LIVE REVIEW: The Drums, HMV Institute (Birmingham), 28/11/2011

Nearly a year ago to the week, I saw The Drums at the same venue; touring their debut album. Had I not been at this event, I’d have claimed to anyway. But I was, and this gave me a nice benchmark upon which to base this review.

So the stage is set, literally. The venue is the newly renovated  HMV Institute, an enclave of baroque splendour amongst the rough diamond that is Digbeth.

Impressively punctual support came from Whitechapel noizefuzzgazerz The History of Apple Pie. With a name sweeter than Daphne from Eggheads’ decoupage class, their long drawn-out guitar-laden tracks came as a nice surprise, with a massive nod to bands such as Dinosaur Youth.
Then the semi-familiar Cloud Control came out play, already impressed by the free badge one of their team were handing out on the way in, expectation was high for the Australian 4-piece. A lovely touch, provided these badges were not just handed to the pampered gig-reviewer. The band’s interesting boy/girl dynamic of primal-wails*, sets them apart from many of today’s neo-folk darlings. (*Using the expression ‘primal scream’ may have confused matters) The music was well received, and even achieved murmurs of “Ahhh, I know that one” from sections of the audience.

The crowd was a healthy mix of 16-30somethings donning dresses with frilly-neck and shirts of check. When The Drums arrived on stage, it didn’t take long for the fans to launch a beach ball straight off their hero Jonathan Pierce’s rich, conditioned, hair. I guess if you will dress a bit like a college jock, you will have to deal with a ball at some point in your life. Nevertheless, this kind of tribulation only seemed to invigorate Pierce straight into the action with ‘What you were’ from the new album ‘Portamento.’

After opening with a newie, the crowd were soon treated to “Best Friend” and “Me And The Moon.” – Both greatly received.

Not all too long ago, The Drums were on the verge of splitting up. But with a change of personnel, promoting drummer to guitarist, and a synthman waiting in the wings; the band have an extra dimension. With a non-instrument playing front-man, there is a fair bit of stage to fill, but Jonny’s robo-Jagger-mince certainly does this. As I’ve always said: The only thing worse than a lead-singer who prances around for the whole set, is one that doesn’t.

In terms of the setlist, it is always interesting to see which songs are joined in with, which ones people rush to the bar to and which ones people go to the toilet to. Unsurprisingly, the crowd sang along to Down by water, Forever and ever amen, and surprisingly ‘Days go by’ was singled out by the crowd as an early front-runner from the second album.

So despite beach-balls being thrown at the band in a kind of Derren-Brownian  subliminal “Play the surfing one”, it never cam. A a very brave move, for a band touring their second album.

Maybe it’s a brutal attempt at the culling of fickle fans, like Radiohead’s not playing ‘Creep’ for years.. For the music snobs amongst us, this went down without major disappointment / riot. Lucky for them, they have a music snob doing the reviewing. The more cynical amongst us may draw a passing resemblance between breakthrough single ‘Lets’s go surfing’ and new single ‘Money.’ Playing these too close together may be the musical equivalent of breaking the magicians code.

After some light-foot stamping (not advised in a 103 year old church) they came back on to the minimal, yet haunting Stand by me’-inspired B–side of Best Friend: “Baby, that’s not the point.” The show ended (fittingly) with ‘The future,’ a personal favourite, which combined with my free badge at the start left me on a high.

What self-deprecating ‘Drums fan would end a night and review on such a high, so I should also note that it took me till the end of the gig to realise a can (500ml) of cider is £4.00, whereas  a pint (568ml) is also £4.00  – you do the math(s).

Reviewer: Arran Poultney
Rating: 4/5 

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