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Live Review: The Duke Spirit – Gorilla, Manchester, UK, 17th October 2016
The Duke Spirit / Joe Gideon And The Shark
Gorilla, Manchester, UK - 17th October 2016
Gorilla lies on the edge of Manchester’s city centre, from the front it appears to be a small bar for drinking and dining, but behind this deceptive façade lies a mid sized venue that resembles nothing less than a cross between an oversized air raid shelter and a 1950’s power station. Tonight Manchester is not only playing host to The Duke Spirit, there’s a parade and ceremony for the British Olympic team, so traffic and road closures make travelling into town even more fraught than usual. Sadly I only catch the end of the closing number by Our Fold, the local act that kicked off tonight’s concert, but as they’re based in Greater Manchester I’ll do my best to catch up with them at a later date.
Fortunately I haven’t missed both support acts, Joe Gideon And The Shark are supporting The Duke Spirit on this all too brief UK tour. This is one of the more idiosyncratic and unusual live acts I’ve caught this year, they owe a hefty debt to some of the stranger acts and recordings that emerged out of the late 60’s and early 70’s, in particular I can hear an influence from White Light White Heat era Velvet Underground and The Modern Lovers. Their set is one of charged primitive proto punk, but with surreal lyrics and rambling stories narrated over the top, the crowd’s reaction to this unexpected support act seems to be polarised between enthusiasm and utter bafflement, but crucially they keep the entire crowd’s attention throughout their set.
It’s been a prolific year for The Duke Spirit, they’ve completed two European tours, released their critically acclaimed fourth album, Kin, and last week they released the Serenade EP, which featured four new songs, and there’s already talk of a fifth album in the works. On their tour earlier this year The Duke Spirit played the more intimate venue of The Deaf Institute, hopefully this move up in the stature and size of venue means that they are starting to get the recognition they deserve. As good as they are in the studio, for me The Duke Spirit are a band that should be experienced live to truly appreciate just how good their unique genre spanning sound is.
Vocalist Leila Moss greets us with “Manchester, always sweet to return”, then their set opens in earnest and the energy slowly builds up in intensity as the evening passes, early in the set we get the crowd pleasing, and personal favourite of mine, Everybody’s Under Your Spell, and tonight we get a set that covers all of their releases, including the newly released Serenade EP. The Duke Spirit‘s material has influences from across fifty years of everything that’s worth a damn musically, and they sound incredible tonight, Liela Moss‘s vocals are stunning, she has one of the most seductive voices I’ve ever encountered, simultaneously powerful, soulful and haunting, and the mix at Gorilla is perfection and lets the subtleties of the quieter soulful numbers, and the fuzzed up assault of their more intense songs, shine equally.
Amongst the highlights from tonight’s set at Gorilla is an epic version of This Ship Was Built To Last, occasionally a band will play a version of a song that will never be bettered, this was one of those occasions. Cuts Across the Land ends the set, this classic, from their debut album of the same name, gets the rapturous reception is deserves. Of course they return for an encore, they play a further trio of songs ending with an incredible version of Love Is An Unfamiliar Name and for the second time this year I am left running out of adjectives to describe just how good The Duke Spirit are live, their sound hasn’t been diluted or tamed over the thirteen years they’ve been in existence, they remain defiant, independent and unique.
If you haven’t encountered The Duke Spirit before now then this is something you should rectify, either live or on record, as soon as you possibly can. Why they aren’t better known and filling venues twice this size remains one of life’s mysteries.
The Duke Spirit‘s official website, where you can purchase their latest album Kin, can be found here
You can order The Duke Spirit‘s latest EP, Serenade, here
The Punk Site review of Kin can be read here