The greatest rock stars stay teenagers forever. Iggy Pop? Behind those wrinkles lurks the boundless energy of a high schooler. The Rolling Stones? An adolescent garage band with killer tunes. Debbie Harry. Stevie Nicks. Bruce Springsteen. All are older, wiser than they used to be, but still retain the wide-eyed verve of when they were 15 and dreaming about maybe one day having the coolest job imaginable. Haim, the Californian trio of sister musicians, firmly belong in this esteemed lineage, too.
When they break into a choreographed dance routine during the last stop on their European tour, at London’s O2 Arena, they gyrate with the endearing disorganisation of kids in the playground. They chastise one another for talking about magic mushrooms in front of their parents, who’ve flown over from the US to watch. When they announce surprise guest Taylor Swift, a mid-gig cameo that produces an audience-wide squeal so loud it could probably be heard from space, they shout with the manic breathlessness of superfans. After the pop giant departs, they gather centre stage, three women just as floored by what’s just happened as everyone watching. “Well, that was f***ing cool,” deadpans youngest sister Alana. Same, girl, same.
The top of the show is marked by feelings of gratitude. Alana, middle sister Danielle and oldest sister Este reminisce on when they last played the O2 a decade ago, as a support act for Florence and the Machine. “Do you think we’ll ever headline this place?” Alana remembers asking her siblings. The story serves as a neat demonstration not only of the band’s arguably underappreciated industry power – four Grammy nods; three albums of elastic, genre-hopping brilliance; Nicks as a mentor and Swift as a bestie; a Golden Globe nomination for Alana’s performance in Paul Thomas Anderson’s 2022 film Licorice Pizza – but how rapidly they’ve accumulated it.
Witness their Godzilla-sized stage presence, though, and it’s hardly surprising. Dressed in matching black bras and loose pleather trousers, they don’t so much walk the stage as prowl. They’re great movers. A wiggle. A high kick. A tit grab. Their hair seems to transform depending on the mood. It’s lank with ennui for a ballad. It sweeps from side to side like a supermodel on an up-tempo. It’s something to hide behind during a bittersweet rendition of “Hallelujah”, about Alana’s late best friend Sammi Kane Kraft, who died in 2012.
Their stage banter is gently rivalrous when it comes to which sister gets the biggest laugh, delivers the longest anecdote, incites the loudest cheer. Este at first seems to win with a story about a – presumably fictional – man she pegged in a Nando’s bathroom in Cardiff, which segues into a rendition of the slinky booty call number “3 AM”. But then Danielle transforms into Patti Smith on a stripped-back solo version of “Man from the Magazine”, about a belittling, sexualised interaction with a male journalist when the band were just starting out. “You don’t know how it feels to be the c***,” she spits. The crowd screams in pumped-up defiance.
Swift’s appearance understandably draws the biggest buzz of the night – it’s all everyone seems to be talking about upon exit from the arena – and mashing up their sultry “Gasoline” and her immortal “Love Story” is indeed brilliant. But it’s very much a bonus prize for an already sensational night. Haim might just be the best rock band in the world right now.