Showcasing a new album months before its release is a tricky endeavour. Especially if that album edges your band’s hyperactive sound – one that had previously skipped playfully from electro-pop to yacht rock to Motown-tinged psych – dangerously towards MOR maturity. But that’s the challenge facing Metronomy’s frontman Joe Mount as he straps on an acoustic guitar at the start of this comeback gig as part of the inaugural London festival from Pitchfork. Looking slightly worried, the band – keyboardist Oscar Cash, bassist Olugbenga, drummer Anna Prior and Michael Lovett on guitar – tiptoe into the breezy Love Factory, a swaying singalong-in-waiting from next February’s pared down seventh album, Small World.
It’s swiftly followed by a handful of crowdpleasers, however, with the elasticated Everything Goes My Way rubbing shoulders with a beefed-up Night Owl, the latter a showcase not only for Olugbenga’s undulating bass riffs but a megawatt perma-grin that powers most of the set. After The Reservoir’s bouncy keyboard riff leads to a crowd singalong, Mount seems to settle, his endearingly awkward between-song patter covering east London gentrification (he’s a fan of Hackney’s nearby “big Boots”) and the climate crisis (London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone gets a shoutout).
The subsequent new songs, including the ebullient, Scissor Sisters-esque single It’s Good to Be Back and the buoyant Right on Time, which canters merrily along on a chorus of “for now let’s enjoy the sunshine”, benefit from this new relaxed mode. Meanwhile, the calming balm of Things Will Be Fine just about manages to stay on the right side of twee. Lyrically simplified and free of Mount’s usual arched eyebrow, the new songs seem laser-focused on the heart rather than the head.
Only the threadbare indie plod of Hold Me Tonight feels like a misstep, its position as set closer deflating a crowd hopped up on the sugary pop of Salted Caramel Ice Cream and the band’s masterpiece, 2011’s immaculate The Look. They still walk off to roaring chants of “one more song”, having elegantly walked that tightrope of mixing the old with the new.