On May 13 our extra-special DiS Tour wrapped itself up – literally given our headliners’ habit of getting crowd members caught in a giant white sheet – in London, at KCLSU. DiS was on hand, camera in hand, to catch The Lionheart Brothers, Johnny Foreigner and bill-toppers The Mae Shi, as well as the (drinking) action that followed at the afterparty, notable for DiS’s editor having to skip between bar and DJ booth at regular intervals… said booth being on the whole other side of the venue.
The Lionheart Brothers
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The Mae Shi
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Afterparty (cheers, Red Stripe)
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And the tour in words…
Words: David Renshaw
A real mixed bag of trans-continental acts are on the DiS Tour this spring: Norway’s black-clad dreamy garage punks The Lionheart Brothers, DiS Community love-sponges Johnny Foreigner, and LA’s hyper alt-punks The Mae Shi. As they crash into Liverpool this Saturday night punters crowd in to see the sort of varied bill that would have Simon Cowell pinned to the back wall and could push Amanda Holden’s skin even tighter across her face.
The Lionheart Brothers play a taut set of garage pop-rock laced with ethereal melodies and enough feedback to keep things always interesting. Dual vocals from Marcus Forgsen and Morten Øby conjure romantic images whilst the band play fast and hard in the background. Their live show is much more feral and unhinged than what’s suggested on record, a welcome surprise which gives songs like ‘50 Souls And A Discobowl’ and ‘Hero Anthem’ a nice kick up the arse. As the set ends in an extended instrumental attack the band all fall to the floor, exhausted from putting on a raw, romantic and resplendent show.
Maybe I shouldn’t say this here, but confession heals the soul so here goes: I don’t really ‘get’ Johnny Foreigner. Yeah, the 10/10 review grabbed my attention, but I have always found them slightly underwhelming, both live and on record. Not bad by any extent, but just maybe not quite worth the plaudits that are being thrown their way recently, and not only by this site. So it is with crossed fingers and a hopeful heart that I approach tonight’s set. Singer Alexei’s guitar breaks within a minute of the set starting, but the trio recover well and make light of the situation; keen readers of Alexei’s monthly diaries for DiS will know that a lot of things break in this band’s life. ‘Our Bipolar Friends’ and ‘Eyes Wide Terrified’ comprise an exciting spine of the half an hour we have in JoFo’s company. The songs are often interjected with Alexei venting his spleen over the venue: “Maybe if Barfly spent less money on pointless barriers and more on stuff that stopped us being sweaty bastards we would all be happier”. A round of applause follows from the audience members who have also played here, including Hot Club de Paris’ Matthew.
But back to the music: tonight Johnny Foreigner do a pretty good job of getting audience feet tapping and heads bouncing. The urgent and spiky nature of their songs sits well with those experiencing the band for the first time, whilst there is enough depth to keep seasoned fans entertained. I become a convert, one of many set to fall for this band in 2008 – they’re an exciting band waiting to become truly great. It will come, for sure, but right now they feel just a couple of degrees from boiling point.
At what point do ‘crazy antics’ stop being amusing and become grating and gimmicky? That’s the tight rope The Mae Shi walk tonight. The songs speak for themselves, latest LP HLLLYH (review) possibly the band’s finest work to date and the likes of ‘Run To Your Grave’ and ‘Lamb and Lion’ blend well with older material, complementing and surpassing it. However, ask anyone who was at the show what they remember of The Mae Shi’s set and they will say:
“Oh, those guys with that draped the audience in a big sheet?”
“I liked it when that guy climbed up the speakers and then got into the crowd to applaud his own band.”
All the stunts they pull are funny enough, but it makes you wonder if it is at the cost of the music. One image that certainly sticks is the set finale that takes place mainly in the audience, with the drum kit handed to one fan to hammer relentlessly, the bass taken by another fan who creates a spinning wall of feedback; a song, of sorts, is improvised amongst the madness. It is a moment to treasure, a real one-off amongst most package gigs that can feel very one-dimensional.
Did you hear the joke about the Englishman, the Norwegian and the American who walked into a Barfly? There’s no punch-line, but tonight is proof that this nation’s live circuit keeps attracting gem after gem.