Reviewed Friday September 6
“You can get undressed too, if you like!” Isabella Manfredi is every bit the lead lady that we’ve all aspired to be, in our bedrooms armed with a hairbrush. Tonight, the real deal is decked out in a cheeky smirk, white-distressed denim and a shirt free of political commentary, because the only votes that matter tonight are the audience’s… for a sold-out show.
The Jones Rival were first up, bouncing drum grooves and surf rock beats around the walls of Oxford Arts. Husky and animated vocals were interchanged, woven into rich harmonies. Call-and-response with the infectious guitar licks provided maximum foot-tappability. Also, props to having a tambourinist – it gives musical muggles hope.
Next, Chela. Not to be confused with Hellyeah, which is what everyone was thinking. Flanked by a synth-soaking keyboardist and a guitarist with a foot planted on reverb, the pop gem shrugged off overused electro tendencies with a strapping dance-inducing set of ditties that nodded to Grimes and fist-pumped with M.I.A. Flirting with inflections of punk and psychedelia, she collided sample beats with a light, organic vocal.
“If you own the night, I’m gonna get you”. This sharp warning in opener ‘Manic Baby’ was the superglue to the title of ‘golden band’ that has been hovering over The Preatures since their new EP Is This How You Feel? had the world finally catch on. Manfredi’s raw vocal pierced the crowd as she stood, feet planted and eyes vacant, pouring out melodic treasures with the tenderness of Stevie Nicks and the grunge of an ’80s garage band. Tracks from the five-piece’s debut EP Shaking Hands showcased the soul-heavy vocals of Gideon Bensen. Darting between slower numbers with muted percussive riffs, and faster songs, they finally whipped out the Pitchfork-endorsed ‘Is This How You Feel?’, the hook meeting the audience like a defibrillator and sending all into a frenzy. It’s fair to say any remaining dance dignity was lost, with gyrating and hip-swaying liberal across the floor.
This slow burn towards the hit single appeared triumphant… right until the band made an unexpected return (hadn’t they just ended the suspense?) for two encore songs; the last, ‘Pale Rider’, pitted with several decrescendos that closed proceedings on a downer. Manfredi’s frustrated “Come on guys!” was a reminder that even the most relished slow burner recipes can leave a bitter burnt taste if left on the stove for too long.