Live Review – Drenge @ O2 Institute
Review by Ian Paget
Since releasing their self-titled debut album as a duo in 2013, Derbyshire siblings Eoin and Rory Loveless have guided Drenge from a spirited punk-edged duo into something bigger, darker and much more dynamic with their new album ‘Strange Creatures’ and some of their biggest headline shows to date.
Now expanded to four members on stage, Eoin gets to flesh out his position as frontman and the brooding spaghetti western opener ‘Prom Night’ gives centre stage to his captivating lyrics about a ‘Carrie’-style massacre, delivered in an eerily dramatic way similar to recent Arctic Monkeys material. He takes that a step further on album opener ‘Bonfire Of The City Boys’, enacting the role of frantic storyteller over an intense post-punk backing that’d give the likes of Idles a run for their money with bassist Ed’s one-note riff pinning it down.
Things escalate quickly from there with ‘Never Awake’ and the riff-heavy ‘Autonomy’ seeing Eoin leaving guitar duties to Rob Graham in favour of aping Ian Curtis of Joy Division’s dance moves across the dark, smoke-filled stage as the band seem to get louder and louder, early single ‘Face Like A Skull’ sounding beefed up but as raucous as ever with Rory a powerhouse behind his drumkit.
Talking is kept to a minimum other than to proclaim “it’s good to be back!” and a quick reference to the city’s football teams which kind of breaks up the claustrophobic onslaught of tracks like ‘Teenage Love’ and ‘Never See The Signs’ where Rob switches to synths for a more claustrophobic, experimental sound.
The point where it all really clicks though is with a massive-sounding ‘Running Wild’, the crowd stepping up a gear and starting a big moshpit, the venue’s security struggling to cope with the number of crowdsurfers coming over the barrier during the fantastic ‘This Dance’. The main set then ends on a slower note with ‘Strange Creatures’ leading into an epic and moody ‘Let’s Pretend’, described as “one from the deep cellar of Drenge”. It doesn’t take long for the band to return to play “a slow one and a fast one”, with album-closing oddity ‘When I Look Into Your Eyes’ and rousing punk-rocker ‘We Can Do What We Want’ respectively.
Crucially, it’s not just the band’s core sound that’s evolved over the years, it’s their whole approach to playing live which results in an intense but ultimately exciting experience and a welcome new chapter for Drenge.
Reading five-piece Valeras suffer the effect of tonight’s early doors, taking to the stage with the venue not even close to half full yet. Regardless of the turnout, the band are more than ready to blow away the cobwebs with their brand of alternative rock beginning with ‘Colour Me’, a powerful slab of big guitars and ambitious groove with impressive soulful vocals from singer/bassist Rose Yagmur which shine on ‘Painkiller’ against smooth, intricate playing from the band’s three guitarists.
Rose’s Venezuelan roots occasionally manifest in a latin-inspired direction on ‘Ricochet (Núnca Morirá)’ most notably with guitarist Katie adding percussive cowbell, whilst ‘Playing With A Gun’ and ‘Intentions’ recall the mellower side of Incubus with a big groove-heavy sound.
“You’ll have to do better than that…” warns Rose after a lukewarm response to her question of whether the crowd are suitably warmed up, but most of the audience seem to be pretty receptive and forthcoming single ‘Your Honey’ proves to be a big highlight that features an excellent performance from drummer Max. By the time of closer ‘Louder’ people have steadily trickled into the venue and the atmosphere has picked up a bit, with Valeras leaving a great lasting impression as they finish off.