Deaf Havana – Live @ Shepherds Bush Empire
aaamusic | On 19, Nov 2012
London, 16th November
It’s easy to get off on the wrong foot with bands that have rather gobby lead singers. Deaf Havana, correct me if I’m wrong, seem to be one of those bands. My first exposure to them was a Kerrang article last year when DH’s lead singer, James Veck-Gilodi, said something along the lines of “If I’d known that (being in a band) was this much work for this little money, I wouldn’t have started a band.” I was so angered by that statement that I refused to finish the article and hated them for a long, long time afterwards, painting him especially as a whiny chancer based on that quote alone. Little did I know that their brand of thoroughly British, absolutely enormous alt-rock sprinkled with liberal amounts of folk-rock elements, was exactly the kind of thing I would have fallen in love with at the time. A while afterwards I decided to read the rest of the article and discovered Veck-Gilodi was actually an extremely intelligent, articulate man with a hefty cynical streak in him, who realized that the sentiment mentioned previously was immature of him but was honest enough to admit it to an interviewer of all people.
My opinion of him and his band, needless to say, changed overnight. After roughly a year of strong goodwill for them I took in their biggest headline show to date at the ornate surroundings of West London’s Shepherds Bush Empire. Taken from experience, watching a bands largest headline show to date is either one of two things, it’s either a slight disappointment, where the size of the venue and amount of punters put the fear in the band and don’t play as well as you’re used to (as in The Gaslight Anthem, Brixton Academy 2010, sorry lads). Alternatively, it’s an absolutely staggering, emotional experience where a band that so many people have invested so much of themselves in make good in front of a devoted fan base that’s bigger than it’s ever been. Tonight, unmistakeably, is an example of the latter. Deaf Havana absolutely slay the sold out Empire, staking an unignorable claim to be one of the major players in a British rock scene already overstuffed with talent.
Taking to the stage to a rapturous reception, the band race through a reworked version of their best song, The Past Six Years, it converts the previously quiet and introverted folk a song a colossal, Dropkicks Murphys-esque folk punk rave-up and on every level it sounds phenomenal. In terms of the bands performance the expansion from a four piece to six for these live shows has paid off dividends, the ability to play the song with both mandolin and twelve string acoustic guitar alongside two electric guitars bringing the righteous rock and roll evolving the band’s sound to something new entirely. From a venue perspective it’s crystal clear, every nuance that the band has on stage is audible and loud as all hell, a very difficult combination but one pulled off perfectly.
The sheer joy the band have in playing this gig is visible from the off, Veck-Gilodi utterly failing to keep a thunderstruck grin off his face from the moment The Past Six Years crashes to a halt to the final chords of closer Hunstanton Pier, and his awe is reflected in the just over 2000 faces watching him do what his band does best. They lap up everything they hear, from early single Friends Like These to a song so new it has no title, each sounding more and more evolved than the other, some parts, like a meditative, pensive Anemophobia that generates one of the nights most heartfelt sing-alongs, sound like an almost entirely different band to the one that wrote the nights main set closer I’m A Bore, Mostly.
In a way, the night’s only caveat was whether you like the songs or not, which in this reporters opinion could slide into each other from time to time, but that’s my problem and for a true fan of the band, this will be a night never to forget. For the band too, it’ll be a night never to forget, with Veck-Gilodi reminding the crowd time and time again that, in their opinion, it may be the best show they’ve ever played. In essence, Deaf Havana are at a truly exciting time in their career, they’re playing the biggest shows of their life, they’ve got a devoted fanbase, and they’re writing the best songs of their career. Truly, the only way is up from here. It must be a very, very good time to be in Deaf Havana right about now.