On Wednesday night, Salem played one of the most hyped London shows of the year, at Shoreditch Church courtesy of promoters Lanzarote.

Half the tickets had sold out before the gig was even announced (or something), there was talk of scouts from major labels, all sorts. Salem being Salem, of course, took this high-profile gig as an opportunity to look as non-plussed as possible. Or in Jack Donoghue [above]’s case, as hammered as possible. It’s hard to tell how much they were actually doing live; Heather basically mimed, keeping a distance from the mic so that she’d come through quieter than the vocals on the backing track. Likewise, a decent proportion of the music seemed to come from a backing track; at various points there was live guitar, synth and sampler, but God knows how much of the overall sound they accounted for. The rapping sounded really good though.

What this gig did show however, is a ton of potential for Salem’s music to do damage in the live setting. The majority of King Night is so multi-layered and dense that translating it to the stage isn’t going to come without hard work – and maybe it can’t come without additional live musicians – but there were moments when it sounded blistering. That’s without the volume that you could get in a proper music venue; visually Shoreditch Church was the perfect setting for Salem’s songs, which already sound buried alive, but you can’t turn things up too loud in buildings that date back to the 1700s. At double the decibels, this would have sounded incredible.

Still, for Salem fans, seeing the live versions of these tracks in embryonic form must have been pretty special. The majority of the set came from King Night; you had ‘Traxx’, ‘Frost’, ‘Redlights’ and ‘Killer’, while ‘Tent’, made famous by that infamous performance at a Fader show last year, closed proceedings. In between, there was non-album (new?) material that sounded promising. It’ll sound even better when they come over next time.

Photo credit: Teddy Fitzhugh for Vice


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