Tuesday night was clearly Temples‘ first time in Denver. Part way through the band’s set at the Bluebird Theater, vocalist James Bagshaw asked the crowd to stop smoking weed, adding that the fumes made it hard for him to sing. Maybe he was joking, maybe he was legitimately annoyed with Denver’s liberal smoking habits (as he has every right to be), but either way it was an awkward moment in what was otherwise a solid debut for the U.K. neo-psych band in the Mile High City. Since the band’s conception about a year-and-a-half ago, Temples’ singles have been hyped by UK and American press. And Tuesday night was a chance for Denver to be the judge first hand.
Sonically, Temples incorporates some choice elements from the past: Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd, The Zombies, ’60s West Coast Byrds jangle (think “Eight Miles High”) and, on more than a few tracks, ’70s glam. But, Temples is no mere pastiche or slavish revival act, the band’s music recalls those elements, while at the same time sounding absolutely contemporary.
Fresh from Coachella and headed for Austin Psych Fest in early May, the four-piece — James Bagshaw (guitar & vocals), Tom Warmsley (bass), Adam Smith (keyboards) and Sam Toms (drums) — played a brisk, well-paced set.
They opened strong with “Colours to Life”, its woozy mellotron coloring (or, colouring, as the case may be) adding that lovely instrument’s welcoming, ethereal tinge to the band’s booming sound.
“Sun Structures” delivered short, machine gun-like, sonic bursts in-between Bagshaw’s airy vocals and the song’s decidedly Eastern flavor. Bagshaw’s guitar sounded almost like a sitar. The song also provided the first of Temples’ few extended, yet brief, instrumental jams. When you can write great singles, who needs ten minutes of jamming?
“Move With The Season” provided a wonderful mid-set change of pace and mood before launching into a brilliant, rousing final third of the show. “Keep In The Dark,” with its glam-y sound and hooky chorus, got things bouncing again. The Middle Eastern psych sound of “Sand Dance” sent heads into clouds, particularly during the transcendent drawn-out instrumental section that closes the song.
For a band together less than two years, their execution of songs, particularly the vocals, that many in the smallish (the balcony was closed), blissed-out crowd already knew by heart, was spot-on, but never slick.
The hour-long performance closed with a killer, ecstasy-inducing, back-to-back knockout encore of “Mesmerise” and “Shelter Song” — two of their most irresistible songs. It sent everyone home happy (and early, 10:15 p.m.), proving to any doubters in the room that the buzz about Temples is well-deserved.
Mike Long is a Longmont-based writer and comedian and a regular contributor to Reverb.