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I first came across dEUS around the time of their third full-length The Ideal Crash. Released in 1999, as a young music fan who (following releases such as OK Computer and Mezzanine) was starting to gradually embrace a rich and diverse musical universe light years away from the likes of Oasis, Ocean Colour Scene and (god forbid) Kula Shaker, the album imprinted itself on me with quietly massive impact. Ornate, beautifully crafted rock music wrapped in melodies both bittersweet and buoyant, it’s a record I truly, inescapably fell in love with.
It was, in fact, such a pivotal release that for me, personally – and I know many will disagree – the band’s back catalogue up to that point seemed almost staid in comparison – as if they had been building towards this worthy crystallisation of their sound via excursions into all sorts of bewildering territory until then. By the time Pocket Revolution rolled around six years later (review), expectation on my part was so high that it would have taken a colossal effort to satisfy it. The uncompromising, almost louche nature of said record failed to endear itself to me in the same way, and despite numerous rewarding forays into the band’s back catalogue, to say I was waiting on new material from these Antwerpians with baited breath rather than hopeful curiosity would be…well, it would be but a lie.
Anyhow, cut to the present, and following a perfunctory showing from NME-tipped ‘80s revivalists White Lies (where stadium-sized drums sit next to twitchy guitars and twinkling synth in a promising though occasionally jarring set), dEUS eventually arrive onstage to exactly the kind of heartening reception reserved for long-absent heroes. Launching straight into new album opener ‘When She Comes Down’, verses of angular precision swell into a sweeping, memorable chorus, Tom Barman effusive and roving-of-eye while the band lock into their respective grooves around him.
The quintet are commendably tight, Mauro Pawlowski’s fretwork particularly delightful to witness. ‘Fell Off The Floor, Man’ is wholly impressive, punctuated by squalls of noise accentuated by strobe-lighting and rendered all the more impressive and sinister in a live scenario. New cut ‘The Architect’ is an early highlight; choppy and angular, it finds Barman avidly attacking some electric drums perched next to him while the front-line of the group join him on vocals. “’Cause I’m an arch-i-tECT!” they cry around syncopated stabs of guitar and beats, the overall effect bizarrely, murkily soulful.
They draw heavily from Vantage Point this evening with mixed results; Barman’s delivery rasps wonderfully menacingly and while impossible to begrudge the band showcasing recent wares, ultimately the sheer impact of road-tested material for the most part dwarfs anything else. ‘Bad Timing’ is awesome, layers upon layers of volume and release, though the aforementioned notion is most pertinently evident in the sole offering from that album of theirs I hold most reverent – introduced by Barman as some “lighter entertainment” while strapping on an acoustic guitar, ‘Instant Street’ is airier, looser than anything preceding and greeted with suitably huge applause. Live as on record, the song mutates from tuneful strum into blissful, controlled chaos that leaves me – and it’s safe to say, the entire sold-out Scala – in awe.
Similarly, ‘For The Roses’ is tremendous, unfurling with requisite tension and power. The biggest applause of the evening however goes to finale ‘Suds And Soda’. Chugging along on dirty, threatening guitars and bolstered by Barman’s frenzied, unstoppable energy; the crowd pogo, holler, and in many cases simply stand agape.
The band depart amidst a roar of approval and promise to return for the summer, “whenever that is”. Not a perfect show then, though at their formidable best the band offered a timely reminder of the unbridled power and intricate song-craft on which they made their name. And that, for tonight, is more than enough.
Photo: Kevin Moens
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