Around the release of Pom Pom, Ariel Pink has been both heralded as an eccentric genius and vilified for unpleasant comments he’s made about other artists. This bipartite identity is much reflected in his show tonight – a one-off UK date to mark the release of the record. In spite of some stellar highlights, the gig largely feels like a sloppy rehearsal.
Aside from energetic openers Picture Me Gone and Dayzed Inn Daydreams (front-loaded so as to give resonance to Jason Spaceman of Spiritualized’s inconspicuous cameo), Pom Pom is played entirely in order – immediately surrendering the element of surprise that a tightly rehearsed, more imaginative set structure would have offered. And due to the venue’s faltering sound system, extensive breaks between songs occur (“Can I get some more of my microphone in my monitors please?” becomes something of a catchphrase of the evening) – though the frequent disappearances of band member Emilio do provide some comic relief to the show, with Pink becoming more and more exasperated as to his violinist’s whereabouts as the night goes on. Sadly, it’s the best performance Emilio can offer – his violin doesn’t work, anyway.
There’s an abundance of tunes that do hit the mark however, despite the numerous mishaps. Not Enough Violence is a real hit – seemingly igniting the venue’s poor sound system in a flurry of whirring 80s synths and choral vocals provided by Haunted Graffiti Plus, Ariel’s “new” seven-man backing band, which he claims is “exactly the same as the last one but better”. Put Your Number In My Phone is texturally impressive, with acoustic guitars bringing out the richness of the pop single’s aura. And some of the more flamboyant tracks of Pom Pom – the garage rocking Goth Bomb, the acappella lullaby of Sexual Athletics, and the ludicrously themed Jell-O, are all highly entertaining, despite Pink’s muted demeanour that’s broken by the odd cringe-inducing outburst such as “I’m the Jimmy Saville of Los Angeles”.
Returning for a brief encore, Ariel Pink does hit a climax – but with the notable absence of Round and Round, it’s somewhat bittersweet. Despite closer Bright Lit Blue Skies being one of the best offerings of the evening, it doesn’t quite make up for a performance that was often stale and lacking much fan service, only offerings glimpses of what could have been.