We Are Scientists @ Shepherds Bush Empire, 4th May 2018

It’s a balmy Friday night in London and the smell of warm lager fills the air at Shepherds Bush Empire, as a packed-out crowd kick-start their May Bank Holiday weekend: they’re not here for a gig, they’re here for a show. 

Anticipation hangs in the air, mingling with jager bombs; summer has finally arrived, appearing just before 9pm, a Technicolor burst of fun, in the shape of New York based power-pop troupe We Are Scientists, who leap onto the stage and into the opening bars of Your Light Has Changed, from new album Megaplex, with their usual fun-bomb burst of addictive enthusiasm.

This new album, recorded at Tim Wheeler’s Atomic Heart Studios and once again produced by Max Hart, was only released a week ago, but the crowd already knows every word and as the new track segues into the familiar opening guitar sequence of bass-heavy old favourite, The Great Escape, from first album With Love and Squalor (the one with the cats), Shepherds Bush explodes with a burst of adrenaline fuelled joy: ‘ They’re breaking both my hands, they’re breaking both my hands. They’re telling me to take it like a man. Take it like a man, well fuck that’, the audience shouts back in adulation. This is why We are Scientists, formed eighteen years ago from a friendship of over twenty, works: Keith Murray and Chris Cain clearly love performing, thrive off the banter and the energy, enthuse the audience and give them what they want.

There is no shying away from high-energy crowd pleasers with this troupe; no low-fi bar and toilet break numbers. Buckle, from 2016’s Helter Seltzer and Chick Lit from Brain Thrust Mastery (the one with the tuxedos — is this album really ten years old already?) swiftly follow, the crowd are well-oiled and the mosh pit is rowdy; Keith smiles as yet another crowd surfer is manhandled over the barrier by an impassive bouncer.

We are duly rewarded for our energy, as It’s a Hit and the Scene is Dead soon follow — this band aren’t one to focus solely on a new album when they tour, instead darting back and forth through their repertoire; though with less attention being paid to albums three and four – Barbara and TV en Francais – than the others.

One in One out, the first track from Megaplex, a fantastic synth-based dance nugget of pure pop, translates brilliantly to a live show and is followed by well-loved sing-a-long favourite After Hours: ‘This door is always open, this door is always open. No one has the guts to shut us out… And if we have to go now, I guess there’s always hope, tomorrow night will be more of the same’, we sing back hopefully at Mr Murray, as the hologram back-drop flashes behind him.

We are introduced to drummer Keith Carne’s parents, waving happily from the balcony, and the band throw themselves into Rules Don’t Stop Me and Nobody Move, Nobody Get Hurt,  guitars thrashing wildly in a euphoric frenzy. A very brief pause — this crowd don’t want to wait long for their encore — and they’re back, Keith Murray’s and Chris Cain’s banter is expected and cherished, their pleasure at our response is obvious.

Finally, as Keith carefully hangs his jacket over his mic stand and slowly starts to wind up the wire in careful loops, we know what’s coming next. The familiar opening low guitar drone of Textbook fills the room and Keith steps forward into the arms of the crowd: carried high on outstretched arms, rolling through the audience, singing on his back, watched over by his band mates on stage: ‘Falling over backwards for you, falling over everybody else, I put myself in that position, every time I have the chance… It’s pretty clear that you are me, it’s written here on every single page. I’m smitten but not stupid, I can read it all over your face’.

As the crowd stumbles out into the night, loyal fans of this charming, hilarious and charismatic band, we are most definitely smitten.

Reviewer: Sally Hamilton

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