As the rain lashed down (it was worse in Manchester than in Sheffield), I have to admit that I was beginning to question my sanity in going all the way across to Manchester on a dark, cold October night, particularly as due to the crap times of the return trains – 2218 and 0018?, Oh, cheers – I was in for a very long night.
My timing was bang-on (again), though – I arrived at the venue (the smaller Academy 3, or the Hop’n’Grape to those of you old enough to remember) just as De Staat had begun their first song. Not a band I’ve ever heard of, they are a Dutch rock band who were actually pretty good. Oh, and they had cowbell.
And somewhere in the mix, there were hints of the deep’n’dirty grooves of Girls Against Boys, surf-rock influences, and exhortations to the rapidly-growing audience to “get their dancin’ shoes on”. A slightly strange mix, all told, but they did appear to win over an initially non-too-keen audience by the end, and they are perhaps a band I’d like to hear more of.
dEUS, of course, are a band I’ve heard more than enough over the years – I’ve keenly followed the band’s material ever since debut Worst Case Scenario way back in 1994, and somehow, I’d never managed to see them live before. This was not for the want of trying – it was just that life always got in the way. So it was with some excitement and, perhaps, trepidation that I anticipated their arrival onstage. Happily, they didn’t let me down, as they were bloody marvellous. A set not-too-heavily biased toward the recent album Vantage Point, instead offering something of a look-back across their entire career.
When She Comes Down
Fell Off The Floor, Man
Is A Robot
Theme From Turnpike
Nothing Really Ends
If You Don’t Get What You Want
Suds and Soda
That this was going to happen was clear from the first few songs – while opening with the opening track from Vantage Point, the gorgeous When She Comes Down (one of the best choruses dEUS have ever written), the following Instant Street got a huge roar of approval as it started, ending in a massive freakout that segued straight into (oddly enough, following my comments above) the growling philosophies of Scott McCloud from Girls Against Boys, which signalled the chaos of Fell Off The Floor, Man, a song that always sounded as if the band had made it up as they went along, without any prior planning. And remarkably, now the track is twelve years old it still sounded like they were doing the same thing with it on stage.
And while as the band’s career has advanced (and band members have changed – by my reckoning only vocalist Tom Barman is an original member now), their sound has edged to toward more “mainstream” influences, rather than the very odd mix they started with – somewhere between US alternative rock, Tom Waits, Captain Beefheart and Leonard Cohen. Despite the changes, though, some of the really quite odd old stuff did get an airing – like the bizarre, wheezing, Waits-esque Theme From Turnpike. Some of the new stuff is equally strange, but in different ways. Like the fantastic newish single The Architect, a spiky post-punk track that, according to Tom’s introduction, is about Buckminster Fuller. And now I listen to the lyrics again, I think that makes sense!
As we neared the end of the lengthy set, the real highlights appeared. Like a staggering version of Bad Timing, that builds and builds and builds until it reaches it’s heady climax, and then a gloriously chaotic and celebratory Suds and Soda that needless to say had most of the crowd joining in on the vocals, too…
Little Arithmetics was something of a low-key set-closer. Almost a country-esque vibe, really, it seemed like a bit of an anti-climax, and while Smokers Reflect is a great track, the same could be said of that to be opening the encore with, too. That feeling didn’t last long, though, with a marvellous (and perhaps a little shortened) Roses and then a wholly unexpected Morticiachair, one of the only pedal-to-the-floor rock tracks that dEUS have ever really recorded.
And that was it – sixteen songs in 90 minutes was pretty damned impressive, and even though I didn’t get to hear some of the songs I wanted to hear (Hotellounge, Sister Dew) I could hardly complain with a set and performance this good. dEUS remain the only band to have made me cry in recent years (Sister Dew, for some reason, just has that effect on me), and happily they inspired an opposite emotion – pure joy – for the vast majority of last night.