Concert Review: Temples @ U Street Music Hall (1/20/20)

Temples! (Photo from FB @templesofficial)

Dramatic music with a flourish.

As my notes can attest to the above, Temples stormed into DC on January 20th, blitzed the U Street Music Hall crowd with a stout dose of psychedelic rock, and went about their merry way.

Temples is touring for their third album, Hot Motion (via ATO Records), which arrived in late 2019. DC was the first stop on their multi-month U.S. tour, but they had played a few shows in the UK in early December to get warmed up. They were in fine form all evening.

U Hall was quite full of rapt concert-goers, most people even got there early enough for the opener (Art d’Ecco, from Vancouver, BC).

Temples kicked off the show with “The Howl” from Hot Motion, which manages to stay contained, before exploding into dramatic fuzzy guitars during the chorus.

Next came the liberally reverbed “Certainty”, grandly vibrating the speakers into submission, and giving off a joyously, trippy vibe.

They performed 15 songs in all, including seven from Hot Motion, and six from their debut album of 2014, Sun Structures. The first and only time I caught them live was at DC9 in 2013, their first foray to DC, and just a few months before their first album dropped. 2016 was the last concert they played in DC, so they were definitely due to visit us once again.

James Bagshaw (lead vocals and guitar) led the charge all evening, not to be outdone by the rest of Temples, comprised of Thomas Walmsley (bass and vocals), Adam Smith (keyboards, guitar and vocals) and Rens Ottink (drums). They are from Northamptonshire, England, which is a county I’ve actually been to a few times, but not quite up to their hometown of Kettering. They all take a hand in the songwriting duties, although Rens is a newer addition to the band.

A bit later, “A Question Isn’t Answered” was a long, drawn-out affair, with canned hand clapping to get us engaged, and funky lyrics and carnivalesque-sounding hooks. The mind-altering lyrics will begin to coalesce into its true meaning, only after one has taken the requisite mind-altering substances, ‘An answer has a meaning when your meaning has a truth.’

As a band, they truly embrace their psychedelic aesthetic, dressing the part with their retro-coloured suits and bold, frizzy hair. The psychedelic rock sounds produced minimal hallucinations among those enjoying themselves, but my mind was expanded just enough to break-down and try one of those hard seltzers for the first time. Hopefully my mind will expand in other directions next time.

James didn’t speak too often, but he did make some excellent points, ‘We’re going to play some songs for you tonight.’ and ‘If you sing along with me, I’ll remember the words (for “Oh! The Saviour”).’ Thomas, whom also sang occasionally, also introduced “Holy Horses”, I think as a joke simply to say those words with his thick British accent. The coy introduction, ‘This is from Hot Motion.’, for the banger “Hot Motion”, and the cheeky re-phrase of the title of “Keep In The Dark” (to “Impeach In The Dark”), gave further proof to their minimalist, dry humor, that produced quiet chuckles.

The song “Hot Motion” itself transported us into a moment of pure rock gratification, and can certainly be in the conversation for the best song they performed.

Also in the conversation is “Shelter Song’, their biggest hit from Sun Structures, and how they chose to end the main set, with a flourish.

They came back for an extended, overpowering, and downright engaging set of riffs that proved to be the track “Mesmerise”, also from Sun Structures.

Get yourself some Hot Motion, and don’t miss the next time Temples comes through DC. Also, get yourself some Sun Structures, expand your mind!

The Howl
A Question Isn’t Answered
You’re Either On Something
Colours to Life
Holy Horses
The Golden Throne
Oh! The Saviour
Hot Motion
The Beam
Keep In The Dark
Shelter Song


Author: Jeremy Bailey

Writer and editor living in Washington, D.C.

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