Bear’s Den, House of Rapture, Fratton, REVIEW: ‘No-one who’s there will forget it’

Bear's Den were at Staggeringly Good's House of Rapture to launch their new album. Picture by Sequoia Ziff
Bear's Den were at Staggeringly Good's House of Rapture to launch their new album. Picture by Sequoia Ziff
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Given that they have just finished a UK tour with two sold out nights at the O2 Shepherd’s Bush this is something of a coup for promoters and Southsea record shop Pie & Vinyl, along with Staggeringly Good brewery, which runs this quirky venue.

It’s a free gig to just over 100 lucky people to mark the launch of the band's third album, So That You Might Hear Me.

Bear's Den

Bear's Den

They start the set with recent single Laurel Wreath, which sets out their stall perfectly - imagine a less smug Mumford and Sons, or the sorely missed Frightened Rabbit.

Playing as three piece, without drums, and occasionally augmented by a fourth on trumpet, their songs are stripped back to their heart-aching core.

Another new song, Conversations With Ghosts follows, featuring some beautiful three-part harmonies.

Then they delve back to the Ivor Novello-nominated Above The Clouds of Pompeii, from their debut album Islands, which earns a huge cheer from the crowd.

Bear's Den

Bear's Den

Frontman Andrew Davie tells us the song was written in Portsmouth (it wasn’t), and was actually called Clouds Above Pompey, earning laughs and groans in equal amounts.

Another early single, Isaac, climaxes with a gorgeous repeated a cappella refrain: ‘I’m going to give all my love to you.’

It’s a hairs-standing-on-the-back-of-your-neck moment.

Even though they have played to thousands in the preceding weeks, the band are clearly moved by the love in the room, with Davie announcing that this is ‘a proper show.’

Davie announces they’re going to play the next song away from the mics, and begins the tender ballad Sophie.

But before the chorus he fluffs the lyrics to much amusement, bringing the song to a halt. ‘I’ve sung this a million times and never done that before’, he laughs.

‘No pressure’ shouts someone from the audience with perfect timing as they start up – and mess up again. It’s a wonderfully human moment, and the third time’s a charm.

For their final song in this all-too-short set, they come down from the stage and into the middle of the crowd to play Blankets Of Sorrow, the new album’s final song and emotional climax, completely acoustically.
You can hear a pin drop… and then the back bar collapses with glass crashing everywhere.

The moment’s gone, but the band recoup and start again. 

It’s been far from your average gig, but no-one who’s there will forget it. These are beautiful songs played at a funny old gig.