As an ignorant European, my frame of reference delimits my first associations of San Fernando Valley to be that of its reputation as a place of eternal sunshine as well as the epicentre of the adult industry. However, tonight’s concert at Lille Vega, band of sisters Haim proved that there’s (much) more to it than just my inferior connotations.
Yet before Haim took to the stage, support act, with the assonantal name Ice Cream Cathedral, took on the job of priming the already enthusiastic crowd, delivering the shoegazed space pop that has become their trademark and earned them recognition from an array of critics as well as regulars to the Danish indie scene. However thankful the task, the Copenhagen trio made a respectable effort and surely gained even more followers this night with their original fusion of the ethereal Neo Italo that has scored many an art-house feature in recent years and the heritage of legends such as My Bloody Valentine and Cocteau Twins.
Thus elevated the audience were more than ready to take on Haim. Making their way to the stage to the chorus of Jay-Z’s modern classic ’99 Problems’ (“If you’re having girl problems, I feel bad for you son/I’ve got 99 problems but a b**** ain’t one”), the sisters unpompously suggested that they weren’t too blame for any unfulfilled intentions to have a good night. One could have feared that it would actually have been the case, as rumour had it that two of the three sisters suffered from a cold and were prescribed to penicillin, yet it wasn’t to be seen – nor heard.
On the contrary, the sisters stroke the first chord with genetic accuracy and from there lead the listeners on to a tour de force into their musical versatility and charming personalities. Especially big sister Este proved to be of a talkative nature and had more than a few bantering inquiries for the audience – “Would anyone like to take me swimming in the morning?”. While she chatted her way into the hearts of the crowd, front vocalist Danielle barely spoke a word but won their respect through her gifted guitar play (that has earned her touring gigs with the likes of Julian Casablancas and Cee-Lo), and vocals comparable to Tracey Thorn (Everything But the Girl) or Stevie Nicks (Fleetwood Mac), clearly shining through on tracks such as “Honey & I” and “Go Slow”.
Yet, their obvious links to those vocal bigwigs of yesteryear only accounts for a minor part of the girls’ portfolio. Throughout a relatively short but dense set of 40 minutes, courageously started off with Dirty Diana-esque track “Better Off”, they showcased their naturally moderate back catalogue with an unspoiled energy often unseen in more established acts, before intelligently closing down with their biggest hit to date, ‘Forever’, in a vigorous version representative of the sound of theirs and the night in general.
Witnessing such artistry easily leaves you out of breath, which however allowed me to bike home from the concert at a slower pace, consequently wondering whether the sound of fireworks was to be attributed to the nightly celebration of Eid ul-Fitr or the resonance of an indeed breath taking concert.