Snail Mail deliver a show lacking electricity or thunder
On one of the warmest nights of the year so far, wading into a crowded Lido was not the most appealing prospect. The intense climate felt was a precursor for wild storms predicted to roll into the wee hours. In these calm moments beforehand, though, the disproportionately North American crowd gathered outside the entrance chatting amiably. The reason for our coming was Snail Mail, the indie prodigy that has been garnering popular and critical acclaim since her 2016 debut aged just 16. However, whether due to the weather or the sometimes patchy sound, the show failed to deliver any real sturm oder drang.
After a very forgettable opening act (which we eventually abandoned in order to seek airy solace in the beer garden) Snail Mail took to the stage with an extended rock out instrumental. Singer, songwriter and the creative mind behind the band Linsey Jordan wielded her guitar with purpose. Her versatility with the instrument in performing solos and riffs was incredibly assured. The band then launched into first song, appropriately called ‘Heat Wave’. The sound seemed quite muddy overall, Jordan’s voice failing to cut through. The crowd seemed engaged from the outset, though, raucously cheering each song.
With a set based mostly on last year’s album ‘Lush’, some of the complaints around that record did arise. There is a slight sense of sameness to a bulk of the songs, making it quite hard to distinguish one from another. This was made all the more difficult in the middle of the set where the band would run songs into each other. I found myself struggling to recall any of the three previous choruses with the riffs feeling overly familiar. Coupled with the indeterminate lyrics due to what was either a dodgy vocal mix or odd technique, I found myself zoning out.
The crowd seemed fairly engaged despite the intense heat and a stoic lack of interaction from the band. This was pretty striking, with the songs coming thick and fast without any pause for between-song patter. Towards the end of the set and during a tuning break, Jordan joked that on their North American tours she has another guitar, meaning filler talk isn’t required. This fell slightly flat. The slickness with which they ran through the set was admirable but felt quite routinised and impersonal. It’s understandable given their heavy touring schedule, though a paying crowd might justifiably expect a little more.
Similarly, coming to the end of the show, when Jordan suggested this was the best crowd of the tour I was taken aback. There had been plenty of energy and commitment, some singalongs, but it all felt quite mundane. Is this really as exciting as it gets? However, things ended strongly. For a final song, the band left the stage leaving Jordan alone. This was the real show-stopping moment of the gig. It allowed her raw, stripped-back talent to show through. It was, in my eyes, the first real moment of connection of the evening between band and audience, albeit a little too brief.
The show drew to a close and, after signing some fans bottles and tickets, Jordan left the stage. We made for the exits and for the slightly less exhausting heat outside. As we stepped onto the street, lightning flashed overhead and the latest instalment of Berlin’s summer storm season unfolded above our heads. The wind screeched thrillingly through the trees around us. We cycled home in the pouring rain, riders on the storm for a time, gazing at the epic light show above our heads. The Snail Mail show faded in our memories. We wouldn’t miss it much.
A Scottish troubadour, scientist, writer. Jack of few trades.