Brixton: Death In Vegas, Richard Hawley

It’s been a while since I’ve visited this blog. It’s been even longer since I visited it for it’s intended purpose. But this week, Jo and I have had two trips to Brixton that I thought I should share with you.

On Saturday night, with neither of us feeling particularly great, we dragged ourselves to the Brixton Electric- the site of the old and famous Fridge to go and see Death In Vegas. We missed out on catching them when they toured Trans Love Energies last year, basically because I’d kind of given up on them and wasn’t expecting TSL to be anywhere near as good as it was. We weren’t going to miss out again.

The plan was to get there lateish and maybe catch some of, supporting act, Toy, before relaxing into the main set. Alas, we were foiled by some technical problems that meant everything was running late. So Von Haze were just finishing a set that seemed to be minus a working microphone. When Toy arrived, they cooked up a pretty delightful racket, but a couple of their Krautrock inspired tracks were just noise. A problem exacerbated by the fact you could barely hear their singer.

I’m not convinced that, whatever the issue was, it was totally rectified by the time Death In Vegas arrived to the strains of the wonderful Your Loft My Acid. But it somehow ceased to matter. I’d seen Death In Vegas 3 times previously, this is the first time that I’ve seen band leader, Richard Fearless emerge from the depths to the front of stage. My Twitter buddy, @DaveNealeDrums beat the shit out of a reworked version of Aisha, which sounded magnificent. Dave, as his Twitter handle should indicate, is a drummer. Also reworked, to the point where it took me about two minutes to realise what it was, was Dirge. I missed Dot Allison’s vocals, I must admit.

The highlights of the set, and there were a few, were a monstrous sounding Death Threat and the way a fragile sounding Silver Time Machine gave way to the driving guitars of Black Hole. Hands Around My Throat is incapable of not being a highlight, mainly because it’s brilliant. The version of Rekkit that closed the show, only a fragment of which was recognisable from the recorded version, was huge. A track that seemed to go on for ever, but you somehow still didn’t want to end and you stood, arms aloft, strobed by lasers, and totally forgetting that you felt like crap.

Having seen three DIV gigs, all of which featured no live singing, no interaction with the audience, only a wall of guitarists in front of film projections, I have to say that I much prefer the new- more organic set up. It makes for a much more engaging experience. Less presentation and more performance was definitely a good thing!

By the time Jo and I returned to Brixton last night, for Richard Hawley’s first ever headlining gig at the Academy, we both felt a lot better. If a little more tired. So we sat on the sloped floor throughout Lisa Hannigan’s support slot, rising to our feet only as we felt showtime approaching.

In front of trees lit like there are on the front of the Standing At The Sky’s Edge album, the band arrived and the began with the track of the same name. It sounded awesome, Hawley’s voice and guitar was clear as a bell. How great to be back in London’s best music venue. The next track was introduced as a song being written about taking his son to fly a kite- whilst off his head on acid. An early set highlight, the descending bassline of Don’t Stare At The Sun had me feeling quite emotional. But I’m not sure everyone was getting the vibe as Hawley felt compelled to chastise the audience for chatting. And if he could hear it… where we were standing, to the right of the sound desk, there was loads of chatter. And it was driving me nuts.

Why go to a gig if you aren’t going to fucking listen?

I must admit that I’m not overly familiar with the Sheffield man’s ouevre outside of this year’s album, but that didn’t lessen my enjoyment of the show at all. And he, as all Sheffield front men appear to be, was a very engaging presence.

The Streets Are Ours swept everyone along in its romance, whilst Soldier On went from being something quite moody to something magnificent. But it was the heavier tracks from the new album that really got me going, Leave Your Body Behind You was as huge and spacey as I expected it to be. The main set closed with Time Will Bring You Winter segueing into  Down In The Woods and felt like a very apt way to close it out.

Having described Cameron and Clegg as “arseholes” and the recent cabinet reshuffle as “like covering a shit with a shit to make it not look like a shit”, we passed to a rather special moment. Apparently, during a Sheffield steel worker strike in 1926- I think, Paul Robeson had come and sung in support of the strikers and so Hawley’s grandfather had passed one of the songs he sung, Waterboy, down to his grandson. And, as we’d been an alright audience, Hawley decided that he would sing it for us- if everyone was quiet. Which, in the main, we were- for once, you could almost have heard a pin drop.

In deference to Jo being knackered and having to work today, not a problem for me, we went to catch our train as the last song was being played out. Leaving early was no reflection on Richard Hawley, his band, or a gig that was as good as anything I’ve seen in the Brixton Academy.

Gig of the year.

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