Veronica Falls played their first headlining show in Chicago late on Feb. 16, 2012 at The Empty Bottle, and the throngs of head-bobbing and dancing indie pop aficionados were not disappointed by their coy and tuneful brand of guitar driven rock. Although many lyrics were buried in the mix, as often is the case at the Bottle, it was clearer live than on their self-titled debut (Slumberland, 2011) how ubiquitous and essential the three-part harmonies are to their sound. It was also clearer live how the unassuming Roxanne Clifford’s vocals take the lead, how she is the Heather to the guitarist James Hoare’s Calvin (their “Beachy Head” is highly reminiscent of Beat Happening’s “Black Candy”), and how integral drummer Patrick Doyle’s Beach Boys-like tenor backing vocals are to the mix.
If bassist Marion Herbain sang vocals as well, they might well sound like The Mamas and The Papa-Pastels, but as it was, they mined their Velvet Underground-like minimalism and sped-up Galaxie 500 chiming guitar chords to craft a propelling and compelling groove throughout their set.
Given that the U.K. quartet only has one album out, it goes without saying that they relied heavily on that record, kicking off with the catchy-as-all-get-out “Right Side Of My Brain” and including the tongue-in-cheek goth of “Found Love In A Graveyard,” with its catchy choruses of “I’m brokenhearted, dearly departed.”ed their Velvet Underground-like minimalism and sped-up Galaxie 500 chiming guitar chords to craft a propelling and compelling groove throughout their set.
The most sublime moments were when the band deviated from their wonderful record, most particularly when Clifford began “Wedding Day” by singing a line from the chorus “You don’t love her like you love me” a cappella before the band launched into the song full force.
To conclude their set they played a beautiful leisurely instrumental interlude before launching into a rollicking rendition of the album closer “Come On Over.” While the instrumental break toward the end showed their vulnerability and Clifford’s pitch wavered slightly, it just made the ensemble that much more charming.
For their encore they rocked through a cover of the Roky Erickson obscurity “Starry Eyes,” one of six covers on a limited edition (only 100 pressed) tour-only EP.
Although there were no low points, the four new songs they included in their set were definitely high points, and if anything painted a picture of a band that is ready to break through from buzz bin next big things to indie rock superstars. The new songs do sound brighter and even poppier, as drummer Doyle alluded to in his interview with Pop’stache, and while they may not top the Billboard charts, judging from these compositions alone, there’s definitely no “sophomore slump” on the horizon. Next time Veronica Falls comes to Chicago, they will pack their crowd of indie pop cognoscenti into a larger venue, and it would be a shame to miss them.
Photos of Veronica Falls by Kris Wade-Matthews
Veronica Falls at The Empty Bottle on Feb. 16, 2012 Setlist:
- “Right Side Of My Brain”
- “Beachy Head”
- “Bury Me Alive”
- “Bad Feeling”
- “The Box”
- “My Heart Beats”
- “Found Love In A Graveyard”
- “Last Conversation”
- “Wedding Day”
- “Come On Over”
- “Starry Eyes” (Roky Erickson cover)