November 9th | York Hall, Bethnal Green
At first glance, leisure centre venue York Hall does not quite fit in with the ‘alternate reality popstar’ vibe of Ariel Pink and his cohorts. With laminate floors, school-hall stage curtains, and a team of staff who looked as if they’d been kept on after coaching the under 13s hockey team for the day, it felt a little surreal that the audience would soon be subjected to waves of Pink’s flamboyant, colourful, nonsensical psychedelic pop.
But in Ariel Pink’s world there really isn’t much in the way of straightforwardness, and the situation we found ourselves in ultimately served to add to the bizarre character of this fantastic performance.
Haunted Graffiti burst straight in to the camp spookiness of Symphony of the Nymph, but the frontman himself was nowhere to be seen until the video screen backdrop burst into light. Ariel Pink spent more than ten minutes sauntering about the corridors and dressing rooms offstage, transmitting his vocal performance by video camera while his backing band smashed through the sublime Kinski Assassin. When he finally did emerge into the spotlight, the fervour was almost overwhelming. In spite of all the ridiculous ironies that make up his character, Ariel Pink is just such a compelling and intriguing character that it’s impossible not to be amazed at the extent to which he lives up to his role as the drug-advocating, tantrum-throwing frontman of the most unlikely pop band of the century.
At times he pranced about the stage like an aging fairy godmother, whilst at others he was scrunched up, gracelessly swaying and shuffling as the band brought latest album Mature Themes to life alongside favourites from 2010’s Before Today and the odd rarity from his 10 or so pre-major label albums. By the time the set was brought to what felt like a premature end with the ambient Nostradamus & Me, the elated atmosphere was at its peak. The enigma left the stage without an encore; the audience will surely return for one.
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Words: James Balmont