sisters who comprise the band are actually in their twenties.
I find it hard to warm towards their immaculately produced Fleetwood Mac routines – but others don’t. Their debut album Days Are Gone has topped the UK chart and reached number six in the US. The Forum was heaving on the first of two sold-out nights, the audience taking over lead vocals on “Forever” and cheering each sister as they sang their parts in “The Wire”. Lack of warmth wasn’t a problem; at least not until Este Haim complained that her clothes were too warm amid the fug.
Este (bass) and her siblings Danielle (lead guitar) and Alana (rhythm guitar and keyboards) stood along the front of the stage, two men in the shadows behind them on drums and keyboards. They opened with “Falling”. On record the song is a controlled account of a relationship breaking up, clattering percussion and darting guitar riffs dramatising a desire for escape: it’s one of their more vibrant tracks. But live it merely sounded muddy and thudding. A large chasm yawned between the precise and polished studio band and the quintet on stage.
Things perked up a bit with “The Wire”, despite the song borrowing its stomping drums from The Eagles’ 1979 hit “Heartache Tonight”. The Eagles! The young women of Haim were meddling with some dangerous MOR voodoo here. But then they upped the ante with a storming cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Oh Well”, a relic from the Mac’s 1960s blues-rock origins. Danielle played electrifying solos, Este pulled rock-star poses on bass while Alana whacked a kettle drum and vamped up the vocals. Finally Haim – the sisters’ surname is Hebrew for “life” – came alive themselves.
The rest of the set foraged around the less retro aspects of their sound. “Go Slow” was a moody ballad in the style of The XX – although again clumsier than the studio version – while “My Song 5” blended to better effect breathy R&B vocals, rumbling bass and a jagged riff reminiscent of Beck. It was as though the band were grappling with the bloodless studio version of themselves – a see-sawing battle that ultimately tipped in the gig’s favour with a raw, rocking version of “Let Me Go”, climaxing with the three sisters hammering a samba beat on three sets of drums.
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