Palace at Exchange Bristol, 22/11/2016

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From almost the first note Palace bring a sense of vitality to the Exchange; every note full and clear as it rings out into the enthusiastic audience. Fresh from the November release of their debut album, So Long Forever, Palace are much of the way through their European and UK tour dates and show no sign of slowing down.

Palace have quietly generated a significant audience over the past two years; though their debut album may have only been released this month, they have steadily generated an eclectic collection of material through two EP’s and multiple single releases. It is with a nod to this material that Palace really storm into their set, pleasing the crowd with I Want What You Got; allowing frontman Leo’s distinctive vocals to take centre stage as relaxed guitars hum underneath. The audience sing along as Palace swoop through the track, and the energy in the room develops into a sense of community, as well as of excitement – for such a young band to have such a committed following is testament to their prowess at creating exactly the kind of catchy hooks and lyrics that have seemed lacking in recent indie offerings. I Want What You Got is followed by Tomahawk – another crowd favourite underlined by a pervasive bass line that leads the song into an energetic climax.

Have Faith follows and as a pre-released single from their debut album it is familiar to the crowd, who for the first time really dance along with the pervasive guitar rhythms, swinging into the rolling chorus lines which have become emblematic of Palace’s sound. The band themselves possess an infectious energy – relentless even as the room heats up to boiling point around them, it is clear just how much they love being in front of a crowd, putting everything into their performance. This pace shows no sign of letting up as they spin into another favourite, Kiloran, which sounds as fresh and enchanting as their new material. As a band, Palace seem to have a distinct knack for breathing new life into each of their songs; there seems to be a light shone upon every note as it is played or sung. It is this sense of craft, existing in their recorded material but realised most fully when witnessed and heard live, that makes Palace one of today’s truly exciting young bands.

Next up is Holy Smoke, another single for which the audience fall near silent, entranced. It’s wonderfully languid opening softens the electric atmosphere allowing the delicate guitar work to take precedence, humming softly under the vocals, which lead the song as it billows into it’s chorus, lifted with a renewed vitality that simultaneously manages to feel somehow nostalgic. And then, beautifully juxtaposed, comes So Long Forever, which in last month’s interview frontman Leo described as “my favourite track… [it’s] really badass… the one that, in terms of playing it live, we absolutely love, it’s really pumping and there are some great changes and time signature changes and also I think it’s quite a powerful song.” This dynamism is fully realised in a live setting, with a persistent drum line generating a sense of buoyancy that simultaneously infuses the track with the trademark Palace energy while also sonically containing something different to what we have come to expect. Charged with insistent noise, the audience are left breathless, the languid guitar notes are replaced with frantic rifts reminiscent of Foals, all while a sense of indulgence in each and every lyric is sustained throughout the performance.

As soon as the tension is built in So Long Forever, it is swiftly undercut by the wonderfully relaxed Veins, Palace’s first officially released single and a firm favourite amongst their fans. The crowd sing readily along with the whimsical lyrics, allowing the band to take a moment as they bask in every moment of their performance – as they tell the audience that this has been one of their favourite tour dates it feels wholly genuine. It’s Over becomes the penultimate song of the set, a stripped back track in which the vocals are foregrounded over an earthy backing rich with insistent bass and drums, as well a Palace’s characteristic intricate guitar work.

Palace conclude with their hit Bitter, rousing the audience with one final dose of their distinctive sound, complete with instantly addictive vocal hooks and swelling musical centrepieces. Leaving the stage, it feels as though Palace have held nothing back, barely putting a foot wrong they consistently impress with their talent and attention to detail in every moment of their performance, all while giving off the most personally laidback impression possible. Though the Exchange may have been a small space, it is easy to imagine Palace filling a much larger stage with ease, not to mention a huge gap in the current musical landscape for bands who understand the worth of intimately crafted songwriting left by bands such as The Maccabees and Bombay Bicycle Club. Most of all, Palace seem to have tapped into a resurgence of enthusiasm for ‘indie’ music as a genre; it is hard to ignore the sense of intense excitement that is quite literally drummed up in small audiences who are longing for a new generation of artists who represent a detailed approach to music, while also remaining deeply grounded and relevant. It is a difficult balance that Palace have struck with ease.

Sarah Turnnidge

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