Review by Clare Knight
After loving Wild Belle’s music for a while now it was good to finally get to see them perform live. What better place to see this Chicago band play than in a very cool underground looking Brighton venue with a back alley entrance? (More commonly known as the Green Door Store). Wild Belle centers around siblings Elliot and Natalie Bergman and at this gig they had three other band members performing with them. Their music is a mixture of reggae, synth pop, soul and probably a few other genres too!
The small box room at the back of the venue was where the crowd packed themselves into every nook and cranny; standing on chairs and tables to get a better view. These are the types of venues I like the most. The ones where there is no security stopping you from standing in a certain place, no one shoving a camera in your line of vision and people just there to enjoy the music. After the first couple of songs there was enough of a good vibe in the room that Natalie declared, ‘We’ve played here twice in Brighton, and this time is so much better!’ Maybe this was because they are more well known in the UK after releasing their debut album, Isles in March 2013, or maybe the crowd were just really eager to dance.
Wild Belle seem to attract a real mix of people with their infectious music and the audience watching them in Brighton ranged from students to journalists and middle aged couples. I guess us Brits are desperate for a summer feel in any form we can get! And that is exactly what Wild Belle’s music is all about. Natalie’s lazy singing style is unique and hypnotising when blended with the undertones of reggae soul music played by the band. On stage they use a multitude of instruments and effects to create their distinctive sound and Elliot is quite the multi-instrumentalist. During the gig he played saxophone, keys, some sort of electronic keypad (what exactly, I couldn’t tell) and on top of that he has a great voice. I get the feeling that he might be the brains behind creating the music and their particular type of sound.
It was not the type of gig where the crowd were singing along to every word with the band but it was definitely a dance inducing gig; the kind where people did not care what they looked like. (Myself included). They were very successful in creating a summer festival feel in that small room, which was great because in reality it was below freezing and snowing outside! Only one guy heckled them and even that was to yell ‘You’re fit!’ at Natalie (I assume it was at Natalie, but it could have been for Elliot), more of a compliment than heckling. She dodged it effortlessly by completely ignoring him and the poor guy looked a little deflated.
It’s Too Late was a great way to open the set and is the perfect song to introduce their music to people who were brought along as plus ones! Natalie was the first to show her love of their song Backslider and introduced it with the hope that the crowd would love it as much as she did. It is not my favourite song from their album but the audience seemed to enjoy it. They played many tracks from their album, Isles and by far the most popular was their single Keep You, to which more or less every person in the room was dancing. The band were effortlessly cool on stage and took it all in their stride. Unfortunately, despite a rapturous chant after their set, the band did not come back on stage to perform an encore – the first time I have seen this in a while.
We had a brief chat with Elliot and Natalie after the gig when we discovered that she in fact uses no effects on her vocals despite us being utterly convinced she must have. It could have been the acoustics in the room or just the way her voice sounds – either way she was flattered. The sounds produced from the instruments were all melded together by a multitude of effects leaving the vocals to be layered on top, which together created a electric ethereal reggae feel. Electric ethereal reggae feel? I’m pretty sure that is a phrase I have never used before, but that is exactly what Wild Belle’s music is.