Knowing how to effectively tame a crowd and bond with people in beautiful and imaginative ways that encompass surprise, experimentation and exhilaration is a rare gift for any performer but Doves have it in abundance. Offering much more than plain guitars and a solid rhythm section, their music is more experimental than they are usually given credit for.
Mixing elements of electronica and dance rhythms with classic songwriting, their melodic indie ‘space rock’ gives them a sonic advantage over many of their contemporaries. Other than singer Jimi Goodwin on bass guitar, Doves still consist of twin brothers Jez and Andy Williams on guitar and drums accompanied by their tour keyboardist Martin Rebelski. Blue, aesthetic and cinematic yet brimming with substance, the band have been around the block and delivered repeatedly to more than justify the royal welcome they are on the receiving end of tonight.
Within Britain few things are easier to identity with than a direct, playfully delivered remark that instantly depicts the North-South divide. Goodwin understands that better than anyone. Having reminded the enthusiastic Somerset House crowd that he is Mancunian, he proclaims his love for London and its exuberance; “This town is fantastic, it pains me to say it”, he jokes.
The connection with the crowd is instant from that moment. The ferocious set is brilliantly structured. There is a conscious decision to build things slowly, easing the crowd in with a soothing concoction of the instrumental ‘Firesuite’, ‘Snowden’ and ‘Rise’.
Then, increasing the pace they launch into the Motown vibe of ‘Black and White Town’, the blue textures of ‘Sea Song’ and ‘Words’ followed by the much loved ‘Last Broadcast’, a song so richly-injected with deep melancholy that Morrissey must have been envious of at some point.
Having established a rapturous atmosphere and reached the middle of the set, it is time to intensify, if not electrify the pace, with the rather defiant song ‘Outsiders’, ‘Kingdom Of Rust’, the relentless ‘Pounding’ and the uplifting vibe of ‘Caught By The River’. Seamless, consistent and joyous, the crowd’s passion throughout is remarkable but it is clearly mutual as Doves continue to bounce the positive vibes right back in inspired ping pong style.
The crowd’s dedication extends to knowing every word of every song. The ability to surprise, elevate and liberate is never more apparent than during the encore, when the crowd is treated to the special glory of ‘The Cedar Room’ and the baggy pop sensibility of ‘There Goes the Fear’, delivered with a vibrant samba- indebted drum solo provided by Goodwin and a rhythmic contribution in the shape of cowbells from Jez Williams.
The set ends with an old, popular rarity, a track taken from band’s early electronic project Sub Sub. ‘Space Face’ is a track so emblematic of Mancunian indie music culture and identity during the early 1990s. The fact that the track is largely instrumental makes absolutely no difference to the way it is received or enjoyed.
The main absentees, which probably should have been included, are ‘Catch the Sun’ and ‘Here It Comes’ but it seems sad and selfish to indulge in such insular thinking as it is the very idea of innovation that sets Doves apart.
Doves’ performance tonight really has been heavenly and beyond. It has been emotional, raw and exceptionally joyous, all the vital ingredients that can transform a gig and make it not just memorable, but unforgettable in a way Doves really master; they can transform Manchester’s rain and blue sentiments into something beautiful and empowering.
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Words: Susan Hansen
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