Cosmo Pyke @ The Garage, London, 31/01/2018

Cosmo PykeWe should have anticipated this. A sold-out show for Cosmo Pyke - a Brit School-trained musician/model/skateboarder, yet to break the 20-year mark of planetary existence. It’s full of bloody children, isn’t it? Lives all full of promise, outlandish fashion choices, collectively counting their shrapnel to buy a single WKD Blue and five biodegradable straws.

Well, it’s a nice change from the flat beer-swilling, plaid-shirted, head nodding homogeny we see at so many other shows, so let’s appreciate it. As any live music aficionado will attest, a considerable percentage of any such experience hinges on your fellow concertgoers. A mediocre performance can be elevated to transcendental through collective enthusiasm, while an energetic performance can be rendered lifeless else wise; total accomplishment can feel be met with arid frigidity, while a cartoonish performance can be given the aspect of the virtuosic.

So a show at which you feel like a superannuated outlier is nothing short of the perfect people watching opportunity – how will these young fans of the young Cosmo Pyke behave (with the proviso that we take them not as representatives of anything other than own flamboyantly-dressed collective selves)? An early burst of enthusiasm bodes well, as he drops a couple of new numbers, punctuated with work from his Just Cosmo EP.

As he segues into some quieter numbers sans-band, however, that enthusiasm is nowhere to be seen. Or, indeed, heard – because all you can hear is people bloody nattering. Some in little circles facing away from the band. Now, this phenomenon is by no means limited to this young audience – it’s an unfortunate consequence of a larger phenomenon of concertgoing becoming a mainstream lifestyle option (of which there are positive effects also, of course). But if you’ve paid to see an artist, turned up to a rescheduled sold-out date in a venue with good sight lines if slightly mousy sound, surely you at least give them most of the benefit of the doubt and watch? Reverent silence no one needs outside of a minimal jazz show, but to strain your ears to have to hear is but much.

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Naturally, when he closes at 10:15pm with biggest single “Chronic Sunshine”, shit is lost. Or at least, a sea of arms shoot up for the iPhone video salute. In fairness, much of this comes down to Cosmo Pyke himself. Like fellow Brit School alumnus King Krule, he favours genre-mashing jazz/indie/hip-hop/R’n’B – all clever textural chords, aloof Sarf Landan vocals, artfully constrained tempos. He’s not quite at the same level of accomplishment as Archie Marshall, but then who the devil is? Numbers from Just Cosmo reflect this – ostensibly lurching compositions belying the tightly-controlled performance underneath – the very essence of style.

The numbers from the aforementioned EP - “After School Club”, “Social Sites” and of course “Chronic Sunshine” - really carry the set. It’s not that the newer numbers, of which he gives us a fair few, are weaker – it’s just the band seem not quite there with tightness required of these ambitious pieces. Worth checking back in a few months, perhaps. The aforementioned solo numbers (one with the bass player) certainly serve more as mid-set chaff rather than an intimate audience with Cosmo – and there’s no place for a fucking harmonica here, this ain’t an open mic night! Oh sure, the audience isn’t doing their part, but perhaps it’s just that Pyke has lost them, and they’re voting with their feet – and voices. Pyke isn't quite there with his stage patter either, reminding us that less can always be more...

For now, then, let’s call this live show from Cosmo Pyke a work in progress. Otherwise, there’s a very accomplished EP, around which you should wrap your ears if you haven’t already…

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