Balthazar, Electric Ballroom, Camden, 8th November 2021
Balthazar was one of the three wise men who visited Mary after the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem with gifts. Melchior brought gold, Caspar brought them frankincense (an aromatic resin used in incense). Balthazar brought Myrrh..it’s basically gum. If you’re going to name yourself after one of the wise men, Melchior seems a better bet based of his gift choices…
But gift choice issues aside, Balthazar are cool. Very cool. The Belgian five piece have been together since 2004, and have released five albums since 2010.
There aren’t many Belgian bands with international acclaim (Jacques Brel is long passed, dEUS are fabulous but haven’t done anything in years, Front 242 are too much, Gotye a one hit wonder) so the Belgian London community is out in force. For a Monday night, it’s impressive.
The disembodied chorus of “I do not wanna wait, Ah-ah, I do not wanna wait” from Hourglass heralds the band’s arrival on stage, as they launch into the track itself. For a small venue, they have an impressive light show, which gives them a sense of a much bigger show.
Guitarists singers Maarten and Jinte swing wildly between duets and alternating lead vocals, their voices complementing each other and intertwining perfectly. The band crack through a set drawing on all five of their albums, but leaning on this year’s Sand (reviewed previously on Back In Blackheath here)
When I reviewed that album, I described them as off kilter, late night Arcade Fire, meets MGMT and Tame Impala. That still true, but they are funkier than I expected, more energetic and just slick. Imagine indie lounge music but with the bass guitar upfront and centre and rocking. Plus they have a trombone player - how fucking cool is THAT?
Sinking Ship has the best ear worm I have heard in years, sounding like it’s being sung by a louche Bob Dylan (surprisingly good!). Blood Like Wine from their debut is pop meets Krautrock - repetitious pop perfection. Both singers flail their guitars around as they play, lurching mid-song from guitars to manic keys back to guitars. Maarten swinging his guitar in the air like a chainsaw wielding mass murderer on a day out.
Closers Bunker and Losers are masterpieces in their unique style of lounge, chill indie pop. The latter is triumphant, its mantra of “We are losers on the verge of something great” ringing in our ears as we head off, the real world and a 9.00am meeting rudely jolting us back to mid-week reality the next day.
This was a great show - the only downside? No merch - does Brexit mean it’s just not worth European bands bringing it across? If so, touring will soon be unaffordable for brilliant bands like this. Fuck.
And the band could do with a real trashy, fast rocker. But these are small niggles - do check them out, guarantee you will love them!