Gig Review – Flyte | 7th December 2023, O2 Academy 2

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Flyte Band
Images credit: Ayla Hewitt

Sprinting out of Lime Street, I turn a few corners, take the stairs two at a time and make it into O2 Academy 2 just after doors. The incomparable Flyte are playing tonight. 

I find a place in the front row, lean my arms on the barrier and wait.

Just as the clock strikes nine, Will Taylor and Nick Hill walk onto stage, followed by their band. The two founding members of Flyte clearly have a lot of talented friends, as the musicians joining them are all incredible artists in their own right. None other than Suren de Saram (of Bombay Bicycle Club fame) is on drums. 

The first three songs (‘Speech Bubble’, ‘Defender’ and ‘Press Play’) are from their new album, the eponymously named Flyte. The album only came out in October, but almost everyone around me is quietly mouthing the lyrics. The reaction to Flyte has been overwhelming and I can understand why – it is undoubtedly a brilliant album. But for me, it can’t beat their second. The sophomore album curse is very real for some bands, but Flyte is definitely not one of them. This Is Really Going To Hurt is one of my favourite albums ever. 

And it’s where Flyte turn next. We get four tracks from their second LP in total, but I wish they’d played more. They could’ve played the whole album, start to finish, five times tonight and it still wouldn’t be enough for me. I think it’s an unbelievable record – cinematic, hard-hitting and self-reflective. It really does hurt, but it’s very, very good. 

 

Returning to their new material, Taylor and Hill play a stripped-back version of ‘Chelsea Smiles’. They tell us that they’ve had the chord progression but no lyrics for this song for seven years. They even asked Poet Laureate Simon Armitage to write some, but didn’t end up using them. 

They do this a lot, telling us funny anecdotes or giving us insights into their songwriting process. For ‘Even on Bad Days’, Taylor explains that this is a song that possibly best represents a theme running throughout the new LP – that contentment doesn’t always have to be the enemy of creativity. They preface ‘Perfect Dark’ by pointing out that they brought a harp with them on tour for one song. As it ends, someone in the audience shouts “worth it” and I think I’d have to agree. 

Taylor also sings the praises of Madison Cunningham, asking if we’ve heard of her – he must think we all live together under one massive rock. (But seriously, if you haven’t come across her stuff before, definitely give it a listen. She’s phenomenal.) Before introducing another track, he tells us to look out for something that they’ll be releasing together soon. As a huge fan of both artists involved, I cannot wait to hear what they’ve been working on. 

As Flyte reach the end of their set, they make the whole crowd laugh by sarcastically explaining how an encore works – “we walk off and you have to make noise”. 

That is exactly what happens. 

‘Archie, Marry Me’ is one of three tracks Flyte play on their return to stage. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched their Alvvays cover on YouTube, so finally seeing it live was surreal. They choose to do it a cappella – Taylor, Hill and two members of their band (Blackaby and M Field) stand around a single microphone, and the Beach Boys harmonies begin.

In full disclosure, I wrote most of this review on the train home after the gig. It’s now almost a week later and I’m still not entirely sure how to finish it – but the one thing I can tell you is that Flyte are one of my favourite bands in the world. 

 

Review by: Ayla Hewitt

Images credit: Ayla Hewitt

Follow Ayla on Insta@aylagoestogigs   @aylaratesalbums  

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