Palace prove there is still hope for woozy indie-blues at Shepherd’s Bush Empire

In Live Reviews by Ally Head

The London-based four-piece wooed a crowd of 2,000 on the final date of their UK tour with their effortlessly charismatic indie-blues.

Palace’s drummer, Matt Hodges, once said that their simmering, woozy indie-blues makes for an alternative live performance. “There’s lots of staring at our gigs. People are open-mouthed and gazing,” he said in an interview for DIY. “Some bands get crowdsurfers and stage invasions. We just get open mouths!”

And this much is true. It’s a Thursday evening and despite Shepherd’s Bush Empire being packed to the brim, all eyes are on the stage. Moody neon lighting highlights the ‘So Long Forever’ backdrop as the intro begins. The crowd sways in time, couples hold hands, and the upstairs balcony is packed with the bands’ friends and family who look as if they could burst with pride.

Following on from supporting Jamie T on his comeback tour and the release of their album, ‘So Long Forever’ in November, Palace have been touring the UK, mesmerising legions of fans with their melodic, relaxed alternative-rock. Tonight, they walk out onto the stage with ease, as if they were born to. You’d never know that the band is only three years old and that they rehearse in a squat in Tottenham – they look like they belong there.

Kicking off with ‘Head Above The Water’ from their 2015 Chase The Light EP and ‘I Want What You Got’, the instrumentals are deliciously crisp and the performance seemingly effortless. ‘Have Faith’ highlights the range of frontman Leo Wyndham’s voice, with his iconic Jeff Buckley-esque drawl filling the heart of the venue, and ‘Live Well’ has even the oldest crowd members on the balcony on their feet.

The band have always spoken candidly about the inspiration for the album – relationships and the heartbreak that can entail – with ‘Holy Smoke’ no exception. As Wyndham croons: ‘I’ve seen holy smoke out the window/ You’ll rise up through the shadows with a new glow/ Farewell my friend, it’s over now/ Beware my friend’, the unvarnished honesty of the lyricism is evident in each gesture, swing and sway.

Technically, the set is faultless and the musical performance tight, apart from an escapee clapper at the beginning of ‘Break The Silence’, which Wyndham jokes is to prove they’re playing live. Staying true to their roots, the whole set is brooding and bohemic, their sound rounded and rooted in their sleepy London origins.

The band champion a focused simplicity that bigger performers could benefit from taking note of. There is no bravado, no overzealous showmanship or impractical display. Instead, the four-piece do what they do best – play honest, laid-back, chill-out tunes for all to enjoy – and in doing so, highlight the beauty in the practicality of their performance. Many thought the era of indie simplicity was dead when The Maccabees announced their break last year, but Palace are proving it is still very much alive.

Closing with an encore of ‘It’s Over’ and ‘Bitter’, the delicious melodies are sung back at them by an audience of 2,000. Not bad for a four-piece who’ve said they thought they were the shittest band in the world.

Words by: Ally Head
Snaps by: Simon Reed of Musical Pictures