U.S. Girls – Scala, London – 16th May 2018

Photo by Christian Middleton

A true masterclass in how to elevate a gig into a show. U.S. Girls took to Scala in a manner so committed that watching them perform was a surreal experience. After seeing hundreds of live bands over the years sometimes shows start to merge into one and separating the memories becomes tricky. I don’t think anyone who was in attendance at Scala last night will have such a problem. Intimacy between artists and their fans is nice, it makes you think you’ve gotten to know them a little bit. When this is flipped however the experience is so much more exciting. If the 4th wall remains solid, live shows become breathtaking. The whole band look incredible tonight, donning a pick and mix of vintage outfits looking like Mr Ben at a vintage kilo sale. Seeing such commitment to the look and sound of the show makes the music itself all the more exciting.

They open ripping into tracks from In A Poem Unlimited. It’s an album that’s like a timeline in pop music. There’s influences from all over and they tie them together in such a way that’s distinctly their own. ‘M.A.H’ is a personal favourite, for my money the best pop song of 2018 but let’s not get into that one. When they play it, it’s like watching a music video that no one is filming. It’s not easy to get British crowds to dance but something washes over everyone. The barrier between the performance and the audience somehow pulls the crowd into getting involved. It creates an experience I’ve not seen in a long time.

The sound is perfect, and I really do mean perfect. This could have been a studio recording for all I know, a U.S. Girls live album would just sound like a Greatest Hits. You don’t notice how perfect the band are till they’re in front of you and everything’s at the right level. A real standout of the show is their saxophonist who lights up the songs. The way Scala is laid out allows him to play to the roof and feel like there is no ceiling. The entire set is lifted by how expertly they all play and sound.

They barely leave a breather between songs, there isn’t a second onstage where something isn’t happening. Between songs they mess around with samples of audio never once breaking their illusion. The set is mainly divided between songs from In A Poem Unlimited and Half Free. The way they jam and expand the songs, breathing new life into them makes it feel as though anything could happen and you’re getting much more than you were expecting.

Meghan Remy’s vocal performance is stunning. She’s pitch perfect throughout the show and a great performer all round. The whole group breaks out into dance throughout. Their (very) extended version of ‘Time’ closes the set. They walk off and come on for a stripped down one song encore. The most powerful moment is when Remy says “thank you” and walks off, leaving and shattering her onstage persona by addressing the audience. It’s the moment the fourth wall breaks and the audience erupts in applause. Remy, along with her entire band are masters of performance. Watching U.S. girls is like gazing at popstars in their prime.

Chris Middleton

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