The last time I saw Palace perform was in The Harley in Sheffield, where the back of the room doubles as a restaurant and there are hotel rooms upstairs, so to see them at the O2 Academy Brixton where Prince Charming once nearly slew Shrek is a huge testament to their talents.
Ask anyone that’s seen Palace before how they are and they’ll tell you how incredible Leo Wyndham’s angelic vocals are, and this show was no different. They faded in from black over an oceanscape soundtrack, with the raindrop-like guitar and heavenly vocals of Shoals, not coincidentally the name of their latest album, filling every corner of the venue.
The stage was minimal, where traditional coloured spotlights beamed onto the stage (mostly in blue to stay in line with the ‘Shoals’ theme) and their latest album cover was a ginormous backdrop. With such calming tracks, it’d have been crazy to expect more.
Although it’s the tour of their latest album, Shoals, it was the older, more familiar songs that changed the energy of the crowd. That unanimous ‘Aahhh’, similar to the one you witness from hundreds of people as they finally hear one spoken word at a nightclub playing house all night, was echoed as So Long Forever played and prompted swaying couples to sing at the top of their voices whilst staring into each other’s eyes.
I don’t want to say it, and I’m sure the band doesn’t want me to say it either, but Live Well stole the show and, perhaps unfortunately, I’m positive it always will. As thrilling as it must be to receive such an eruption of happy faces, arms in the air and even one shirt circling the head of someone at the front from a song you wrote, it must be slightly disheartening that it’s for a song they wrote in 2016 with two albums in between.
Just because Live Well topped the energy charts, doesn’t mean the rest were like your strange classmate playing the school talent show. There were multiple moments throughout the night where Leo could let the fans carry for the vocals for a good few lines with the power Mr Brightside playing at the end of an indie disco before he’d join back in – and at O2 Brixton Academy, I’m sure that’s something checked off his bucket list.
Toward the end of the show, looking around was like the airport scene in Love Actually with pockets of people hugging and swaying, in seemingly slow-motion, soundtracked by Give Me The Rain.
I tell people that Palace are great, yet I think I gave their latest album one listen and haven’t been compelled to return to it; maybe save one or two songs to a general playlist. I certainly haven’t listened to the whole album standing up before.
Call me cynical, but in romance sometimes the idea of it outweighs the reality, like proposing at Disney World but Mickey Mouse trips over with the ring and the head falls off and reveals the actor inside. They performed every note perfectly, the fans were singing along, but within the boundaries of the songs from Shoals it plateaued at pleasant.
I’ll never forget the talents of Palace on stage and how they work as a band, but I hope their next album and tour explores beyond the restraints they’ve found themselves in.