Haim Revels In Hometown Love at the Wiltern: Concert Review

Haim at The Wiltern - P DON'T USE
Kyleen James

Haim at The Wiltern - P DON'T USE

The sister trio returns to L.A. a little more polished, but still rocking.

As the lights went down for the first of Haim’s two sold-out shows at Los Angeles' Wiltern Theater, a droning organ and the pulse of a slow, foreboding drum machine set an unexpectedly somber mood. But then Danielle, Este, and Alana Haim — the three sisters who front the San Fernando Valley band — romped onto the stage, waving enthusiastically and strapping themselves into their guitars. Their excitement was palpable; although lit in silhouette, there was no doubt all three were wearing broad grins as they leaned into the set opener "Falling,” a tautly-wound rocker where they admit they’re a “slave to the sound.”

It was the perfect opening to this homecoming show, because it encapsulated Haim’s current situation: are they going to remain the coltishly enthusiastic band that cavorted through LA clubs the past few years, or will they turn into the sleek pop sophisticates heard on their major label debut, Days Are Gone?

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Based on their invigorating show, they’re trying to square that circle. The girls are growing into professional musicians, which rubs away some of the “can-you-believe-this?” energy of their club shows. Still, Haim remains a night of sheer, effervescent fun. Coming off a summer of festival gigs, they've streamlined their show into a well-paced set that lasts a shade over an hour, including encores.

The trio’s personalities remain as shaggily engaging as ever. Este is still the profane cheerleader, demanding the crowd shake their asses to “My Song 5”; Danielle revels in being a rock star, leaning back in a classic rock pose and shredding; and it’s hard to imagine that anyone anywhere is having a better time than Alana. A perpetual motion machine on stage, she’s pumping her arms, banging on her set of syn-drums, shouting out her vocal parts, or just dancing and running along a riser.

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While Haim's album has the decorous, gossamer feel of Rumours, live they are very much a rock band. And even when the threesome covers a Fleetwood Mac song, it’s not what you’d expect. Case in point: they chose to perform the song “Oh Well,” a bluesy guitar showcase from the band’s first, Peter Greene-fronted incarnation.

Elsewhere on the set list, “Honey & I” was built around a sliced and diced “Sweet Jane” riff, while “Don’t Save Me” brought a propulsive, blue-eyed assertion of independence. But there are plenty of bands that can recreate old sounds, what sets Haim apart is how they fold more modern ideas into the mix. They sounded perfectly at home covering Beyoncé’s “XO,” for example, and their absorption of R&B and hip-hop productions give “Days Are Gone” and a revamped “Running If You Call My Name” a refreshing airiness. By the time the the lights came up, the roar of stadium-ready “The Wire,” with its driving drums and emphatic “heys!” still in the air, Haim convinced everyone in the room they were headed for even bigger things.

Set List:

If I Could Change Your Mind
Oh Well (Fleetwood Mac cover)
Honey & I
Days Are Gone
My Song 5
If You Call My Name
Don't Save Me
XO (Beyonce cover)
The Wire
Let Me Go