Over the course of this past year, Temples have been one of the only bands that have never disappointed us. Whether it is the release of a stellar debut album or pulling off spellbinding live shows, things only seem to be getting better for the James Bagshaw-fronted quartet as they prepare to bow out in style with one last tour of Europe. For this tour, they’ve taken San Francisco-based light show Mad Alchemy along for the ride, a concept which artist/photographer Lance Gordon started back in 1970. Tonight, they played a sold out show at the Tolhuistuin in Amsterdam for some 500 fans, together with support from Pauw. The Tolhuistuin is rather hard to get to, with the majority of crowd members making their way by ferry.
Dutch psychedelic rockers Pauw powered through a thirty minute set of long, drawn-out psych stompers in a well-received set. Various songs bear a lot of resemblances to psychedelic contemporaries such as Tame Impala and even Temples themselves, with one unnamed song in particular resembling Temples’ Sun Structures. Making a name for yourself as a psychedelic rock group in Holland can be quite hard, but Pauw showed off enough potential tonight to make you want to see and hear them again. New single Shambhala was a particular standout track, featuring distinct sitar effects and warbling vocals from frontman Rens Ottink. A quick half hour wait made way for Temples’ emergence onstage, as they kicked straight into the title track from their debut album, Sun Structures. A combination of Sam Tom’s pounding drums and a hypnotic opening melody, interspersed with sharp guitar jabs, ensured the show kicked off with a good dose of power and energy. As the lights faded, the recognizable handclap intro of A Question Isn’t Answered followed suit with Bagshaw’s metaphor-question like lyrics helping leave the audience in a musically-induced trance which was only made more severe by the long, drawn out closing section. Where A Question Isn’t Answered focussed on frying brain cells with its frazzled distortion and trippy light show projections, The Golden Throne opted for the more straightforward option. A disturbed circus melody, one of their standout melodies in general, kept the crowd on their toes with a host of dedicated front-row fans singing along in a pure state of trance as they had their eyes shut, swerving around beautifully. Fan favourite and early single Colours to Life brought tears to a few eyes in its mesmerising chorus, with Gordon’s Mad Alchemy light show fully enhancing it. Mad Alchemy is something you definitely don’t see every day, with Gordon standing stageside with two see-through plates, a whole host of chemical liquids and a projector. It meant that the visuals were being produced on the go, adding to the already psychedelic effect of Temples songs’. Showcasing a melody equally as demented as that of The Golden Throne was early B-Side Prisms, which slowly juts along at a nice pace as Bagshaw’s layered vocals echoed through the speakers.
It took all but five songs for the highlight of the evening to come along in the form of B-Side Ankh. Opening with a jumpy bassline, Ankh quickly turns into a true psychedelic masterpiece with its beautifully spaced out melody. “Visions of you become visions of me” murmured Bagshaw thoughtfully during Ankh’s pre-chorus. Whenever Temples pull this one out live, it leaves people with dropped jaws and a “did I just see that?” feeling. The Guesser followed in one of the calmer moments of the evening, as Bagshaw asks the listener to “take a guess, take a look” over a mix of jangly guitars and drums. As The Guesser died down, the band (Bagshaw, drummer Toms, bassist Thomas Warmsley and guitarist/keyboardist Adam Smith) broke straight into the mind-altering sounds of Move With the Season. It opens with a sharp guitar intro before swiftly turning into a beautiful piece of art which is backed by swirling string sounds and a whole host of washed-out colours travelling across the projected screen at the back. The pace subsequently picked up again with Keep in the Dark, which spurred audience members to enthusiastically dance, clap and sing along in one of the set highpoints. From the radio-friendly sounds of Keep in the Dark the band moved onto the oriental Sand Dance, which is basically 6,5 minutes of hypnotic fuzz solos and faux-Egyptian rhythms. It’s absolutely mesmerising to watch, especially as they transition from this into breakthrough track Shelter Song. It’s definitely the most recognized song of the evening as it’s given an extended outro which builds upon the heavy Byrds and Beatles influences present.
The band surfaced not even a minute later for a brief encore, opening with an extended version of the acoustic album closer, Fragment’s Light. Instead of merely Bagshaw and his guitar (as it is on record), Fragment’s Light is turned into a 4-minute psychedelic wonder which perfectly segued into show closer Mesmerise. On record it’s one of the more radio-friendly tracks, yet live it’s turned into a 7-minute long epic which saw the main rhythmic beat repeated whilst underpinning a selection of epic solos and wailed vocals. It certainly brought the show to a mesmerising end, with nothing more or less being expected from these psychedelic rockers.
Temples have yet again proven that 2014 is their year. The addition of a superb light show really enhanced their overall live experience, because that’s exactly what seeing Temples has become – an experience.