Dutch Uncles @ The Dancehouse, Manchester, 15 Mar

Live Review by Charles Gray | 20 Mar 2017

Juxtapositions between performers and venue rarely come as stark and obvious as this: a band as sprightly as Dutch Uncles performing in the unassuming grandeur of Oxford Road’s Dancehouse theatre. The sold-out venue is treated to one and a half hours of gaily splendour, as singer Duncan Wallis affirmatively dances his way through a relentless offering of infectious indie funk.

Following an assuasive support set from Francis Lung, the curtains are opened to reveal the six bandmates, each clad in similarly downplayed uniform to begin tonight's career-spanning set with the effervescent Baskin’.

In support of their accomplished fifth record, Big Balloons, the show displays a band who draw on everything from Talking Heads-esque disparity to jangly indie and electronic seduction to create an atmosphere of danceable tranquillity. However, it’s not until the later stages that guitarist Peter Broadhead (renamed 'Panto Pete' in accordance with the surroundings) decides to usher the crowd to their feet, abandoning all pretence of formality and dancing along with his increasingly catatonic frontman.

Having cultivated a dedicated following, it’s no surprise that tonight’s show feels as much a celebration of the band’s roots in the city as their varied musical output. Each song is interspersed with Duncan addressing someone in the crowd by their first name and dishing out dedications, including the likes of Babymaking to his recently engaged friends.

But under the luscious melodies and carefree vocals lies a more complex beast. The title track, instigating an uproarious response, tackles the topic of antidepressants whilst the menacing Same Plane Dream deals with Tory cuts to disability benefits, making it the song ‘most in need of a chair’. But the real issues are all addressed with an unhinged sense of fun, cowbell and all, which unloads during crunching closer Dressage, where a well dressed and modest stage invasion has the show ending with a much-earned sense of accomplishment.