Having traveled more than 3,000 miles away from home, Brit-pop duo The Boy Least Likely To entered the port of New York City for the first time after having performed across the continent of North America for the last three months. Their debut album The Best Party Ever, released on their own indie label Too Young To Die Records, came to America in April 2006, and though the album has been warmly received in dance clubs and by music fans in the UK and western Europe, the band is still in the process of working up American audiences to make a similar impact.
Accompanying the duo of Jof Owen and Peter Hobbs on their tour are two recorder players who also operate the keyboards and the fiddle, a bass player, a drummer, and a banjo-guitarist who rounds out the ensemble. The five additional players also perform vocal harmonies and kept in perfect time with Owen and Hobbs which required some intuition because they have a tendency to break in the middle of a song to ad lib a conversation between the two of them, or to point at an unsuspecting audience member and start up a conversation with the blushing concertgoer. There is a Monty Python type of spontaneity going on through the show.
Like the British comedy duo of Cleese and Idle, Owen and Hobbs shared many of their views about American customs like how Americans need to high-five each other. So deeply taken by this custom that the pair demonstrated the act of high-fiving to an enthused crowd that cheered them on, then Owen high-fived everyone in the front row. The duo also took a liking to the American expression for “awesome.” Everyone and everything was absolutely “awesome” to them for the rest of the evening.
The Boy Least Likely To opened their set with their tune “Hugging My Grudge,” a pop/rock/dance track with shimmering glockenspiel chimes, vibrant guitar textures, deep bass drum loops, and tinges of folk tones from the fiddle and banjo-guitar. The songs ring with upbeat tempos and a playful nature in a 4/4 time signature that kept the crowd moving to the bobbling rhythms and clapping their hands like a jubilant assembly at a beer festival.
There is an intangible magnetism to the light-hearted dance/pop movements of their songs like “Monsters,” which Owen shares is about the people from their hometown. There is an infectious pull to sing along in the choruses which the audience gravitates to in songs like “I See Spiders When I Close My Eyes” and “Paper Cuts.” Owen prods the audience on as he pounds his fists in the air.
The union of male and female vocals singing alongside each other adds a greater level of harmony and integration with the instrumentation. The Boy Least Likely To has a way of integrating various elements of pop verses, rock pulsing movements, and folk/country flanges, and brings them together to produce energetic textures and pleasing tones brimming with high-pitched toylike sounds and charming indentations weaving through the melodies.
The band debuted a new track during the show entitled “Rock Upon A Porch With You” which Owen describes is about a couple who are in love and grow old together. The tune has remnants of classic T-Rex dance/rock grooves combined with contemporary chord motions.
Other highlights of the show include the group’s cover version of George Michael’s hit single “Faith” and tracks from their debut disc like “Fur Soft As Fur” and “Be Gentle With Me” which incorporate a new wave of pop/rock cuisine using classic ingredients and rudimentary rhythmic structures.
Opening for The Boy Least Likely To was neo-retro, pop/rock artist’s The Bicycles, a five piece unit from Toronto, Canada whose main similarity to The Boy Least Likely To is that they too apply contemporary fringes to classic forms. Their repertoire of ’50s and `60s rockabilly grooves injected with modern rock wedges gives bebop a refreshing lift and brings old rock signatures and phrases into present day music. With a female drummer backing four male musicians playing the parts of bass guitar, harmonica, keyboards, electric and acoustic guitar, tambourines, and trumpet, The Bicycles entertained the crowd with rock textures that reflected music from The Beach Boys, The Everly Brothers, The Monkeys, and retro-rockers The Stray Cats.
The Bicycles fluctuation and arrangement between heavy to light tones indelibly won over The Boy Least Likely To’s band member, Peter Hobbs who was garbed in a Bicycles T-shirt on stage, which incited a squabble between him and Owen who playfully jostled Hobbs for wearing another band’s T-shirt in the shade of red.
It is The Boy Least Likely To’s affable nature, spontaneity, and charming wit that distinguishes them from other UK bands like The Darkness, Doves, and Hard Fi. The Boy Least Likely To have ridden a self-propelled wave into America and whether they pursue music or comedy, the fans were very pleased with the group’s show and many expressed that they would like to do it all again tomorrow night and every night after that, at least until they grow too old for such playful banter.