Live Review: Django Django at Plug, Sheffield, 14th May 2015

Born Under Saturn - Django Django
Born Under Saturn - Django Django

Django Django are the kind of band who have been vaguely just outside my radar for the last few years but seem to be compared to every band I really enjoy at the moment. I always assumed they were newcomers to the scene but was surprised to find they’d formed back in 2009 at Edinburgh College of Art and their ‘new’ material I was enjoying was from their 2012 self-titled debut album. The current UK tour is in promotion of the long-awaited follow-up, “Born Under Saturn” and both albums are awash with critical acclaim, garnering 4 and 5 star reviews.

Support act Hot Vestry have the kind of name that conjures up all sorts of lewd imagery, but the band appear to be more than just a headline grabbing name, having carefully studied great electronic acts (and haircuts) of the early 80s and fused them with some early 90s Madchester swagger. They come across as a “what if Richard Ashcroft was frontman of Joy Division” (indeed research tells me that keyboardist Tilly is the daughter of Joy Division/New Order stalwart Stephen Morris) act who play songs which remind you of Human League, Soft Cell and A Flock of Seagulls without ever seeming like rip-offs. Stand out tracks “Parallel to Tomorrow” and “Quiet Headed” were impressive and set the scene nicely for main act Django Django.

Being labelled as anything from art-rock to neo-psychedelia, Django Django have admitted that they didn’t know what they were doing on their earliest tours but from the moment they triumphantly take to the small, but conveniently elevated stage at Sheffield’s Plug, they seem like old hands and masters of their trade. Swathed in darkness with a multitude of coloured lights providing backlight and dazzling the audience, they storm into “Introduction” and “Hail Bop”, one of their early notable tracks I’d first heard. Their music is all electronic bells and whistles with imposing synths one minute like a menacing 70s prog rock or new wave band, then the next it’s Shadows-style guitars and surf rock jangly tunes all infused with carefully layered harmonies and Stone Roses-type crooning. It’s music which is both exciting to listen to and impressive to see performed live as it’s seemingly so complicated and almost mathematical in its execution. That’s not to say there’s no heart or soul, as when lead singer Vincent sings, it’s still soaring and delightfully Scottish through all the distortion and robotic atmosphere.

New single “Shake and Tremble” gets an early airing and it starts off as the theme from “Peter Gunn” or a lost Morricone anthem before becoming an indie/baggy singalong number, instantly hummable. First album big hitters “First Light” and “Reflections” are back-to-back, with insistent militaristic drum loops and perfectly harmonised choruses, seeming not cheery, but poignant somehow. “Reflections” features a particularly bonkers structure where it breaks down completely into a jazz sax piece from the Star Wars Cantina band but it fits brilliantly and is a joy to hear live.

On tracks like “Waveforms” and first encore “Pause Repeat”, there’s a more urban dance feel with the sort of backing that Azealia Banks or Missy Elliot might bass a track around whilst on the trippy “Skies Over Cairo”, we’re presented with a big swing number (all drums and percussion) which is joined by cascading synths and finally a middle-Eastern pipe/horn lilting the “Cairo” themed melody. Everyone was already dancing by this point anyway, but a fair few began to imagine they were in some sort of Arabian musical, looking around! “Default” and “Life’s a Beach” revive the 50s/60s guitar feel with upbeat Eddie Cochran style central vibe. Their pre-encore set finishes with “WOR” which is all sirens and more wild west flavoured clapalong enthusiasm. We’re all encouraged to get down on the floor and everyone politely obeys, a first for me at a gig, and it’s because we’re all having such a great time. Proper set-closer “Silver Rays” returns to the synthy video game style and the evening ends on such a high.

Django Django at Plug
Django Django at Plug
Django Django at Plug
Django Django at Plug

• Introduction/Hail Bop
• Shake and Tremble
• Storm
• First Light
• Reflections
• Waveforms
• Skies Over Cairo
• 4000 Years
• Default
• Life’s a Beach
• Pause Repeat
• Silver Rays

I’d highly recommend seeing Django Django even if you’ve never encountered much of their music, as it’s instantly made memorable through some terrific musical expertise and a warm live presence. Their tour continues around the UK before heading across Europe and North America (and bizarrely, back again!) through the summer and into autumn and winter. Check out their website for more details.

Don’t forget to look in to support act Hot Vestry too, via their website.

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