Friendly Fires at All Points East: Energetic performances and hilariously odd dancing make for a fun-filled hour

Ed Macfarlane of Friendly Fires on stage at Sunday's All Points East gig. Picture: Rory James

Ed Macfarlane of Friendly Fires on stage at Sunday's All Points East gig. Picture: Rory James - Credit: Archant

It’s reassuring to see Friendly Fires frontman Ed Macfarlane drenched in sweat 30 seconds into his band’s set.

Over four years, Macfarlane built a reputation not just as the Fires’ gifted acrobatic vocalist (and really, you should hear the pipes on this guy) but as one of the most hilariously odd dancers ever to grace a rock stage.

And then, not long after dropping the band’s technicolour second album Pala in 2011, he and his band were gone, resurfacing only briefly for a one-off and somewhat lacklustre single in 2012.

Six years on, the rest has clearly done them good: every minute of this hour-long set was joyous. A trumpet player, a generous live percussion section and some creative use of tape loops made for a show that was far more than just a trio of white guys with guitars and drums. But all told, Macfarlane is such a talented performer I could happily have watched him prancing around Victoria Park on his own for 60 minutes.

Delivering energetic but note-perfect performances of five songs from Pala and four from their 2008 debut, Friendly Fires also treated us to some new material. Judging by Can’t Wait Forever, we’re in for a treat when the St Albans three-piece finally drop their third LP.

Highlights here included the pounding, soaring and slightly daft Paris, complete with its blissful comedown outro, and the irresistible Live Those Days Tonight. But the best of the lot was Hurting, already one of the best pop songs of the last decade and expanded live to sound almost carnivalistic thanks to the brass and percussion.

Not a natural dancer, I spent the entire set moving like someone’s uncle downed a pint of espresso Martini, grinning like an idiot and stepping on people’s feet because this is a band you absolutely cannot keep still to.

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Maybe the humidity played a part, but this was the most immersed I’ve felt in a gig for ages. It’s a delight to see Friendly Fires back.