Twilight Sad's James Graham Gives Intense Performance at L.A. Show

Twilight Sad perform at Teragram Ballroom
Chris Molina

Twilight Sad perform at Teragram Ballroom in Los Angeles on May 25, 2016.

Scottish post-punk band The Twilight Sad, who were in L.A. to open for The Cure’s three shows at the Hollywood Bowl, headlined the Teragram Ballroom on Wednesday night (May 25) to a packed venue. “Was everybody at those crazy gigs that we just did?” singer James Graham asked the audience, who responded with loud applause. “We were definitely not used to that. The sun shining outside, all that kind of stuff,” referring to the band’s 7 p.m. set time.

He then gestured to the dimly lit stage and lowered his voice: “Darkness is what we prefer.” This would aptly describe The Twilight Sad’s music, which often explores bleak themes (cue the song “Drown So I Can Watch”). It also helps to explain the friendship that developed between the band and The Cure, often considered one of the godfathers of goth. The latter’s Robert Smith, a fan of the young Scottish band, recently recorded a cover of “There’s a Girl in the Corner,” a track from 2014 album Nobody Wants to Be Here and Nobody Wants to Leave, which was released as a double A-side to “It Never Was the Same.” 

Guitarist Andy MacFarlane told The Guardian: “Hearing someone that we’ve all looked up to for so long sing and play one of our songs is definitely one of the most surreal moments we’ve ever had.”  That collaboration led to Twilight Sad’s position as The Cure’s special guest on an extensive North American tour. Graham told the crowd that the experience has been “f—ing amazing.” And it has provided the relatively obscure indie band with plenty of exposure, as the crowd in the Teragram was a mix of fans from the early days of 2007 debut Fourteen Autumns & Fifteen Winters to those who might have only recently heard of the band via The Cure. But the longtime fans were the most vocal, yelling song requests repeatedly, to which Graham joked, “F—ing hell, you’re mental. Usually at our shows, they just stand and stroke their beards.” 

Fans were clearly engrossed in the performance, with some raising their hands in the air, as if at a religious sermon, while others were full-on headbangers. And the set rewarded this enthusiasm, spanning the band’s four albums, from the 2007 debut (“That Summer, at Home I Had Become the Invisible Boy” and “Cold Days From the Birdhouse”) to latest release Nobody Wants to Be Here and Nobody Wants to Leave. The live performance also benefitted from the addition of a bassist and keyboardist, lending the show a more enriched sound. 

But the night’s standout was Graham, who performed with a notable intensity, as the music seemed to overtake him. He would take deep breaths, swing his arms in the air and rapidly move around on stage. Periodically he would even shout, as if expelling excess energy. All of which made his stage presence impressive and absorbing.

At the end of the night, Graham told the audience, “This has been the craziest six weeks of our lives, so thank you for being a part of it.” He then added, with humility: “Thank you for coming to see a small band from Scotland.” Though the band opted out of an encore -- fans were left waiting before the house lights went on -- many quickly swarmed the merch booth, perhaps to buy their first Twilight Sad album.

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