Kevin Devine and the Goddamn Band – Thekla, Bristol (Live Review)

Rating:

Previous experience confirms that the best kinds of shows happen on boats and tonight’s is sure to be true to form. Just look at this bloody line up, three of the best artists you can ask for all crammed onto one boat venue in a great city. As the audience board the boat and head below deck it’s clear from the stage set up that something special is about to happen. As the Lion and the Wolf runs a quick line check the audience file forwards to get close enough to join the emote.

Tom strikes the first note and for the next thirty minutes a room on a boat is charmed by the combination of honest, charming stage patter and beautifully emotive songs. The reputation that The Lion and the Wolf has worked so hard to build over the last few years is justified by performances like this. Songs from last year’s (five star) ‘Cardiac Hotel’ sound incredible in this context and combined with brief explanations between songs create a whole new emotional bond. Vocally, contrasts between heart breaking fragility and the uplifting power of a chorus or hook are spellbinding and gentle guitar playing behind this begins to set tear ducts to moist. As the set progresses it is clear that even the order of the set list is well judged and controls the mood with an almost unnerving accuracy.

After such an engaging set there is a feeling within the room that something special is happening below this deck – and as Laura Stevenson starts to play this is confirmed. Her naturalness on stage is somewhat surprising for someone who is stat on stage playing a song called ‘Nervous Rex’ but this is what wins the audience over in a matter of seconds. This natural singer songwriter feeling is radiated from the stage effortlessly and creates a feeling of comfort both during songs and stage chatter. Laura Stevenson’s voice is a thing of absolute beauty with its own natural emotive cracks and a crescendo that smoothly progresses into a pitch full of strength.

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This set progresses perfectly with a combination of songs from records past and present giving a great example of her back catalogue within a short set. Musically and vocally this set seems to float above the audience who stand transfixed and seemingly wait for every note, every lyric and look genuinely sad when each song finishes. As Laura Stevenson leaves the stage there is a moment of contemplation before the applause kicks in. It is clear that this line up is truly special and the headliner hasn’t even taken the stage.

Kevin Devine does not waste any time in starting his set and is certainly not afraid to get the emotions going from the start. With just an electric guitar and vocals he silences a room who once again stand and stare in awe. As the song finishes he calls his Goddamn Band out and the evening hits a new kind of emotion. The audience begin to move and sing along as grunge style riffs add to Kevin’s iconic vocal. As songs with the backing band begin to get the audience suitably hyped up, the rug is pulled from the crowd and KD plays another couple of songs alone. At this point the emotion and poignancy of what he is saying is astounding, this clever technique has created a platform where every word is taken in.

The perfect point for a between song political rant you might think, in this case no, points are raised and thoughts are encouraged but there is no rant. After this brief pause and the usual thanks to bands, venues and audience the evening comes to a raucous end with Kevin Devine and the Goddamn Band finishing with crowd favourites and creating an ending fitting for such an incredible line up.

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As the venue is emptying Big Jeff is spotted, as suspected we are leaving the best show in Bristol tonight!