Brooklyn blues rock duo She Keeps Bees issued what could be considered a statement of intent with their latest album Eight Houses. The pacing in-yer-face rock has been supplanted by a more considered approach that has resulted in slow burners rather than big hitters. So there was a definite air of anticipation rippling through the sold out crowd packed into London’s Lexington. No one really seemed to know what to expect.
As Jessica Larrabee and Andy LaPlant unassumingly took to the stage closely followed by their touring guitarist (fondly introduced by Larrabee as simply “Adam”) the the band slid into “Feather Lighter”, the laid back opener from their new album. It was immediately apparent that the hazy sonics of Eight Houses transferred well to the stage as the dual guitar and drum set up gave the songs an added raw edge and Larrabee’s voice resonated effortlessly with flooring soul.
The crowd head bobbed along to the a slew of tracks taken from Eight Houses including an incendiary rendition of “Breezy” that saw Larrabee deliver with bone scrappily raw emotion. All of this was punctuated with Larrabee’s endearingly self depreciating humour: “I’ve got a whole lot of fashion going on” she said with a sarcastic grin as she rolled up the sleeves of her bowling shirt before revealing it belonged to her father and encouraging the whole crowd to take a drink in his memory. Everyone did, of course. The whole performance was infused with this mix of knowing, free spirited humour and poignant emotion and it cast an entrancing spell.
As Larrabee turned her attention to the keyboard she quipped “this thing’s smarter that I am” before striking the opening chords to “Is What It Is”, LaPlant’s hypnotic drums deftly driving the song. The audience stood fixated and memorised at the intimacy of the performance, the level of which only grew as the band broke into latest single “Owl”, the interplay of the instruments feeling measured but never holding back.
The band really hit their stride as they launched into the bluesy intensity of “Both Sides” closely followed by “Wasichu” which they blended seamlessly into “Greasy Grass”. The volume and power in Larabee’s voice shifted up several gears and the crunchy overdrive of the guitars roared from the stage along with the pounding drums. It was clear that the three of them were locked together in an instinctual way, now operating as a genuine rock ’n’ roll powerhouse.
The band then broke out some older material in the form of “Gimmie” and “Release”, taken form their 2009 breakthrough album Nests, the beaming crowd jostling with just as much energy as was emanating from the stage.
Having blazed through an entire set in 40 minutes, it was clear everyone wanted more and following a cacophony of whoops and calls of “we love you!” She Keeps Bees returned to the stage to perform a four song encore. The truth is, everyone would have been happy for them to play all night.