Gig Review: Devastations @ Leeds Faversham, 24th November 2007

Devastations at Leeds FavershamLast night we were headed over to Leeds to take in Devastations opening for Scout Niblett, having grown to really love the new Devastations album, Yes, U. The only thing I knew about Scout Niblett before last night is that she once opened for Shellac, as we have her name on a Shellac gig poster. That is still all I know about Scout Niblett as apparently she fell ill the previous night and has cancelled her last two performances. We were sorry to hear that because being ill is not nice and we figured if somebody had opened for Shellac they might be worth hearing. However, as the Faversham website said that Devastations would be headlining, we weren’t that sad.

Needless to say, we turned up just shy of 10pm to be told it was free to get in and that Scout Niblett would not be appearing. Nevertheless, it wasn’t a bad turnout, with the room about 1/3 full when opener Paul Marshall appeared on stage with an acoustic guitar and the most amazing indie combover I’d ever seen. He played dark, sincere acoustic songs which sounded great for about the first 15 minutes and then started to drag a bit. I think perhaps he needed some other musicians backing him up to provide more texture. It’s possible he has that normally. He wasn’t half bad though, and was very enthusiastic. He even spent most of Devastations’ set stood next to me dancing gleefully (and he told his girlfriend not to stand in front of me because she was a good half a foot taller). So he gets my vote.

By the time Devastations appeared on stage, a full 15 minutes earlier than listed, the room was looking reasonably full. There were clearly some fans in the audience, as several tall 40-something men tried to push their way in front of me, and there were clearly some people who’d come down for Scout Niblett and figured they may as well stay. It would not be an exaggeration to say that 60 minutes later, if it even took that long, the entire room was a room of Devastations fans, because they were simply stunning. Whereas at ATP earlier in the year we had been mildly disappointed that they were not as intense and moody as they sounded like they would be from the description in the program, this time they were far more intense, moody, snarling and full-on than we expected.

Conrad Standish of Devastations live in LeedsOpening with “Oh Me Oh My” from the current album, we knew within notes that the new tracks would translate beautifully live, taking on an angrier hue. In fact everything sounded more noisy, more emotional and more growling as the band positively took over the small stage and the room with three instruments, a sequencer and some shared lead vocals. On record, particularly on previous long player, Coal, I often found the tracks tended to blend together and to sound rather disconcertingly too much like the Tindersticks. Live, all comparisons went away, as only Conrad Standish’s vocal phrasing remains reminiscent of Stuart Staples. They were more of a blindingly fervent mixture of Jack and The Drones with a bit of Roxy Music thrown in at times.

They tore through a set consisting mostly of new tracks including “Black Ice,” “Mistakes” and closer “Rosa” as well as a track or two from Coal and a track off their first album (which we don’t have) that they said was the first song they ever wrote and I think is called “Previous Crimes.” On the back of it, I may be on Amazon in a few minutes trying to order the first album. This was the track that made me recall The Drones with its meandering, gritty, low-key vocal and its dark and dirty blues rock chorus.

Needless to say, Devastations put in a stunning performance which was thankfully longer than the thirty minutes they had been scheduled to play. This only begs the questions of: when are they coming to Manchester and why haven’t more people heard this band yet?

Here’s a video of “Previous Crimes” that I took at the gig:

Devastations – “Oh Me Oh My”

Devastations – “Rosa”

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