Darwin Deez - Live - Sound Control, Manchester
Sound Control, Manchester, England
After 2 years of laying dormant in the studio and seemingly doing nothing apart from making a music video in 2013, Darwin Deez has embarked on quite a huge tour, taking him and his band through Europe and back across to America, presumably to remind people of his existence in anticipation of his upcoming album. We went along to find out if it has been worth the wait.
Darwin, accompanied by his band, arrives on stage to face an excited crowd that isn’t bursting out of the doors but is ample for a man who released 2 singles 5 years ago. After a self-worked sound check the show opens up with one of the amusing, synchronised dance routines that we’ve come to expect from the quirky Indie-Pop ensemble.
Laughs are had before Darwin and co break into their first song, ever, Constellations. It becomes evident that this is an oldie as during the second verse Mr. Deez experiences his first hiccup of the night when forgetting the words to his own song. The band decide to hold it together by cutting into the chorus, again, which has less words to remember. The talented bassist, drummer and guitarist all show their support with backing vocals and it all works out ok in the end, we all make the odd mistake…
Darwin Deez, as a band, break into their second song of the evening, Lights On, Darwin cuts out the mid from his vocals to create that signature sound (of The Strokes) and everything goes smoothly into the next classic and fan favourite, Up In The Clouds. It mustn’t be Darwin’s night as there is another issue with remembering the words to one of the songs that put him in the limelight, but, hey, these things happen when you are a dedicated musician playing these songs all the time, right?
The band are still holding the set tight and they end the song with an adlib breakdown, Darwin singing the words “Forgive me”, presumably for the mistakes, the crowd really are forgiving, Darwin jokes “The mistake made it more entertaining”, I guess that classes as an improv performance.
We hear a new song, Time Machine, which is set to be announced as a single, the crowd are captivated as Darwin pulls off some impressive guitar solos before breaking into another synchronised dance to the works of Michael Jackson; we can’t deny the hilarity, the band have some pretty sweet moves. Another new song, Kill Your Attitude, is played, the lyrics are fresh in Darwin’s head as he nails this one, more adept solos and all, this is a sign of good things to come from the upcoming album, Double Down.
In the intermission, Darwin enthuses about his love for playing guitar solos and his pride in his song writing, we can’t deny his talent, maybe his focus, but he has definitely shown progression in his new work.
Back to some of Darwin’s more innovative work from the less popular album and appropriately titled, Songs For Imaginative People. The band play You Can’t Be My Girl, which, as Darwin explains before the song, features a number of chord progressions and key changes as well as some interesting time signatures, it’s nice to hear more of the Indie-Prog side to the band. Unfortunately, just as the momentum is picking up, Darwin’s bad luck (this time not memory) strikes again as there is a technical issue somewhere amidst his laptop configuration. After quite a large pause he manages to resolve the issue and riff out another new song, Last cigarette.
Back into Songs For Imaginative People with another progressive piece, Chelsea’s Hotel. The talented rhythm of the drums and bass really shine here and the crowd seem somewhere between entranced and bemused by what we’d consider to be one of Darwin’s most innovative pieces. By the end of the song, the uplifting melodies and rhythms have the crowd moving out of their trance and into a groove, along with the band, this is perfectly executed.
Sadly, the energy is cut again with more technical issues whilst we wait with bated breath for the next routine. It does give the audience a chance to get to know the band as the drummer enthrals us with his passion for the game Hearthstone, in which he plays a hunter, apparently…Darwin resolves the issue and we’re saved. There’s more dancing and this time it’s somewhat interpretive, jumping from Enya’s- Orinoco Flow into Rage Against The Machine – Testify, it’s a lot like a scene from Napoleon Dynamite and it is highly entertaining.
Darwin announces that all the tech is in order now; onwards with another new song, The Mess She Made (Don’t go blaming others, Darwin). There is another issue as the lyrics are left unsaid “I promise, I do know it”, he jokes. At this point we’re not so convinced but he has a dedicated fanbase that adore him and it washes over, again. The band continue to carry the set. Darwin asks for the crowd's assistance at the end with a call and answer section of "Ooh"s and "Aahhh"s. How could this possibly go wrong? Darwin is now delegating the work load and still manages to blunder.
Darwin shakes it off and the band jump into arguably the biggest hit, Radar Detector. At this point we are routing for him as if he’s the underdog at his own show, it’s hard to watch someone have to rebound this many times on a stage, in front of a crowd. It’s like a High School nightmare on loop but his resilience pays off as the crowd dance and sing along with one of the band’s more prominent songs of the last 5 years.
Finishing up with Red Shift, the swaying ballad is performed beautifully. Darwin Deez pulls it out of the bag right when it’s needed and with almost Bryan May level solos being exhibited, the band leave the stage, the endlessly empathetic (or somewhat sadistic depending on your angle) crowd chant for an encore.
With a little more encouragement from the crowd, heart and bravery is exhibited as the band return smiling and ready to go.
Are they sure they want to do this after just recuperating?
Of course, because Darwin’s de facto solution to everything is comedic dancing.
Ironically, or ingeniously, Darwin closes with Bad Day, there are more technical difficulties, these are out of his hands and genuine, he bypasses his entire pedal board and setup to plug direct into the head unit of the amp and gets on with it, as do the crowd who I feel have gained more adoration for him out of sympathy, every cloud has a silver lining.
Despite the technical issues and the aberrations, there is no denying that this was a fun show to attend. It took a lot of courage to continue the set and to come off smiling. It’s hard to say a bad word about someone who is just so chilled and kind-hearted but with the amount of struggling musicians that we’ve spoken to who work so hard mastering their craft and living off pittance, it is probably worth Darwin spending less time drinking “1664”s and working on his dance routine, and more time rehearsing his set for the fans that made it possible for him to travel the world playing his guitar and singing the bits that he remembers for a living. We sincerely hope for Darwin, the band and the rest of the fans across Europe and America that this is a one off. We know all to well that technical issues can’t always be avoided and at a live show, anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. We do, however, recommend that you take preventative measures, like rehearsing the words to the songs that got you on to that stage to begin with.
For an extensive list of future tour dates and to buy tickets, visit Darwin Deez’ official site.