Squid are easily one of the most exciting bands in the UK – probably the world – so the chance to see them in such an intimate setting as The Halls is one that has to be leapt on. To make things even more interesting, their performance was for their Fieldworks Tour, a tour in which they focus on alternative venues and perform work-in-progress music, featuring heavy improvisation.
The Halls, also known as St Andrews & Blackfriars Halls, is the UK’s most complete surviving medieval friary complex, and its church setting makes for a unique backdrop. It operated at a reduced capacity for this gig, and attendees had to sit in pairs, with each pair being socially distanced from the others.
Before Squid, however, we were treated to a set from Bath Days, an alt-pop artist from South London. His set was light in comparison to the intense experiments of Squid, featuring quite laid-back pop tunes with vocals reminiscent of Declan McKenna, accompanied by his own electric guitar and a backing track. Perched on the stage was a watering can, acting as a sort of Chekov’s gun as toward the end of the last song of his set he danced with it, miming with it as if it were a saxophone. Overall, an entertaining performance.
About half an hour later – Bath Days’ set was relatively short, probably to allow Squid to set up – the main act arrived. They messed around a little at first, doing a soundcheck with their eclectic mix of instruments including a pair of gongs, then got into things with a series of primarily instrumental tracks, filling the venue with raw energy.
Ollie Judge’s drumming sounded straight off Bright Green Field, setting the pace for his bandmates to go insane as they constantly shifted gears and swapped instruments, throwing aside brass for strings at different intervals.
Although I’d thought they wouldn’t be performing much from Bright Green Field, letting their new, work-in-progress material be the focus, the band performed several songs from the album, with the impassioned vocal performance from Judge on ‘G.S.K.’ being a particular highlight.
Mid-set, the band joked about playing the organ sat behind them — it is a church, after all – which they actually did before the gig, seen on their Instagram. The crowd laughed along, later matching the band’s energy with cheers and clapping, though this was drowned out by the sheer volume of Squid’s performance.
Towards the end of the set, Squid’s performance of the penultimate track from Bright Green Field ‘Global Groove’ was intensely danceable, with the melancholy brass inaudible at times, though Judge’s vocal delivery was as engaging as always. He stayed put throughout almost the entire set, even as the rest of the band switched instruments, juggling keyboards, guitar, bass, and brass.
Although Squid’s performance at The Halls was not one to miss, don’t fret – they are to return on the July 28th to Norwich Arts Centre.