Efterklang, Esben and The Witch

Kyle Ellison 21/04/2010

Efterklang's rise from hard working post-rock collective, to one of the world's best loved indie bands has been a surprising yet deserved ascent. While Efterklang have always been present around the fringes of critical success, it wasn't until they released Parades in 2007 that they seemed even capable of headlining an event of tonight's proportions. It's when you've closely monitored a band's career up to this point that you realise how large a venue like Shepherd's Bush Empire is; with empty seats looming over the stage as if to say, “we had Mos Def here last week, who are these chaps in the funny outfits?”

The job of warming up the crowd falls to one of Britain's most exciting young prospects, Brighton's Esben and the Witch. It's really hard to believe this is a band still in their infancy, as, undaunted by the size of the stage, the band fill the space with their haunting gothic pop sounds. Their live set-up is already looking the part, complete with props and great interaction with a singular floor tom which is used throughout. Vocalist Rachel, too, shows no signs of her voice being weakened in a live setting, as it rings out as powerful and evocative as ever. If Esben and the Witch keep up this standard, it won't be long until they're filling venues like this on their own terms.

If Efterklang had been scared of playing big stages, then at least there are enough of them to make the space seem a lot smaller. Taking to the stage as a 7-piece, tonight the band play a set derived heavily from new album, Magic Chairs. It becomes obvious from the outset that this is an album that makes more sense when you can see it being played; opener 'I Was Playing Drums' reveals depths that I had never detected on record, as watching the individual parts come together highlights their subtleties. Such grand arrangements of sound are perfectly suited to the venue itself, as the band creates an elaborate mix of brass, keys, strings and percussion - each instrument with its own purpose, and not a note wasted.

In between songs vocalist Casper Clausen is charming and funny, frequently offering humble thanks to his audience. The crowd's enthusiasm is also treated with a handful of old songs which, despite the success of new material, easily go down best on the night. From Parades, 'Mirador' and in particular 'Caravan' are strong highlights, and even old Tripper favourite 'Step Aside' is thrown in proving the strength of the band's back catalogue. Above all else, tonight has cemented the band's status as one of the world's most revered indie groups, and one which deserves every success that comes their way.