Dead Letter Circus, Black Devil Yard Boss @ The Zoo, Brisbane (18/08/2010)
With the release of their debut album This is the Warning, Dead Letter Circus have been riding a wave of success. The One Step, national tour appears to be one of their most ambitious yet. It is rather strange that they choose to play their hometown shows at The Zoo – a rather modest location, given that they have previously sold out larger venues such as The Hi-Fi. Regardless of the downsizing the dedicated fans are as enthusiastic as ever.
With a name that sounds like a bunch of Satan-worshipping heathens from the deep south, Black Devil Yard Boss open the night pulverising ears with a sample of pure motherfuckin’ rock-n-roll. An infusion of hard rock, blues and funk, their songs centre around a solid groove, anchored in place by the bass of Michael ‘Big D’ Davies. Guitarist Pete Williamson is far more extroverted compared to his previous stint in Mammal and is quite content with his transition into the spotlight. Channeling the power of rock-gods of ages past, he shreds out blues-scales hoisting his guitar to play not only behind his head, but with his teeth. The performance isn’t without its faults as the imitation of their influences occasionally wears through. At first, the punters seem a bit disillusioned to their stylings, but as devil horns are raised to the roof it’s clear that Black Devil Yard Boss have left their mark.
Dead Letter Circus commence with The Drum which is far too droning to be played as an opener, lacking the suitable punch that their other songs offer. It is an example of the mixed affair offered with their dabblings into industrial territory. Some songs like This Long Hour appear ill-conceived whereas others like Cage adapt well to a live setting. The gratuitous use of samples in certain songs like Here We Divide make the compositions sound cluttered. In particular, they make some of the drum parts of Luke Williams sound convoluted. The crowd’s hesitancy towards some of the aforementioned songs only further enforces the inconsistency, which proves to be a letdown to their set, albeit, a small one.
The band is sporting a new guitarist, Tom Skerj. At first he sticks out, almost as if he is a fill in session musician but as the night progresses he warms to his new position. The extra bottom-end he adds to songs like Space on the Wall is welcomed, but in other songs it’s difficult to tell whether his guitar parts compliment the complex rhythm-driven riffs of Rob Marc.
Kim Bensie is no longer plagued by the vocal difficulties he used to suffer from, able to hit the higher more sustained notes without his voice buckling. He remains centre-stage, one foot perched atop the fold backs for most of the evening. Williams is having a mixed affair with his vocal deliveries. At times he appears unable to balance them with his drum parts but as the night progresses and his confidence grows he is able to belt his skins with full force. Stewart Hill proves to be the standout performer, contorting his body as he cements his bass lines in place under the ambient guitar parts.
EP tracks like The Mile and Alien prove to be the crowd favourites, with a healthy mosh cultivating for most of the evening. The band throws in a piss-taking reggae finish to Disconnect and Apply proving that they aren’t all serious. As they plough through Next In Line, the twin guitars give it a brazen edge. As the five band members depart the stage, punters beg them to return. In particular cries of ‘Tom!’ can be heard echoing through The Zoo. They bring the evening to a close with a encore of Lines and the ominous-sounding This Is the Warning – a far more ferocious offering than its recorded counterpart.
When artists experiment with different musical elements, it’s inevitable that sometimes it just won’t come to fruition. In short, Dead Letter Circus are a rock band and should keep it that way, but it is still satisfying to know that their live performances still deliver despite their musical shortcomings.