LIVE REVIEW: Arthur Beatrice, ICA London, 18/2/16

Ella Girardot, the lead singer of Arthur Beatrice, is a star. That much is certain as we watch a hazy performance from a band capable of so much on record. If our gaze wanders, she fixes it with her popstar movements. If our ears dip, she pricks them up with a stupendous, heartfelt wail. There’s a diva inside her waiting to come out, and tonight at the ICA Girardot feels like a technicolour Catherine wheel being dampened by the greyscale notions of her band.

It’s a night that largely seems one of wasted potential as the band give us a whistle-stop tour of their upcoming new album, Keeping The Peace, with the help of the London Contemporary Orchestra. Some hits land perfectly – Who Returned is masterful pop, given added gravitas by Girardot wringing out every inch of emotion from the line “You can never be whole if you’ve never been broken”. But the fact that there’s an orchestra here is largely redundant in the lashings of drum and guitar around them; it’s only a delicate two-hander, starting with Healing, that uses both strings and brass to goosebump-inducing potential. The rest of the time? Well, they may as well not have been there.

It’s a shame for Arthur Beatrice, as their sound is the sort that feels at home in a cosy recording studio but falters somewhat in translation. The standout track Real Life – a genuine contender for crossover success – sees them almost becoming Florence and the (deconstructed) Machine, a soaring wallop of a song that could easily fill an arena. But their bridge between indie and pop needs a lot more paving; for a band that enjoy singing about existential ennui, it’s rather a shame that that’s exactly what they inspire in us tonight.

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Arthur Beatrice, ICA London, 18/2/16
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