A potential pitfall of playing in hip spots like the Vice-owned, Dalston venue Birthdays, is that sometimes the crowd can be too damn chill for their own good. Of course, no one wants to be first to arrive, and rolling in a few songs after the main act starts belies a supposedly chic indifference to actually experiencing what you've dragged yourself out of your flat to witness. But none of that seemed to affect Autre Ne Veut or his slim assortment of live musicians during their excellent set there recently.
Shuffling around the stage, crumpled beanie pulled way back to the top of his head, the New York artist spent much of the evening hunched in various corners of the stage with his back to the audience. His voice, shrill and pitch perfect, powerfully led every song, more than making up for his seeming indifference to the presence of an audience. Immediately arresting, he opened with two of the strongest tracks from last year's Anxiety: "Play By Play" and "Ego Free Sex Free," the latter sounding especially tight in the dark, low-ceilinged space.
Soon he downshifted into "Don't Ever Look Back," his voice piercingly clear, working high above the Nightmares Of Wax-esque dub throb, which Birthdays' soundsystem projected ably into the space. As the set progressed, however, it seemed like the crowd's attention began to wander. "Warning" isn't one of his stronger tracks, with neither a potent hook or a true demonstration of his vocal abilities, and after finishing this to rather lukewarm applause, he accused us all of being "fucking self-serious"—something that was admittedly hard to contest.
He finished with the superbly rousing "Counting" and abruptly exited stage right after the briefest "thank you" to the crowd. Whether he had enjoyed himself was unclear; that this was an assured, personal and passionate performance was unquestionable.