A SORCEROUS SET FROM YEULE
Charli XCX’s opener shouldn’t be underestimated.
Does it not seem strange that hypnotism is performed for light entertainment? Should a demonstration of the mind’s vulnerability to intrusion and outside control not be taken more seriously? We accept the hypnotist’s feats without question because they operate in a controlled, predictable context. As I discovered on Sunday night, to be sent into a trance without warning is an entirely different experience.
As an unsuspecting audience gathered at Glasgow’s O2 Academy to see Charli XCX, Yeule emerged with a rumbling wave of noise and deep green light, performing slow, compelling movements with their back turned. They showed only brief glimpses of their face.
Having drawn their audience in, they began stringing a series of musical numbers together with such consistency of tone as to create a single, continuous flow of sound in which you couldn’t help but be swept along.
At atmospheric moments in the music, Yeule made their own movements the main feature of interest as though their body were a solo instrument. At fleeting moments when the beat gathered momentum before falling away, they let the sound take command and flow through them so completely that every beat caused an energetic and precise burst of activity. The visual side of their performance commanded fascination not only in its harmonious relationship with the music but also through more direct gestures. They froze at unpredictable moments and held their pose for long enough that the audience applauded as though it were the end of the number. They directed arrows from a mimed bow to incite adoration in particular parts of the crowd.
Like the hand drew back the arrow, the initial restraint in the music pulled you in close so that it might strike with maximum force at the refrain in ‘Electric’, when the bass surged into life and a thousand volts right through the soul.
Yeule’s music, even at its most powerful and with its maximum electronic corruption and distortion, is based on honest personal expression. Towards the end of their set, they switched from a heavily stylised means of expression towards one that was more natural. They played the beautiful and remarkably conventional ‘Don’t Be So Hard on Your Own Beauty’ under gentle pink lights. They stood still, softly playing a guitar that hung from their shoulders. For the first time in the show, they said more than one or two words as they thanked the audience with sincerity and without a hint of egotism. This sudden shift in style only strengthened the bond between performer and listener in introducing an element of intimacy.
Yeule’s electric guitar had been left out on stage for the whole set. This seemed to imply that they were saving it for something special. The gently strummed guitar part in ‘Don’t Be Too Hard on Your Own Beauty’ didn’t quite match the anticipated spectacle.
There was a final act of excitement in store, though. Throughout their set, Yeule struck an excellent balance as they withheld their most radical material for the benefit of the Charli XCX crowd without compromising the appeal of their style. But, just as only those who are consciously or subconsciously willing to cooperate can be effectively hypnotised, so some in the audience weren’t prepared to take interest in anything without a constantly thumping beat. Yeule eventually gave them something to dance to with a wild rendition of ‘Bites on My Neck’. For the rest of us, this concluding number was the powerful culmination of an experience that was, from beginning to end, entrancing.