There was a triumphant tone in the air at the Brixton Academy on November 4th on what was the final engagement of Hurts’ hugely successful European tour. It’s been a prosperous year for the duo on the whole, with their debut album Happiness enjoying sustained chart success and NME naming their Glastonbury performance the best of the festival. The result was an act standing securely and confidently on a modest platform which could barely contain the grandeur of their sounds and visions.
The boys took to the stage to the tune of their album opener ‘Silver Lining’ with their highly synthesised music benefiting pleasantly from a string section involving quite a few beautiful women in black fishnets. The scene is immediately set for the distinctive Hurts brand; a unique blend of melancholia, film noire and Cold War totalitarianism, all of course finished off with their curious stylistic reference to those 1980s fashion titans Bros. In close succession, they delivered ‘Wonderful Life’, one of their most recognisable songs, and they revel in the cult-like chanting of their crowd of followers – a unique blend of gay men, Dalston hipsters and middle aged couples, if you’re at all curious.
Frontman Theo Hutchcraft serenades his audience as if they were the lost love for whom most of the songs are written. In his light Mancunian accent, he speaks very little, preferring instead to stick to a well oiled score of perfect electronic pop. His sleeked hair, black leather gloves and short metal cane present him like a retro Bond villain, but as he sways clutching his chest and propels endless white roses into the crowd, he is undeniably channelling a little Morrissey.
The special treat for the Brixton audience came halfway through ‘Devotion’, when Miss Kylie Minogue appeared casually at Theo’s side to sing the verse of the song she performs on the album. This was closely followed by a near epic rendition of ‘Confide In Me’, a 1994 record which is one of the more modest on her list of greatest hits, but now enjoys something of a revival care of its inclusion on Hurts’ set lists. This sent the audience into euphoria, and though she ran the risk of upstaging her hosts, Kylie left the stage as humbly as she entered, and the show went on.
The mood was brought to its most intimate for the short but beautiful ‘Verona’, the album’s hidden track, but for the finale the boys saved ‘Stay’ which has been adopted by many commercial outlets as their standout track. The small but packed surrounds of the old music hall erupted in the singalong chorus; throw in a few pyrotechnics and an uncharacteristic beaming smile from our frontman and this is a truly moving moment.
After one short encore of ‘Better Than Love’, it was apparent that Hurts have managed the rather difficult task of fitting in an entire album’s worth of songs with a few extras, and yet there was not a dull moment. The end feels natural and the audience have had their fill; no more and no less. They have mastered their performance. Hurts will undoubtedly move out from under the radar for a spell now as they plot their next move, but this performance showcased them at a pivotal moment in their career. They have so much in which to relish, and so much still to achieve.
Hurts’ debut album Happiness is now available as a deluxe edition complete with bonus tracks and a DVD of their Berlin concert.