Handsome Poets played the Paradiso in Amsterdam for real. The main stage was all for the band from Gouda. Only, the former church at first remained frighteningly empty. Luckily for the band many people decided to come during and after the support act, Rogier Pelgrim. Those who did, shame on you. Find out why here.
To a nearly sold out Paradiso Handsome Poets did what it is good at: building a huge party that includes everyone. From the highest balcony to the back of the room, the whole audience was part of this show. Singing, dancing, waving and clapping. And there was a big surprise in store near the end.
Watching the audience I noticed a few things. Handsome Poets has fans that I do not encounter often at shows. (This was my second Handsome Poets show. Both a birthday present to our youngest. Both times I had a good time, o.k. a very good time, but Sky on fire e.g. is not an album I play at home often (click here for the review). To explain where I'm coming from.) The mix is different. Either young or/with parents, but not much in between and certainly not older. For a reason I can't explain, I had the impression a few times that I was in a mass (and that was before the choir).
Another thing I noticed is that Handsome Poets has two bands, perhaps three, within it. The 80s pop of keyboard player Nils Davidse and drummer Daniel Smit, the rock of guitarist Eelke Mastebroek, who loves to let it rip given half a chance and dance with the rhythm section of Smit and bass player Rik Kraak. (Green coloured strings on a bass look cool!) In front is Tim van Esch who sings with ease it seems, master of his voice and comfortable with ballads, rock and party, dance-infused songs. Above all he shows a mix of modesty and prepossession with charisma and charm. Winning everyone over as if embracing everyone personally from the stage. He makes no one feel excluded.
Handsome Poets was clearly very happy with where it is at this stage of its career. Standing in front of a full Paradiso is a victory for a (Dutch) band. And it showed how happy it was by giving a perfect show. Handsome Poets is a better band than just before Christmas 2011 (click here). Everything is just this little bigger, fatter and more confident. The set was well balanced between up-tempo and ballads. 'Silence is sexy', sung as a duet with a lady whose name I did not get, was a real highlight, despite all lack of tempo. Of course the roof came off with the two major hits "Dance (the war is over) and 'Sky on fire'.
Towards the end this choir, dressed as a gospel group from a deep down South baptist church walked very solemnly on stage and started singing this surprising version of 'When the saints'. And sung the finale of the album 'Sky on fire', giving the evening a whole extra layer. This finale caught my attention before as you may have noticed if you read my review of 'Sky on fire'. The Robbie Williams side of Handsome Poets, I think.
My conclusion is that there is more to Handsome Poets than we heard on record to date. Not only because its shows are a little rougher than the records, but more so because this is a band in development, that still has to decide what it really wants to be. The potential is there to explore the mix between pop and art and rock, without saying goodbye to either, that can lift Handsome Poets to an even higher level. I'm definitely curious where this trip will take the band.
You can order 'Sky on fire' here