Huw Jones

13:41 28th June 2006

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There's something in the air tonight at London’s imposing Institute for Contemporary Arts. Something oppressive yet strangely laid back. Quite fitting really as The Dears are in town and are preparing to deliver a showcase to promote their forthcoming album ‘Gang Of Losers’. Its a dark place and if past performance is anything to go by The Dears are going to take the gathered art house crowd that one step further. Emerging under blue lights, amidst swirling dry ice and flanked by partner Natalia Yanchak and Valerie Jodoin on keyboards, frontman Murray Lightburn takes to the stage with a defiant fist in the air salute, which resembles something akin to the acknowledgement of a stadium homecoming.

Unfortunately from the off the sound is awful and at no fault of the bands. But ignorance is bliss and it shows, as undeterred the they launch into an emotionally charged set that pits heavy orchestral themes against dark and foreboding lyrics of love, life, departure and arrival. Although judging by the lethargic response of the crowd, the first five or so songs are new and as yet unknown. Either that or live music on a Monday night is a bit too much for these delicate flowers. As if to reinforce the fact Mr Lightburn announces that tonight is all about new material; “I hate to break it to you but that's what we’re doing”. This is the only piece of interaction that the band has made with the largely unresponsive crowd all evening, choosing to communicate entirely through the music. Thankfully things do get better as the show goes on with the intense ‘Death Or Life We Want You’ and ‘There Goes My Outfit’ prompting fitful outbursts of sketchy dancing from the sidelines.

Things are improving. The crowd are starting to understand and appreciate what its like to live, momentarily at least, in The Dears world. Old favourites ‘Lost In The Plot’ and ‘Death Of All The Romance’, complete with drumming that would make Animal jealous, are met with the understanding and appreciation that they rightly deserve, as is ‘End Of A Hollywood Bedtime Story’. Building to a climax that signals the end of the show the audience are treated to the albums title track ‘You And I Are A Gang Of Losers’ and it doesn't disappoint.

Trading guitar for tambourine, Lightburn ends up on his knees as distortion and feed back reign supreme and reverberate around the small intimate room. The Dears make a fast stage exit and faster yet return to pick up where they left off bending the still ongoing noise into a dark and moody choral offering that continues to build and build. Seemingly not one for words tonight all Lightburn can offer up is “So this is it man. Thanks for coming. See you next time.”

And just like that it’s over. The crowd leave, happy yet strangely stunned. And it’s understandable.

It’s at this point that everything suddenly becomes clear. The Dears haven't just played a collection of songs. They’ve staged a unique experience. Something altogether quite orgasmic, that pulls you further and further into their world. Tonight has been a journey of epic proportions. And one that’s hard to put into words. Imagine if you will a car chase involving Morrissey, Ian Curtis and Jim Morrison. The boot is full of drugs, there's a full tank of petrol and no end of the road in sight. It might be a hard concept to grasp, but The Dears are a band that earns their living through transforming concepts into beautifully crafted tunes; and if their live show is anything to go by, ‘Gang Of Losers’ should be on everyone’s shopping list.

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