Duke Special Live at The Lexington
The Duke Special played a gig on the top floor of The Lexington on Monday to give us all a preview of his new album Oh Pioneer. A concept album seemingly based upon a dozen different concepts.
His support act was a duo called Foreign Slippers and whilst they are most certainly foreign, whether or not they are actually slippers is still impending inquiry.
The front woman looks like she would be more in place in a quiet Parisian park on a sunny afternoon in the summer of 1932. But the quaintly retro dress and whimsical demeanour hides that she is not a lady to mess with. A testimony to the adage the quietest songs are often the most intense she commands the silence of the room and dominates the stage. And she’s just the support. Her voice is gently haunting; passionate, yet perfect at every turn.
When I heard a patron describe them as “really rather lovely” I felt that summed them up rather aptly. It’s a bit of a disservice but captures their tone rather elegantly.
In comparison Duke Special is considerably less pleasant to look at. The man has a claustrophobic amount of hair on his head. You become hot just looking at him. Whilst performing he loses control over it, the long thick dreads drape over his face and he is forced to peer from behind them like a man imprisoned by his own persona. When he finally takes a moment to brush them behind his head it provokes a breath of relief from his audience.
It is a premonition for how the rest of the gig will proceed. A man quietly singing behind a small piano like a far off apparition or a man behind glass; who’s music suddenly bursts to life with thunderous drums that charge through the tune with a militaristic beat like soldiers marching through the plot of a Russian epic.
After the first few hushed numbers, sinister in tone and very Grimm he announces the fact that the next few songs are exclusive to us and we are the first to hear them. Everything then becomes earth shatteringly dystopian. Duke can take to a small stage with sparse instruments and produce a sound like a pounding at the gates of hell.
He weaves a narrative like a storyteller with the best place by the fire. Music is less the focus of the evening, rather it is the performance. The songs are built around the concept of folklore, fairy tales and the way these notions have changed our perception of the world and each other. He creates an atmosphere of foreboding that creates a weight around your neck only for him to relive you of it with an uplifting chorus.
Catch the Duke Special on tour around the country. Visit www.dukespecial.com/tour/ for details.