You can pander to band egos any way you want, but from a fans' perspective, the dreaded 'double headliner' tour never works; it always ends up disappointing. Whether you are talking about Guns N'Roses and Metallica on their legendary 1991 trawl through the US, or tonight's far more sombre, dare I say, grown-up affair, a fair proportion of the crowd will want, even expect, to see their favourite band, the one they've paid to see, go on last or actually headline the gig.
You can talk about bands having the same set lengths (neither of those being as long as you might expect from a traditional headliner), but psychologically at least, the one that goes on last is the star of the show, the daddy, the main attraction.
That's why I was a little peeved to find that the mighty new-folk troupe Vetiver were playing second-fiddle to the shoegazey Beach House at the Union Chapel tonight. Surely Vetiver – promoting their recent LP Tight Knit – are a friendly enough crowd proposition not to need another 'headliner? Their gentle 60s-infused folkie Americana should be a perfect match for the Union Chapel, surely with proper promotion they should have been able to fill the place on their own on a Friday night? And, relax…
That said, as soon as frontman Andy Cabic and band stepped out onto stage tonight, they had the entire crowd captivvated. Last seen in London at the much-missed Spitz (aside from a support for Fleet Foxes at the Roundhouse), this was their most confident, commanding performance in the capital to date. The show's opening pairing of the beautiful Been So Long and Tight Knit's opener Rolling Sea, combined with the Chapel's wonderful acoustics and an impressive clarity of sound, were mesmerising.
Cabic, sporting the obligatory folk hat and beard combo (one predictably mirrored by many in the crowd) seemed to have a greater stage presence that he has previously, as well as an impressive control over his fragile voice, weaving it together with the sounds of the band, and his fingerpicked guitar. There was a self-assured element to Cabic tonight that we haven't seen before (maybe his extensive touring as part of Devendra Banhart's band as help this), and even a slightly rockier sound, as the band stepped up a gear with Everyday and You May Be Blue.
In short, Vetiver are a band on top of their game right now – something genuinely pleasing, inspiring and magical to see.
Beach House, and their shoegaze, trippy, Mazzy Star-inspired jams, were only ever going to be a disappointment, and a disappointment they were. OK, I'm biased, but they seem to be doing what a million other bands are at the moment, so they were completely lost on me tonight. My mind was still lost in the Vetiverse. It was a shame for them to follow, and a shame for the crowd, mostly made up of Vetiver fans (based on a rough beard count…)
Tonight's show was opened by Papercuts, a band I've come late to and fronted by Vetiver collaborator Jason Quever . They've just released their third album, the gorgeous You Can Have What You Want and their music reminds me a little of a fuzz and reverb-drenched Daniel Johnson, there's even a little bit of early Brian Jonestown Massacre in there for good measure. Yes, they are that good. Watch this space…