Deaf Havana @ SWG3, Glasgow, 21 Mar
Having toyed with variations on their style over their decade-long discography, Deaf Havana bring the best bits to SWG3 in Glasgow
Few bands have undertaken as many stylistic changes as Deaf Havana. Across their decade or so long career to date, they’ve explored a pretty diverse array of sounds, albeit built upon their roots within the alternative scene. Their latest release, 2018’s successful endeavour Rituals, saw them ditch much of the driving guitar work they became renowned for previously, instead favouring more electronic, synth-based elements. As they take their newest work out on the road, many may be curious to see how the Norfolk group bring their eclectic discography into a live performance.
As the house lights go down, a pink neon cross (representing the spiritual theme found on Rituals) above the stage burns brightly to welcome the four-piece. The pulsing Fever is an emphatic opener, with a bustling bass riff and an infectious chorus – a staple trademark stamped right the way through Deaf Havana’s collection. From one banger into another, Mildred seems to wake up the crowd, as the dual vocal combination between the charismatic brotherly duo of James and Matthew Veck-Gilodi are joined by a cacophony of voices attempting to hit the high notes.
Across a generous 18-track set, the band give fans a real taste of both old and new, as expected. From the pounding emo notes of Fools and Worthless Liars (on tracks like I’m a Bore, Mostly or Leeches), to recollecting the group's brief folk-rock period on Old Souls with Boston Square, through to the critically-acclaimed All These Countless Nights which hands out some quality choruses in the forms of Trigger, Happiness, and Sing.
Yet where the group really shine tonight is on their newest material. What on record are glossy, aesthetic pop songs are tonight transitioned into punchy live tracks with an added dimension of chugging guitar leads and Tom Ogden’s raucous drumming. Snappy single Worship is a clear highlight, while elsewhere, singles Ritual and Holy are similarly as tantalising. James' vocal delivery is simply sublime: a powerhouse pair of lungs that belt verses passionately and to great avail.
And while the atmosphere hasn’t been totally electric in the sense of limbs flying about everywhere, there are a fair deal of hands raised high and voice boxes at full volume tonight. This feels like a big party with great lights and even better music. Yet, an ephemeral encore of Sinner is perhaps the liveliest moment, the crowd replicating the choral, choir-like melodies that sing ‘I’ve been lying to you more each day / Cause I’m a sinner now / And I won’t be saved’. It feels that whatever changes Deaf Havana make to their sound, they always come out smelling of roses – and the generous applause sending them off as they leave the stage only emphasises their success.