The crowd queuing outside the UEA student union tonight are more localteenyboppers than students the UEA residents (perhaps jaded by anotherformer Libertine now having cancelled three scheduled gigs in theircity) seem more interested in the open air, end-of-term carol service goingon around the corner. Somehow the contrast works perfectly – Salvation Armyand mince pies, old Albion in the depths of the Fens.
The faithful being very faithful, they’ve got here early to secure aplace at the front and so once the doors open, the floor is immediatelyheaving, providing a good-sized crowd for openers Hot Club de Paris,whose Scouse humour, three-part barber shop trio harmonies and cheeky banterwith the audience works much better here than it did as a warm-up fornovelty rock maestros We Are Scientists barely a month ago. Their rockabillytunes and energetic show goes down well. Note to self – must remember ‘poputensil’ as an alternative for ‘bass guitar’ for future reviews.
Next up is Swedish garage rock supremeos Mando Diao who should bemuch, much bigger than they are and prove it again tonight with manic,shouty punk energy at ear-splitting volume, dedicating a song to CubanTony Montana in the process. Bjorn Dixard and Gustaf Noren share andswap centre stage with the kind of chemistry last seen on stage with theband we’re trying not to mention tonight. They set the stage perfectly for…
…Dirty Pretty Things, coming to the end of a tour and a year that hasbeen a hell of a transition, a time to build on the past and look back on itwithout letting it consume them. They’ve been one of the year’s mostinconsistent bands – lacklustre at the Luminaire and Carling 24, producingone of the gigs of the year at the Astoria – but here they’re on top form,aided and abetted by trombones that provide a nice journalistic link intothe extra brass they’re showing tonight, as proud of the new materialthey’re showcasing as they are of the old Libertines standards (Death on theStairs, I Get Along, France) and Jam covers (In the City) that it sometimesfeels they use too much to pad out a set not yet capable of standing on itsown.
The new songs are in many ways more of the same, with lyrics (again)about voices inside your head and lines like “Don’t get comfortable outthere/Don’t pretend life’s always fair” but sung in such a way that you knowthey’re doing something about this rather than letting it get them down. Onthe strength of tonight’s show, the second album will be stronger, ballsierand more brassy than Waterloo To Anywhere, as though they’re now clear onexactly where it is they’re heading. The Good Old Days and Death on theStairs’ message to “just say ta’ra and leave him behind” feel like a realwatershed, something they’re taking to heart with the confidence inthemselves to really do it.
With more material to come in the New Year,they’ll finally be able to and, when they do, their set will be stronger forit. As songs such as Gin and Milk, You Fucking Love It and Deadwood becomemore familiar, the stronger they sound and The Gentry Cove is still the bestsingle not released this year. I Get Along, as usual, rounds off thefour-song encore and ends a night of incessant crowd-surfing, with Carl in aplayful mood fronting a band who at last look ready to retake the world.