Gig Review: The Devil’s Blood
WHERE: The Underworld, London
WHEN: Friday, February 19Words: Malcolm Dome
Give it a year or so, and this venue will have somehow shoehorned in about 10,000 people. You now it’s like – some gigs become legendary, and people are desperate to be associated with them. How many times have you heard the claim “Oh yes, I was there” from somebody you just know had never even heard of the band at the time. AC/DC at The Red Cow in Hammersmith in ’76, Guns N’ Roses at The Marquee in ’87…and now The Devil’s Blood.
The fact that The Underworld was barely half full was depressing as this performance was stunning. Where was everyone? The anticipation levels for this gig had reached fever pitch just days earlier. But there we all were staring at the emptiness, as this Dutch band delivered a performance that had grace, electrifying passion, gorgeous melodies and some of the most intricately mesmerising guitar interplay anyone’s witnessed in recent times.
There was no elaborate stage set, nor any gimmicks. Sure the amps were littered with candles, as the band – bathed in an opaque hue that accentuated their tribal make-up (corpse paint with a touch of Arthur Brown) – relied solely on their music to get across their version of occult rock.
The set was seamless, 90 minutes during which there was no embarrassing banter – the songs and musicianship were the focus. At times, it did bring to mind Coven, Jefferson Airplane and Roky Erickson There were also moments when Wishbone Ash sprang to mind. But through it all, these were mere reference points for a band who clearly have defined their own style.
Of course, the basis for tonight were the songs from last year’s Come Reap EP and The Time Of No Time Evermore album. But more often than not, the tunes were used as a springboard for the sort of extended instrumental creativity that was so prevalent 40 years ago. These days, not many bands have the confidence, the spirit or the ability to make this work, but there’s no such problem here – it’s so damn haunting that there are people who put up with empty glasses and full bladders rather than miss a note.
There’s no encore. Once they’ve finish the band troop off, leaving us stunned and staring, coming down from the aural equivalent of a glorious mushroom trip.
If you were there, you know exactly what I mean. If you weren’t, hopefully this will give a little indication of what you missed. Nights like this underline, and reinvest in, the perennial glory of rock. On the day we all commemorated the 30th anniversary of Bon Scott’s death, this was the most approrpiate tribute of all – a great gig.