LIVE REVIEW: Muna, Heaven, 31/10/17

Halloween is all about exorcising demons. And tonight at Heaven, Muna did just that.

And they have plenty of demons. Debut album About U is full of darkness: break-ups, struggles with mental health, vulnerability, crying on the bathroom floor. The songs are catharsis, pairing emo lyrics with pop hooks and stadium guitars that roar and reverberate. It’s exemplified in the slow build of Everything, creeping towards that repeated “everything’s about you to me” lyric.

So how were these demons exorcised? With laughter. With gothic, campy costumes. With pure joy.

The band danced onto the stage in full Halloween get up that set the tone for the evening, before crying out “are you ready to get fucking spooky London?” In performance they were electric with energy, strutting across the stage and reaching out to the audience – Loudspeaker in particular left both band and audience breathless. There was plenty of banter between them too, touching moments undermined with laughter at their costumes even during the slower songs. As singer Katie Gavin noted, “I’m too happy right now”.

It was a night of contradictions, then, an emotional release of music and feeling making way for crackling euphoria and giggling. That juxtaposition made it feel like being stuck in the climax of a teen movie – in the best possible way. Their choice of cover in U2’s With Or Without You can be somewhat forgiven for its uncoolness, the lyrics certainly befitting their own output. A later rendition of Stevie NicksEdge of Seventeen was a brilliant tribute, and the encore of Thriller was a cheeky nod to the date that saw the band really having fun.

In this light, you’d forgive the band for ending the night with latest single In My Way. Compared to the album tracks, it’s a song of carefree giddiness, of letting loose, of admitting feelings without guilt. It’s an absolute rush.

Instead, they ended the gig proper with biggest hit I Know A Place. Throughout the night, the band repeatedly thanked their fans for attending, for their support, for their bravery in showing vulnerability. “We always want our performances to be a safe space,” said Gavin and that shows in I Know A Place, an anthem for queer people and queer spaces, the longing for utopia. The screams and cheers of the crowd were as much a celebration of togetherness in celebrating difference as it was an outpouring of love for the band.

In their own lyrics, “something massive happened here, I can feel it in the atmosphere.”

Ed Nightingale

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Muna, Heaven, 31/10/17
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