The Duke Spirit (supporting Incubus) Heineken Music Hall 16/03/07

The audience sways and groans in approval, a mass congregation of the mildly discontent. Incubus's music sounds like a million teenage spots bursting, spilling their detritus in a torrent of gloop.



The Duke Spirit (supporting Incubus) Heineken Music Hall 16/03/07


My God, supporting Incubus. This is all too weird. The last time I saw the Duke Spirit it was in front of a hundred or so enthusiastic die-hards in Rotown. It's not often that the Spirit have been down our way, so needs must... I suppose that getting on the guest list also allows me to boast that I have yet to pay to enter this ugly, crass and distinctly unpleasant hyper-commercial concern. I say unpleasant because every service here is blatantly engineered to deprive you the punter of your money. If it's not forking out for tokens to buy overpriced booze in plastic glasses, it's the extra costs on the t-shirts and of course capping it all is the ticket price you have to pay to get in. All this expense to watch a gig in an atmosphere not too dissimilar from a mortuary, only at mortuaries the attendants seem to be more sympathetic.


And what to expect? Well, the band is on early (as is nearly always the case in the HMH); so that's going to feel weird for starters. I don't associate the Duke Spirit with 8 o clock gigs... Incubus-styled teenagers, (unruly yet washed hair, saggy jeans, Beavis & Butthead demeanour and manners) crowd incuriously to the front, like a herd of cattle waiting to be let out into green pasture. Something is going to happen, a cheer goes up. Cheering the support band? Wait, it's not the Dukes, its two members of Incubus (looking suspiciously like the lads who fixed our windows recently) who have decided to look on the crowd from their balcony. How thrilling. 


Finally on stumble the band, bedecked as usual in black (or dun) threads. Moodily they begin to crank out their noise. On first impressions, it has to be said that these big stages suit them. For one, they can line up in a proper line (they don't look so cramped and as gauche as they sometimes do on a small stage) and for another they can take full advantage of the cranked up stadium sound system. The first three or four songs are obviously products of their State-side sojourn; immediately noticeable is the muscular groove, the sense of space and the confidence of the live arrangements. I mean, bloody hell, where has the stop-start slightly embarrassed eager to please bunch I saw in Rotterdam gone? There's a real sense of tension in their music now, and an in-band agreement that softer songs can be played in a big setting. One quiet track, sounding for all the world like a Russian lullaby, is particularly beautiful and fragile. It's a brilliant gig so far and I don't know one song. The crowd grooves along appreciatively, they seem quite surprised that they like the support band; after all they've saved their mental and physical energy for Incubus.


For the latter half of the set we get some oldies; Dark is Light Enough and Red Weather being spectacular, fizzing highlights. It's also nice to see that finally this band can roll as well as rock out. Again the arrangements are more muscular and much looser in their execution; and these factors help the songs tremendously, allowing for them to grow and fulfil their initial promise. Guitarist Dan, forever on edge throughout the gig, is now on the verge of destroying his guitar; whilst feedback wails and howls, and controlled waves of thumping noise are sent crowd-wards. It is fabulous stuff and proof positive that suffering for your art does reap dividends. And whaddaya know? The crowd decides apathy is best left back in Amsterdam West and gives full vent to its approval.


I stick around for the inevitable scream-fest that will greet Incubus; as mentally predicted there are lots of lights, and lots of minor chords that give way to monumental slabs of metal guitar. The audience sways and groans in approval, a mass congregation of the mildly discontent. The music itself sounds like a million teenage spots bursting, spilling their detritus in a torrent of gloop. I decide to leave after I spot one of the band wearing white gloves. There's really not a lot more to be said.


Still thumbs up for the Duke Spirit.


Words: Richard Foster.