Author: jamesoliverwest

As year's go, Matthew E White's 2013 has already been pretty special. After all, debut album, 'Big Inner', received a near-unanimous tip of the hat upon worldwide-release in January and now his European Tour is capped with this, his biggest headline show to date.

With that in mind, you'd expect the whirlwind of emphatic reviews and globe-trotting to leave him visibly stoked and such glee is predictably wiped across his bearded face during opener 'Will You Love Me'; a hairy perma-grin and poked tongue greeting its brassy, feel good refrain. Sadly, his hoarse whisper throughout the leisurely, Randy Newman-ish verses doesn't entirely fill the big room, but the musicianship is so slickly gripping it more than makes up for it – him and his band displaying the sort of virtuosity that you'd imagine plays on loop during Jools Holland's dribbliest slumbers.

If it wasn't sonically obvious from the off though, the sound in the Queen Elizabeth Hall is suitably excellent from then on and his self-proclaimed "mover and shaker", 'Big Love', even pulls a fair majority of seated-onlookers to their feet - such is its praise-worthy, gospel-tinged groove and impeccable, record-quality execution. The honky tonk licks and rumbling conga that hurtle towards its climax even provoke an overzealous cluster to run to the front flailing their arms, as if the host is orchestrating one of those barmy, Pentecostal spasm sessions.  "I am a hurricane,” he then repeats, as the visceral, improv jam reaches fever pitch, with a face-distorting gust of trumpet and caterwauling slide guitar.

After a heart (and throat) warming ‘Hot Toddies’, they conclude with the percussive and epic album finale 'Brazos', which is as face-achingly triumphant a curtain call as could be hoped for, playing out like a fantasy hook-up between Jimmy Cliff and ‘Screamadelica’-era Primal Scream. With one final flourish, a standing ovation and a bow, the vastly talented Virginian vacates - a superb year and suitably superb show to boot.

Minnesota trio Low have long been heralded purveyors of quiet, crawling despondency - miserable precisionists, if you like, who have soundtracked and soothed several generations-worth of melancholy-gripped minds since their early-90s inception. So it's no surprise that this Barbican set - rammed with cuts from new album 'The Invisible Way' - is a masterclass in their much-lauded restraint, sadness and minimalism.

From the off, the whole thing is elegantly mournful; a halted countdown clock on two mirrored projectors (suspended above their trademark primitive setup) is all that awaits the three black-clad figures, as they stroll nonchalantly onto the spacious stage. The pindrop-silence and hushed murmurs are then killed cold by Alan Sparkhawk's delicate intro to 'Plastic Cup', which proves hypnotically reflective, coupled with grainy footage of Ferris Wheels.

It's a tone-setting introduction that only reaches new heights with 'Just Make It Stop'; the song's steady brushed-symbol and Mimi Parker's beautiful, disaffected coo, combining perfectly alongside an array of retina-dazzling mirrorballs.

Applauded back after the equally breath-taking 'So Blue', the gig is hit with a rogue wave of rowdiness; "Thank you so much, we'd love to play some more songs", Sparhawk announces, before a ricochet of heckles attempt to sway his next choice. The following foray into their formative years ('Over The Ocean') and a spine-tingling 'When I Go Deaf' are met with the mute captivation they deserve however, before a rare-airing of their Dirty Three collaboration, 'I Hear... Goodnight', provides a fitting climax. Of course, the encore's utter poignancy only further demonstrates the tight reigns this band have on a room-full of hearts.

If you're not already aware, Clean Bandit are on the brink of the big league. The member-shifting collective are an eclectic, dynamic and surprising pop juggernaut in waiting; the kind that you could loudly foresee filling a Basement Jaxx-shaped hole in years to come, without being accused of doe-eyed hyperbole. After-all, their new single 'Mozart's House' peaked at Number 12 in the UK Singles Chart and tonight's show is their first as headliners; all off the back of a few minor releases and fervent word of mouth.

The early infatuation is totally understandable though, as live they ooze ideas and reek of professionalism, with the cast ever-changing and the hooks dressed up in a melange of weird and wonderful ways. They initially woo with a string of SBTRKT-ish, Makeda Moore-fronted synth bangers, before slowing it down - vocalist Nikki B lending her smooth croon to the throbbing bass of spine-tingling early B-side 'Nightingale', in sync with a backdrop of their artwork's hypnotic, primary coloured shapes. Though, they ramp it back up again with the pulsating and ever-infectious 'A+E', which jerks the room into life; its maudlin string intro is the spark for arm-waving and, then, crowd-directed microphones; a moment of wide-mouthed, electro euphoria that even the Electrowerkz' knackered sound system can't scupper.

If their Classical RNB doesn't already have the room swooning, the arrival of MC Ssegamic and their chart-dwelling new release certainly does. "I don't know, skip a beat,” he bellows into the front row, to a wall of approval; its wonky, orchestral progression igniting the dancefloor alongside brain-warping, Tetris-like graphics.

"This is our first headline gig! We can't leave it like that", he announces, before the band air a taste defying, Dario G cover to close. Of course, 'Sunchyme' feels like shiver-inducing nostalgia for tonight's demographic, evoking all the same fuzziness as the version to be found on a boot fair-flogged Now 38 cassette. They depart, without encore – much to the baying crowd’s frustration – but, nonetheless, it’s a short and tantalising showcase from a band that seem to be irrepressibly shooting skywards.

Such is the steep, climbing trajectory of Surrey siblings Disclosure, this date at London’s Heaven already feels like a booking they’ve somewhat outgrown. Fans of the duo’s futuristic, balearic-tinged house spill out of every orifice of the chock-full Villiers Street superclub; preened, keen and dressed to the nines. They’re the lucky few. Many have tried and failed to be here this evening and so, if it wasn’t predictable enough from their inescapable approval and elevated chart position (the Lawrence brothers and AlunaGeorge currently sit in the Official UK Top 10), tonight feels like an event of weighty anticipation.

Not that this sense of occasion fazes exceptional new London collective Clean Bandit. Initially lining-up as a glitter-clad, six-piece tonight - with Nikki B and Makeda Moore providing a slew of smooth, soulful runs - they enthral throughout; swaying in sync during the pounding electronica of ‘Nightingale’, before inciting the crowd with ‘A+E’(s) contagious, chamber-electro chorus. However, their set hits new heights with the arrival of gold-hooded rapper, MC Ssegamic, who is charisma personified, mocking the movements of a baton-wielding conductor during the giddy, orchestral bliss of ‘Mozart’s House’. “We can’t leave London like this! Let’s drop a classic”, he says, before they send the converted attendance into ecstasy with a thrilling, Coolio/Destiny’s Child mash-up. The new Basement Jaxx, some say? Undoubtedly.

It could be a tricky support slot to follow, but Disclosure are far from knob-twiddling dullards; their forthcoming LP-heavy set is an immersive electronic experience from the off, with the two-piece flitting between drum pads, bass and synths on impulse. It takes the unveiling of EP favourite ‘Boiling’ to really ignite proceedings, the track’s honeyed, neo-soul and throaty bass proving irresistible amidst the darting strobes. However, the reaction is tame compared to what follows; the twosome play their trump card by welcoming the hypnotic Aluna Francis to join them for the electrifying, and chart-topping, ‘White Noise’, before launching into the skittery patches and spliced vocals of ‘What’s In Your Head’. It’s an exhilarating double, followed by their dancefloor-unifying remix of Jessie Ware's ‘Running’; the sold-out crowd's unanimous euphoria proving that it really has taken on a life of its own since its B-side release early last year. Duly, they complete a captivating set with the magnificent ‘Latch’, dangling it’s sampled “Ne-ver”(s) in front of the hordes, prior to greeting the silk-voiced Sam Smith on stage. “Now I got you in my space, I won’t let go of you” he cries, in front of a backdrop of their soon-to-be-iconic, neon faces; it’s a DJ’s motto if ever we’ve heard one, and one that they undeniably uphold.

It is desperately trying to snow in Soho tonight and there’s an insistent, nipping wind on the corner where Manette Street meets the Orange Yard, so the hazy glow of The Borderline promises to be something of a warm sanctuary. Warm in the sense that it is a heated premises of course, with two walls worth of body-warming beverages, but also in the sense that it’s the setting for a cosy reunion between capital-dwelling newcomers Night Engine and their dearest hometown support after a string of countrywide academy dates with Leodiensians the Kaiser Chiefs. Needless to say, the atmosphere is sweaty and celebratory; a triumphant homecoming of sorts that is only fuelled further by the arrival of devotion demanding, Leamington Spa duo Coves.

Swerving the more common tropes of the inescapable psych revival, John Ridgard and Beck Wood appear to be reimagining ‘The Velvet Underground & Nico’ through their very own staunch, and universal, pop aesthetic. It’s an instantaneous fusion and it only takes a few seconds of ‘Run With Me’(s) clattering tambourine and evocative guitar stabs to be hooked; the brash, snarling refrain and gauze-cloaked chords coming over like a sexier, less sedate spin on The xx’s adoration-winning formula. There’s also something very alluring and sultry about the breathy vocals and vivacious delivery of Wood, particularly on debut EP closer ‘Fall Out Of Love’, where the boy-girl duo sound like Summer Camp taking a skinny dip in Kevin Shields’s lush, fuzz-drenched noise. They also air the sleek, Lana Del Rey-meets-Goldfrapp rock of new single ‘Last Desire’, which is the precise point Who's Jack decides this is better than hype; it’s the emergence of a moon-bound twosome (who’ll probably make a killing from hair gel adverts along the way).

Of course, the four-piece they support tonight are no stranger themselves to the H-word, after being continuously tipped ever since their inaugural Bowie-ish demo ‘I'll Make It Worth Your While’ surfaced online last September. The wheels are still very much in motion, however; the audience is in fact almost triple the size since we last saw them open Huw Stephens’ night at The Social. They’ve also picked up a few live tricks from the support slots in place of the now sadly defunct Race Horses the week previous, with the aforementioned demo now sounding tightly road-established; a perfectly executed, rip-roarious opener. Rouge-topped frontman Phil McDonnell also seems to be honing his onstage charisma as well, triggering amusement with an impromptu snippet from the Hollyoaks theme tune; “Do you like that?”, he barks, prior to the gang vocals and spiky Television-ish guitar of brand spanker ‘Bright Light’. This new cut also sees him strut and gurn like some sort of bumbling Jarvis Cocker/Marc Bolan hybrid, fitting seen as the vintage synth settings throughout evoke those used on the latter’s androgynous masterpiece ‘Dreamy Lady’. If there’s any doubt that this is the place to be tonight – our Twitter timeline is, after all, bulging with dissection of tonight’s main event: The Brits – the Franz-isms of recent single ‘Seventeen’ are aired to dizzying elation. It’s a timely calendar clash considering this is exactly the type of contagious, three-minute burst that could crossover onto our national pop platform next time around.