It all gets a bit much for our Andrew R. Hill when he catches the one and only Veronica Falls in action in London
St. Leonard’s Shoreditch Church is mentioned in the nursery rhyme Oranges & Lemons (“When will you pay me? / Say the bells of Old Bailey / When I am rich / Say the bells of Shoreditch”); that Veronica Falls should launch their second album Waiting for Something to Happen in such a venue is, on the face of it, oddly apposite. Hitherto, the band have been purveyors of melodies and lyrical concerns that capture something of the qualities associated with the nursery rhyme (and, by extension, childhood itself): sweetness and innocence on the surface with and underlying darkness and melancholia. Tonight’s show builds on this solid foundation but with a new confidence, a boldness even, that suggests a figurative coming of age that is reflected in the grand yet austere setting.
First up are three-piece La La Vasquez, who bring to mind Black Tambourine, Vivian Girls and Pavement, not only through their melodies and clattering rhythms, but also the constant sense that it could all fall apart at any given second. Theirs is a thrilling racket and a perfect preface for the headlining act.
A quick turnaround and Veronica Falls assume position, stridently launching with Tell Me. They are dramatically backlit, clad in dark hues, and (given the venue) the tenebrous oils of Caravaggio and Rothko’s religious paintings come to mind. Last year’s single (also featured on the new album) My Heart Beats is more vibrant than its relatively bloodless studio companion, retaining the edge that came as something of a shock on initial listen in April but moderated with a ragged edge. For old favourite Found Love in a Graveyard, the lighting shifts to the front creating enormous shadows, then the band really hit their stride with Waiting for Something to Happen.
To one familiar with their prior work and performances, throughout there is a sense the band has changed, there’s a new ‘toughness’, and it’s illustrated well by a double-whammy of - old tracks - Bad Feeling and Beachy Head. They’ve always had a certain quiet confidence, but now there’s something resembling swagger, a renewed tension in the dynamics that renders them justifiably self-assured as opposed to irksomely cocky. They also seem relaxed in the right kind of way, and let their somewhat gloomy image slip with the odd grin here and there. No wonder though – there’s dancing in the aisle, lips mouthing lyrics; it’s hard not to get swept along. Who else but Veronica Falls could make a song entitled Buried Alive so catchy, so downright joyous?
The band clatters through two songs from the old album followed by two from the new album (highlights being Wedding Day and Teenage, respectively), and then it’s over. Almost. The pitted and bare crucifix doesn’t have to wait long for the return of its temporary neighbours. Feet stamp, hands clap, throats cry and of course they’re back, with the Wicked Game-esque If You Still Want Me, their classic cover of Roky Erickson’s Starry Eyes and, the eternally perfect pièce de résistance, Come on Over. The collective elation of the audience and band alike, the revelry in this stunning setting, the tingling spines, the dewy eyes… It all gets a bit much for a certain ‘impartial’ writer. Come on over? Veronica Falls need never ask twice.