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Words Liam Cattermole (@liam_cattermole)

Touring their thunderous new album, one of the most hyped this year, bar italia bring murky hooks and an unruly energy to the Village Underground for a highly anticipated London headline show.

For a band who’ve prolifically toured the UK, Europe and US and released four projects in three years, there’s still an air of the unknown surrounding bar italia. Maybe it’s down to their lack of self-promo, the relative anonymity while blowing up on blog forums, or even the lingering effect of being signed to Dean Blunt’s arcane record label, WORLD MUSIC. Mystery hangs over them in a foggy haze.

“I’d rather be boring than mysterious”, they told The Guardian in a rare interview last month, and although this might be true, they can hardly deny having thrived in the enigmatical space they’ve been in. At the Village Underground, they only address the audience when heckled, “We don’t take requests”, informs Nina Cristante, before Jezmi Tarik Fehmi mumbles a thank you after the encore. “That’s the most I’ve ever heard them speak”, says one fan to another after the show.

bar italia have been relentless in 2023. Signing to Matador, they’ve released two albums in the space of six months, Tracey Denim and The Twits, stamping their sludgy riffs, desolate lyricism and muddy melodies on British guitar music. The setlist for an expectant Shoreditch crowd is made predominantly of tracks from their most recent record, The Twits. Walking out from the shadows of a dimly lit stage, the trio assume their positions and launch into ‘My Little Tony’: a rambunctious and sassy earworm that fills the room with a fizzy excitement.

This is a moody show. Nina Cristante, Sam Fenton and Jezmi Tarik Fehmi’s silhouettes stay predominately in the shadows of their caliginous surroundings while the bassist and drummer lurk at the back. They make the vibe feel beautifully tenebrous. People sway from side to side in response to 'worlds greatest emoter' and 'twist', occasionally headbanging like a poorly stuffed rag doll.

‘Nurse!’ provides one of the night’s highlights. Having had time to mull over tracks from Tracey Denim, the audience is naturally more receptive to its tracklisting. bar italia, on the other hand, are clearly beyond the record, favouring material that most people have only had four days to digest. Nevertheless, ‘Jelsy’ already seems like one of the band’s most spellbinding singles. Leaning into tales of loneliness over a looping acoustic melody, the trio is visibly comfortable in the stripped-back and more vulnerable sound.

Surprisingly, there was time for an encore. bar italia returned to the stage to play ‘Skylinny’, their most streamed song to date, which garnered them a cultish following during lockdown. Depicting a determination to escape from life’s restrictions, the track felt particularly potent while housebound and its sentiment clearly still rings true for many today. “Feel like an animal on a leash in pain”, sings Fenton before replying to himself, “Born to run away, born to run away”. The crowd shrieks the hooky verses back before Cristante, Fenton and Tarik Fehmi submerge into the shadows again.

Rating: 7/10


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