It's been a while since I've gone to a gig where I could've counted the audience. Whilst I was a little surprised that The Dears had not sold out The Haunt, it did make for a more intimate experience. It also got me wondering, especially in the relative cultural oasis that is Brighton, what were the absentees thinking? However, it's not about quantity, but quality.
Having not released an album in the UK for 6 six years, 2017 has seen The Dears drop a couple of corkers by way of Times Infinity Vol 1 & 2. Recorded in tandem and said to be the outer and inner parts of a Dears jigsaw, Vol 1 & 2 contrasts lighter and darker elements to deliver some of their best work.
In the one time cinema screening room, The Dears started, rather aptly, with the first track off their latest album, 'Taking It To The Grave'. Natalia's delicate vocal gently eased the song in before Murray added more depth and it built to a stirring finale. Some very deft guitar work characterised 'I Used To Pray For The Heavens To Fall', before a switch to a more acoustic disposition for a track off 2003's 'No Cities Left': 'Who Are You, Defenders Of The Universe?'.
The playful beat, a jamboree of drums and rumbling bass line that juxtapose the lyrical content of the 'Whites Only Party' accompanied a more up tempo and spirited performance before one of the gig's early highlights. Their fifth song, '5 Chords', was one of the best of the night. The closest you can get to an anthemic sing-a-long from The Dears was perfectly delivered to the appreciative crowd. The five piece band sounded great all night and were (to borrow a line) "tight as a tourniquet." A more subdued 'Disclaimer' followed with Murray in more soulful guise before the looping keys and heavy bass of one of Vol 1's best tracks, 'Here's To The End Of All The Romance'.
A rousing, toe tapping '1998' headed up another of the evening's best tracks, the rather sadly titled, 'You And I Are A Gang of Losers'. The slower start soon built and gave way to a cascade of instrumentation and vocal to deliver a full blown sound that certainly sounded more epic than its environment could have dared wish for. Murray Lightburn took up double tambourine duty for a stirring rendition of 'Hate Then Love' and doubled up on maracas for the Natalia lead, pre-encore.
Having hardly spoken all night it was quite a surprise when Murray came back on stage. He had only introduced the heaviest of the evenings tracks, 'Of Fisticuffs', as "This is something of the new thing" as well as telling us that "absolutely nothing happened on the way to the gig" but when he returned alone he initially did nothing but speak, well ramble really, about learning songs from cassettes that would eventually wear out with use and getting the confidence to write and perform his own work. His speech was rather charming, unaffected and clearly not rehearsed. He came to the point after talking around it for a while when he said, "I guess what I'm driving at is it's kinda cool for me to be able to get on a plane to England and to drive to Brighton, I appreciate it." And so did we. A solo, rather ironic as it turns out, 'There Goes My Outfit', complete with lyric, "Had a speech prepared and everything", crowd pleasing, and band re-joining, 'The Second Part' and stunning, stirring closer, '22 The Death Of All The Romance' ensued.
The Dears delivered a great performance in Brighton to an all too modest crowd. The mix of material was carefully chosen to represent all their best attributes; as song writers, musicians and performers. With a seventeen year back catalogue to choose from you released just what an under appreciated band they are.
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