The crowd queuing outside the UEA student union tonight are more local teeny boppers than students the UEA residents (perhaps jaded by another former The Libertines man now having cancelled three scheduled gigs in theircity) seem more interested in the open air, end-of-term carol service going on around the corner. Somehow the contrast works perfectly – Salvation Army and mince pies, old Albion in the depths of the Fens.
The faithful being very faithful, they’ve got here early to secure a place at the front and so once the doors open, the floor is immediately heaving, providing a good-sized crowd for openers Hot Club de Paris, whose Scouse humour, three-part barber shop trio harmonies and cheeky banter with the audience works much better here than it did as a warm-up for novelty rock maestros We Are Scientists barely a month ago. Their rockabilly tunes and energetic show goes down well. Note to self – must remember ‘pop utensil’ 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 Cuban Tony Montana in the process. Bjorn Dixard and Gustaf Noren share and swap centre stage with the kind of chemistry last seen on stage with the band 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 has been a hell of a transition, a time to build on the past and look back on it without letting it consume them. They’ve been one of the year’s most inconsistent bands – lacklustre at the Luminaire and Carling 24, producing one 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 into the extra brass they’re showing tonight, as proud of the new material they’re showcasing as they are of the old Libertines standards (Death On The Stairs, I Get Along, France) and Jam covers (In the City) that it sometimes feels they use too much to pad out a set not yet capable of standing on its own.
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 out there/Don’t pretend life’s always fair” but sung in such a way that you know they’re doing something about this rather than letting it get them down. On the strength of tonight’s show, the second album will be stronger, ballsier and more brassy than Waterloo To Anywhere, as though they’re now clear on exactly where it is they’re heading. The Good Old Days and Death On The Stairs’ message to “just say ta’ra and leave him behind” feel like a real watershed, something they’re taking to heart with the confidence in themselves 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 for it. As songs such as Gin And Milk, You Fucking Love It and Deadwood become more familiar, the stronger they sound and The Gentry Cove is still the best single not released this year. I Get Along, as usual, rounds off the four-song encore and ends a night of incessant crowd-surfing, with Carl in a playful mood fronting a band who at last look ready to retake the world.