Into the Pit: 109: dEUS – Live at KOKO – 11-October 2011

I seem to be playing catchup with a number of bands nowadays. Insofar as having missed them live in the past, I’m now taking every opportunity possible to see some of my favourite bands, even as they edge into perhaps the later stages of their career.

Live @ KOKO, Camden Town
11 October 2011

dEUS are very much one of these bands. I’ve been a big fan of the band ever since I picked up their debut Worst Case Scenario all the way back at the end of 1994, but somehow I managed to not see them live until the tour for their fifth album Vantage Point in 2008. After that, then, the one-off gig in London in May this year was not as great, so I must admit that I thought long and hard about picking up a ticket for this show.

In the end, of course, I relented and bought a ticket – having heard the new album a few times, it is beginning to grow on me somewhat, so I had more confidence in what was to come. But first, before dEUS took the stage, it was time to renew acquaintance with support band Balthazar, who were the support in June, too. And they were just as marvellous this time, their broadly summery, upbeat indie-rock (with all five of them providing vocals at points) clearly having won them a lot of friends in London in the interim. Fifteen Floors remains their greatest song, although album-and-set closer Blood Like Wine, with its lengthy a capella fadeout certainly runs it close. Next time I might even be able to remember all the words.

And so it was onto the headline band, to see what they had to offer this time, with their sixth album freshly out – and with this being the first night proper of the new tour. June seemed a bit of a transitional time – particularly as to how ragged the band sounded, with the various new songs played then seemingly being, well, somewhat under-rehearsed. This had very much been addressed this time, to the point that the band were confident enough to play all nine of the new album songs.

Live, too, these new songs make so much more sense. Shorn of their perhaps overly-fussy orchestral arrangements, it allows the band to tear into the songs a little more, and it also revealed quickly which were the fan favourites early on. So Dark Sets In is obviously a favourite, and no wonder – another to add to the canon of killer dEUS choruses. Personally I’m a big fan of The Final Blast, too, while recent single Constant Now has been sharpened up from the chaotic June appearance.

One notable thing from the night was that dEUS clearly have decided to move on, or at least focus on areas of their backcatalogue that haven’t had the attention in the past. It was a bit of a shock to find absolutely nothing played from debut W.C.S., but perhaps certain songs from that have now been played out? I’d hope that isn’t it forever for those songs, but it wasn’t the only surprise – Vantage Point was also surprisingly ignored aside from a swaggering Slow (another song that benefits so, so much from being played live).

dEUS Setlist:
Second Nature
The Final Blast
Constant Now
Dark Sets In
Twice (We Survive)
The End Of Romance
Instant Street
If You Don’t Get What You Want
Bad Timing
Nothing Really Ends
Keep You Close

Sister Dew
Little Arithmetics

Some old favourites did remain, though – mid-set airings of Instant Street and Bad Timing, two of the greatest dEUS songs of all, were both happily lapped up by the crowd, and the former was notable in this setting for the marriage proposal (accepted!) that preceded it. According to Tom onstage, the suitor had actually checked with him that he was going to play it, as he wanted to propose when it was played!

For me, though, it was the encore where things got really quite special. For a start, said encore opened with possibly my favourite song – a very rare airing of Sister Dew, a song, as Tom introduced it, is about “a murder”. But it is so much more complex song than that, a deeply sad lament about a man who has apparently killed his girlfriend, and goes to the titular character to confess and assess what he has done. Frankly one of the few songs that has ever made me shed a tear, and I’m not ashamed to say that I did again when it was played here. Just one of those moments.

From the motions onstage, and subsequent comments elsewhere, much of the remainder of the encore was played on the hoof. It was down on the printed setlist, apparently, that the night would close with The Architect, but that never got played and we instead were treated to old favourites Little Arithmetics and Roses (which both induced a moshpit and a mass-singalong), and then the closing song of the new album – which while great, seemed a bit of an anticlimax after the favourites before it.

Despite the teeny letdown of the very end, this was a vastly better gig that the other London show this year. A band confident with their new material – and indeed confident enough to shed a few sacred cows from the setlist – and with a tight, tight sound that made each and every song sound brilliant onstage. How on earth did this band never gain a bigger audience? Perhaps a little too clever sometimes, they still have an impressive knack for writing catchy songs, but maybe along the way that got lost in their experimental sounds. Still, maybe that is everyone else’s loss, and I’ll continue to be part of a devoted group of followers who know most of the words of most of the songs at least.

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