It is not always easy to define great art. Popularity is often how people try to measure it, but what you hear on the radio does not always equate to emotionally rich and intricately crafted music. With that being said, some popular musicians do manage to perfectly toe that line between accessibility and humanity; however, more often than not, it is the motivated smaller acts in the industry that manage to accomplish this feat. Up until this point, the London indie outfit Ten Fé has proved to be one of those acts. Their performance on March 30th at JBTV only further solidified this assertion.
The band opened up their set with the unrelenting track "Won't Happen". The track sees the band on a quest for self-improvement. Based on the band's words in our interview, it is safe to say that this quest fails on to some degree. During the band's interview with Jerry, Ten Fé frontman Leo Duncan claimed the track was about finally realizing that some habits will never die. And while these words may seem haunting, Duncan and company graced the stage with an uncanny confidence and ferocity. The band shook the audience as they sang about their imperfections. The track ultimately turns a negative situation into a positive one. Sure not all habits will fade away, being able to love yourself at your most imperfect is ultimately more important.
"Turn" was another gem on the band's setlist. The 2017 cut has been modified to include an extended instrumental outro that is both mystifying and groovy. The outro is taken from Ewan Pearson's remix of the song. Being the producer of Ten Fé debut effort, Pearson clearly knows the group's sound well. It shows in this outro as the arpeggiated synth lines, funky bass motifs, and discotheque drums implemented on this track perfectly fit into the band's mysterious and emotive aesthetic.
Next was the infectiously fun track "Coasting". In the band's interview with Jerry, the band revealed that this song is about meeting someone who momentarily changes you. Beyond its relatable message, the track's bouncy drums, elegant vocals, and beautiful piano lines make this song a wonderful piece of pop bliss for all listeners.
The group continued to show their diversity switching from a hopelessly romantic tune in "Coasting" to the sad brooding tale that is "Elodie". "Elodie" builds on a simple progression, but earns the audience's heart with its honest lyrics. It is the group's top track on Spotify and other streaming services for a reason. It's sonic textures conjure up feelings of nostalgia for listeners to regale at.
The group closed out with an acapella rendition of Bruce Springsteen's "I'm on Fire" followed by "Single, No Return". These two tracks perfectly show Ten Fé's incredible musical diversity. While on the Springsteen cover they are indulging in a sparse landscape of vocal harmonies, "Single, No Return" relies heavily on electronics, samples, and an active bass part. This track perfectly capped off their set as it was an incredible display of energy. As the band jammed out on the outro, you could feel them gaining momentum. The band had the crowd in the palm of their hand.
As if it was not evident by their commanding performance, the band truly wanted to make an impact on the crowd during this performance. This was not only the band's first television appearance in America but their first performance in Chicago. With a follow-up performance scheduled for later that night at Schubas, the band did not waste an opportunity to make new fans. The band absolutely dazzled the audience with their showmanship and musical prowess. On top of this, the band offered our audience guest passes to their show later that night even though the show was technically sold out!
In the band's conversation with Jerry, they discussed everything from the band's formation, the band's relationship with America, and Leo's experience performing on trains. Leo, Ben, JD, Greg, and Rob were a pleasure to host. Their chemistry as a group is palpable on both a musical and personal level. Be sure to keep your eyes out for this thrilling episode of JBTV!