Usually when a musician introduces their dad during a show, he’s waving proudly somewhere in the audience. Childhood frontman Ben Romans-Hopcraft’s father Robin could be found to his left, on the trumpet. He only just had elbow room in this enhanced version of what was once an unremarkable indie band. Tonight there were nine people on the stage, stewing up a joyful blend of funk, soul and psychedelic guitar pop.
Perhaps it was the sound of dad’s childhood that the band were replicating on their second album, this summer’s Universal Light. Romans-Hopcraft, now styled in a retro brown suit by acclaimed menswear designer Grace Wales Bonner, has found his falsetto, and today has more in common with Shuggie Otis and Curtis Mayfield than today’s indie rockers.
The relaxed feel of the album became punchier on stage, the singer jerking and kicking out his left leg as the volume swelled. Don’t Have Me Back was a sunny blast of piano soul. Cameo strutted along over clipped funk guitar and a fuzzy bassline. He hit his highest notes on a brand new song, Sugar Flight, to match its squealing synth line.
A couple of songs from Childhood’s debut album, Lacuna from 2014, could have been by a different band. Solemn Skies ditched their new grooviness for pounding drums, a wall of guitars and a chorus that generated a small mosh pit. The trumpet, saxophone and two female backing singers all stepped away during Blue Velvet, a basic tune that didn’t need their extra colour.
Some indie characteristics remained: a general looseness to the band, the relaxed guitar jangle of Nothing Ever Seems Right, and their proud refusal to engage with the theatricality of leaving the stage for an encore. But the newer songs were wildly ambitious and deserve to be heard far more widely. Childhood have grown up and sound fantastic.