SXSW: Years later, the Heavy sounds less sinister

Jay Janner/American-Statesman
Jay Janner/American-Statesman

“We’ve been away for a while,” Kelvin Swaby, lead singer for British rock band, the Heavy said at the top of the band’s afternoon set at the South by Southwest Radio Day Stage on Friday afternoon.

To be specific, it’s been four years since the band’s last album dropped. Their fourth album is due out in April and they used their SXSW set to introduce an enthusiastic audience of music industry insiders to some of the songs.

The first two Heavy albums bubbled with an ominous undercurrent. Swaby’s menacing vocals beckoned listeners to lose their inhibitions and venture into the darkness. Never mind the devil secretly smiling in the shadows, this was music that urged you to do bad things because they feel so good.

Based on this afternoon’s performance, the band has left some of that malevolent energy behind, moving into a straight ahead solid rock sound. The band was tight and the songs sounded good, but the general vibe was much safer than it used to be.

Swaby had some mic issues during the performance (he asked to be turned up twice) and he might have been saving himself for the band’s night shows, but his vocals lacked the snarling intensity he brought the last time he played SXSW in 2009.

The performance, which closed with the band’s biggest hit “How You Like Me Now,” was well-received. The band was tight and Swaby sounded solid, but something had changed. Perhaps he’s matured into a kinder, gentler individual. That’s all fine and good, but half the band’s appeal was their edgy vibe. The seductive bad boy who’d abandon you in a vampire’s den was not in the building.

Update: This article has been updated to correct a few dates.

Author: Deborah Sengupta Stith

Deborah Sengupta Stith has been hanging out in dimly lit corners of the city soaking in the music scene for almost 20 years. Twitter: @deborific

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