With each Deaf Havana album cycle comes a change in direction and an alteration in the band’s line up, with their future often shrouded in uncertainty and fans wondering whether this could be the last album or tour. ‘The Present is a Foreign Land’ release and tour cycle is no different.
The now two-piece outfit is made up of the Veck-Gilodi brothers, James and Matthew, who decided to release their new material under the Deaf Havana name rather than a new project. Their latest run of dates brought the band to Manchester Academy last week, so could they still deliver?
Out from the blue lights, Deaf Havana take to the stage and James’ well pitched vocals open the show. ’19dreams’ impact is then somewhat stalled by Matthew’s mic levels, but this quickly becomes a passing factor as the chorus kicks in and the fans are right on side. The band swiftly drop into their first pre-Foreign Land track, with the crowdpleasing ‘Trigger’ a timely reminder that this is still the Deaf Havana we know and love.
Over the years, the setlist choices have always felt led by what the band want to play, rather than simply playing the ‘hits’. ‘Evil’ cements this concept, as the flow of the show is halted but the extended outro provides the opportunity for the band to showcase their musicianship. And then a twist in mood, as the lighting shifts and James screams down the microphone. ‘Hell’ closely follows with a heavier, more industrial feel to the instrumention. There’s a new found sense of comfort in James as he moves freely around the stage, performing without a guitar to hide behind, something that would have been alien pre-‘Rituals’.
The middle section of the set slows down the pace, with some heartfelt, acoustic tracks. Deaf Havana’s down-tempo numbers have always been some of their strongest material and the crowds reaction to ‘Nevermind’ and ‘Happiness’ reinforces this, whilst emoting the loudest singalong of the night.
Between songs, James and Matthew try to fill the silence with some amusingly awkward crowd interaction, and sincere gratitude that they’re still able to be in this band. This passion and pride is evident when performing new album tracks ‘Kids’ and ‘On a Wire’. The former a slow builder, which ramps up the energy of the room up as the driving drums join the fold in the second verse. The latter provides another opportunity for the band to showcase their talent with instrumental sections and breakdowns.
The show heavily favours the new album, which is to be expected. Not opposed to shedding the skin of a past record, the setlist is hollowed out by a gaping ‘Fools and Worthless Liars’ shaped hole. The two piece merely tip the cap to 2013’s outstanding ‘Old Souls’ album with a run through of ‘Mildred’, and dropped perhaps the biggest surprise inclusion of the night with ‘Anemophobia Pt 2’.
The title track of the new album offers up the limelight to Matthew, taking the lead on vocals and delivering. ‘Remember Me’ closes the night, with a Gospel cruciendo accompanied by piercing guitar bends and another belting vocal performance from James.
Any question marks around this band were answered on Friday night – this was a Deaf Havana show as good as any. The alternative rock guitar tracks mixed seamlessly with the electronic pop rock numbers to concoct an incredibly enjoyable live performance. The passion and connection between the crowd and band would suggest that there’s always going to be a world where Deaf Havana exists. The only thing to question is in what shape or sonical offering this may come as next. But we’re excited to find out!
Words: Oliver Toad
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