Posted by Chris Haywood.
Reviewed on 17th February 2010.
Live at Cockpit Room 3 on Saturday, 6th February 2010
After being 'meeted and greeted' at The Cockpit's entrance by a surprisingly long queue of angst-ridden looking, 'scene kids', I thought I'd been mistaken; I came tonight with the impression that Detroit Social Club were a typical, indie, lad-rock outfit and 'the saviours of British guitar music' - well, at least that's what the Internet told me. But whilst everyone else seems to go upstairs to the main room to see hardcore, sreamo band The Ocean Between Us, I instead enter the less intimidating, small, empty concave cavern that is The Cockpit's third room with all my preconceptions intact.
Leeds-based support act Renaissance Dolls introduce themselves to a room that is just less than half full, and which shows less enthusiasm than a teenager being forced to watch Mamma Mia! with his mum. In fact, whilst there seems very little urgency for people to come in from the main bar area during their set, those that do seem disconnected from it all, especially as they stand at a safe distance from the stage.
Renaissance Dolls' set opens with 'Knocking Down Your Door', with its swirling, skewering intro, shouty vocals and new-rave, psych-rock synths; but these quickly fall into the background as the staggering, vigorous drums and striding bass come to the forefront. From then on though, the 'ok' veers into the 'just dull' pile, as the rest of their set gets all very similar and even forgettable. In fact, as the Bobby Gillespie-esque 'lead man' lurches forward over the edge of the stage clutching his mic stand, the audience all seem to take a step back. However, although it essentially uses the same ingredients they've consistently depended on before, 'Big Time' somehow has the raw energy for it to rise above the rest. You get the impression that it's possibly too little too late though.
By the time Detroit Social Club walk on stage, the crowd has ballooned immeasurably. But their appearance isn't met with the euphoria that you'd normally expect for a headline act from a sold-out venue. No, instead they're met more with an air of anticipation from the audience, as though many here have come having heard the hype surrounding them and not entirely knowing what they'll find.
That said, no sooner has 'Kiss The Sun' begun, than the pulsating drums and dark, sepia-toned synths reached their climax with David Burns hauntingly stood over the entranced crowd with a solitary orange-tinged light behind him, his towering shadow being cast over them. Our collective neck is craned up towards him, whilst he hovers like the great, commanding front men that have preceded him on this same stage. It is this moment that sets the tone for the entire night. With its terrace-like chant and Burns' forceful vocals that establishes him as some kind of 'leader of the pack', there's so much shape and spirit to it all that it just becomes an aural explosion. Its clever time-signature changes and instrumental breakdown contrasts with the previous brash tempo to show Detroit Social Club as the intelligent, tight live band they're quickly getting a reputation as.
'Black and White' and 'Rivers and Rainbows' follow suit, capturing the same thunderous bass lines, hooked guitars, pulverised drums, clunky keys and ultimately the same Geordie swagger and fiery energy - elements that are much more prominent in their live show than in their recorded material. Equally, influences of the 60's blues rock of The Rolling Stones and Cream also fervently come across in 'Northern Man' and 'Silver', giving the platform for Burns' vocals, with their powerful timbre and overwhelming zealous nature, to come into their own.
But then by the second half of their set, feeling as though the band have lost their earlier momentum, it seems to drag in some places. When Burns asks for a raucous shout for his personal Tour Documentary, he is met with little more than a polite response; the audience too seem to have lost most of its earlier energy and enthusiasm - a shame, really. It's only when Burns picks up the guitar (only for the second time tonight) that it all comes back together again in the orthodox, robust 'Forever Wonderland'.
Thankfully, this renewed vigour has come just in time for the closing 'Sunshine People'; the irrefutable highlight of their set. For the first time tonight, all the lights go down in anticipation. And from the very second the guitars dart out the first few notes, the atmosphere crescendos as the entire audience nod their heads, sway their legs, or just simply dance in unison with the crashing of drums and the raging, feisty chant. It inevitably builds towards the epic chorus, to form a transgressive and honest live moment if there ever was one.
In the end, although the audience may not have appreciated it all the time, you sense that this raucous Newcastle outfit weren't holding anything back tonight; even in their lighter moments, their heart was firmly on their sleeve projecting some genuine, bold and captivating material. But I suppose you wouldn't expect anything less from Detroit Social Club; a band which has so much expectation encompassing them at the moment.
Renaissance Dolls formed in late 2009 in Leeds, UK. They release their debut single 'Simone / Knockin' Down Your Door' in June 2010.