“No texties … live in the moment!”
Such was Haim’s message to an adoring crowd that, even if it didn’t fully abide by the directive (a transgression revealed by the continuous firefly-like twinkles of cell phones’ LED screens), sang, danced and generally got caught up in each moment of the sister trio’s 1-hour, 15-minute set at Terminal 5 in New York on Saturday night (May 10; the band also played the venue last night).
With bassist Este Haim serving as the act’s main spokeswoman, leading much of the night’s banter, Danielle providing lead vocals and intense guitar-shredding and Alana attacking drums, the band continued its penchant for bringing a harder-hitting edge to its live set as compared to its more pop-sheened debut album, “Days Are Gone.” The release entered the Billboard 200 at No. 6 the week of Oct. 19, 2013, and has sold 168,000 copies in the U.S. to date, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
That the crowd, made up largely of 20-somethings, and seemingly more female than male, sang backup vocals on most of the night’s songs is a testament to the strength of Haim’s hooks and its dedicated touring schedule, as radio has, curiously, yet to fully embrace the band. To date, “Forever” marks Haim’s only Billboard airplay chart appearance, having spent a sole week at No. 40 (in March) on Alternative Songs. (The song is, however, primed for a debut on Adult Pop Songs and is approaching the Pop Songs tally.)
The audience didn’t need much prodding for its revelry – a New York City Saturday night, the weather finally warming, lengthy night-long lines for drinks, in addition to the music – and Haim sincerely thanked attendees for the city’s unwavering support, from previous shows at Webster Hall to Brooklyn’s Music Hall of Williamsburg. Even before catching first glimpses of the stage, fans could immerse themselves in the visual elements of “Days Are Gone” by having their pictures taken while sitting in three beach chairs in front of a green lawn backdrop, a la the set’s cover art.
Este Haim (at 28, the eldest of the three; Danielle is 25 and Alana, 22) told the night’s most revealing story, literally: In 2007, she said, she and her friend Kesha (three years before “TiK ToK” topped the Billboard Hot 100 for nine weeks) attended an M.I.A. show at Terminal 5 (a year before she reached No. 4 on the Hot 100 with “Paper Planes”). When the British rapper called for fans to join her on stage during a song, the future chart inhabitants made the cut. Este, in a dress, was lifted up by a security guard, and, “Yes, everyone saw my boo-tay,” she playfully admitted. When the anecdote drew hearty approval (surely the majority from the male dates on hand), Este noted, “It got cheers then, too.”
Haim’s catchy choruses and all-out energy managed to make the cavernous, multi-tiered – and sold-out – Terminal 5 feel cozy. Seated fans even lined the balconies’ floors, legs dangling over the sides above the shoulder-to-shoulder crowd far below on the main floor. (Visually, think Shawshank State Prison, but one in which the playing of music is rewarded with applause, not two weeks in the hole.)
The trio, long hair thrashing, performed all but one song (“Go Slow”) from “Days Are Gone,” including the especially hooky “Falling,” “Don’t Save Me” and “Forever.” Album closer “Running If You Call My Name” briefly made for the closest to a cell phones-in-the-air moment, although even that track, the last written for the album, Danielle said, segued to a faster tempo punctuated by her crunchy riffs.
When not playing to its pure-pop musical center, Haim added a scorching cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Oh Well”; the album’s darkest cut, the swampy “My Song 5”; and a rock-flavored rendition of Beyonce’s “XO.”
The night flew by with the speed of Danielle’s guitar-playing and the crowd’s shrieks approximated those at a concert by an act that’s already attained household-name status (heights that a lofty Haim radio hit could help engender).
“This is so next-level,” Alana marveled of the crowd’s adulation during the encore. The joyous singing of fans even while filing out to the exits suggested that Haim’s ascent has more breakthroughs yet to come.
Here is Haim’s setlist from its show (with opening act Shy Girls; Tennis opened the following night) at Terminal 5 in New York, May 10, 2014. The Los Angeles-based trio plays dates in North America through May 25 before heading to Europe through July 20 and returning for six more U.S. shows in August.
“If I Could Change Your Mind”
“Oh Well” (Fleetwood Mac cover)
“Honey & I”
“Days Are Gone”
“Don’t Save Me”
“My Song 5”
“Running If You Call My Name”
“XO” (Beyonce cover)
“Let Me Go”