Live Music + Gig Reviews

Dry Cleaning @ Mill, Birmingham

22 February 2022

The dry, ice-cold, black art-rock sound of debut album New Long Leg is given a perfect airing, confirming the London outfit as true genre heavyweights

Dry Cleaning (Photo: Steve Gullick)

Dry Cleaning (Photo: Steve Gullick)

For many self-isolated, socially-distanced and woe-begotten music fans, Dry Cleaning‘s emergence as true genre heavyweights was one of the best things to happen in the past couple of years. Their debut long player, New Long Leg, was (and has remained) a vital, riveting piece of absurdist post-punk/art-rock that draws on recognisable but weighty forebears from Sleaford Mods, Sonic Youth and Lou Reed to Black Sabbath and Siouxsie & the Banshees, while also being modern and The Fall-esque enough to find them associated by proxy with the current crop of genre contenders (Squid, Black Country, New Road, Black Midi, even Yard Act). Many have been drawn to them through their extremely dry, ice-cold, black art-rock sound that hints at Iggy Pop‘s The Idiot and The Cure‘s Seventeen Seconds. As you can see, Dry Cleaning do a lot of things for a lot of different people, and this was immediately apparent in the vastly different ages of the fans in attendance at The Mill. 

At tonight’s show, in a rather intimate club setting on the far outskirts of Birmingham city centre, the band manage to get through the majority of New Long Leg, and stud the setlist with selections from their first two EPs, Sweet Princess and Boundary Road Snacks and Drinks. The band – made up of bassist Lewis Maynard, drummer Nick Buxton, and guitarist Tom Dowse – are all excellent throughout. Their dialled-in and precise performances show their experience as musicians before the band, and they play as though they were recording a stoic, faithful live album. Their singer, who is for many people the real draw of Dry Cleaning, is the inimitable Florence Shaw, who turns in a customarily wicked and droll performance by doing really very little. 

The performance – made up of thirteen songs over the course of about an hour and ten minutes – is flawless. There is no between-song banter to speak of, and even the faux-departure between the main set and the encore is swift. The first four songs of the night – Leafy, Unsmart Lady, Strong Feelings and Her Hippo – are amongst the band’s very best, with Unsmart Lady getting particular love from the crowd. The other highlights were the charming and hilarious Magic of Meghan, the wonderful Viking Hair and the excellent newish single Tony Speaks! (a bonus track on the Japanese edition of New Long Leg). Oh, and they played Scratchcard Lanyard before the encore break. What more could you ask for? 

The band’s selection for the encore – Conversation –  sends the fans home happy. The show was neat, tidy and hermetically sealed. It’s the same show they’ve been playing all tour, and despite some of the fans pointing this out to each other before the gig, the facts didn’t change the outcome. This deep into the pandemic years, on the day the rock community found out that Mark Lanegan died, with the world on the brink of untold human and financial devastation, Dry Cleaning did exactly what we expected them to, and that was all we could ever ask for. A perfect gig. 

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More on Dry Cleaning
Dry Cleaning – Stumpwork
Dry Cleaning @ Mill, Birmingham
Dry Cleaning – New Long Leg