Live Music + Gig Reviews

The Rakes + Battle @ Mean Fiddler, London

10 August 2005

The two bands on the bill this evening at the Mean Fiddler, The Rakes and Battle, have been getting a lot of people excited lately.

Which is probably why the show tonight was a complete sell out, with a distinct buzz in the air outside the venue on Charing Cross Road – touts were swarming around indie kids like bees to a hive, and posters advertising The Rakes’ debut LP decorated lampposts as far as the eye could see.

And when Battle took to the stage at around quarter past nine, bursting into a glorious rendition of Feel The Same, the packed room was stunned into silence, everyone captivated by front man Jason Bavanandan’s stark vocals, which sounded particularly haunting through a surprisingly crisp PA. Their sound has drawn comparisons to early Cure, with piercing guitar tones and paranoid vocals often characterising their material.

The highlight of their set was undoubtedly the utterly brilliant Tendency, which was quite possibly superior to anything else played on this stage this evening. If it ever gets a full release with proper backing, they’ll be overnight superstars. This was an incredibly mature performance from a relatively new band, that suggested playing second fiddle to other groups will soon be a thing of the past.

So The Rakes had a lot to live up to. Bounding on to stage in front of a projected image bearing their logo, their usual revved up 30-minute set was fleshed out (being a headline slot), to include the entire album and virtually all their B-sides – and still only stretched to three quarters of an hour.

This gives you an idea of the sort of music they play: short and sharp bursts of punk rock, that are straight to the point. The crowd down the front loved every minute of it, jumping up and down and crowd surfing to almost every number, with singles Retreat, 22 Grand Job and Strasbourg witnessing the most boisterous activity.

However, despite the band’s alcohol fuelled enthusiasm coupled with an adoring audience, front man Alan Donohue’s words often sounded very slurred, meaning unless you knew the lyrics, there was no way to decipher them. Whether this was nervousness or bad sound was unclear, but it didn’t make for the smoothest viewing.

What’s more the whole affair felt overly rushed, meaning there was not a second to take anything in, and the performance was all over before it began. They tore through the set like there was no tomorrow, and subsequently some of the slower moments on the album didn’t get the airing they fully deserved. This would all be fine on a drunken night in an East End boozer, but as far is big headline shows go, it’s simply not enough – a paying audience deserve more of a spectacle.

Still, there’s no doubting their quality – their album is set to be one of the highlights of 2005 – they just need to get used the lofty expectations that are synonymous with being the first real candidates to fill that post Libertines void.

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More on The Rakes
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The Rakes – Ten New Messages
The Rakes – Capture/Release
The Rakes + Battle @ Mean Fiddler, London
Interview: The Rakes