The Dears’ have not played a UK tour in six long years. They return with a not one but two excellent new albums called Times Infinity Vol 1 and 2.
Tonight was their fourth date on their ten-date tour of the British Isles and stopped off at Portsmouth Wedgewood Rooms. Sadly, around 40 people attended the venue that can hold 500; the last time they played here, it was a sell-out.The Dears silently made their way onto the stage without a smile and just got on with the show. It was hard to decide whether this was due to nerves, anger or dedication to the job at hand.
After a blast of ‘Taking It To The Grave ‘ and ‘Of Fisticuffs’, from their latest album. It took their 2006 single ‘You and I Are a Gang of Losers’ to provoke the audience’s first reaction. At last a smile from keyboardist/singer Natalia Yanchak; who strangely had maracas that looked like a pair of bollocks. Front-man, Murray Lightburn wore sunglasses throughout their entire performance; it led to a member of the crowd asking if he was blind. He struggled with a few gremlins with his vast array of instruments and quipped “it’s been a while guys”. They sadly lack any stagehands. The sound was not as polished as one would expect. The heavy production from their studio work was stripped back to mainly guitars and drums. However, can we take a moment to appreciate the talent of Jeff Luciani?
After showcasing the depth of Lightburn’s powerful vocal, the band started to enjoy themselves; aided by playing a few old favourites like ’22: The Death of All Romance’ and ‘5 Chords’. He is a passionate performer who needs a likewise passionate crowd to bounce off. As this was missing the singer found himself singing to the skies to find recognition. The majority of the audience was not too clued up on their new material. If someone went to the bar during a song or made an early exit, it was far too noticeable.
The Dears revived the show in for the final part of their set with a storming version of ‘1998’, from Times Infinity vol 2. And some older classics like ‘Disclaimer’ and ‘Hate The Love’. An audience member cried out “fucking brilliant” The band beamed with glee, for once. Lightburn teased us with the opening chords to Radiohead’s ‘Airbag’ before going into their classic ‘Lost In The Plot’ which sparked off the two middle-aged men into some semi-hypnotic dancing.
The band left the stage for a few minutes before Lightburn returned alone to thank us for being a great audience. Someone pointed out the elephant in the room and shouted “shame there wasn’t enough of us,” the singer responded by saying “there is plenty”. He went on to explain that years ago when home alone in his bedroom playing guitar, he could have never imagined he would be playing a showdown by the sea in Portsmouth. The front-man told a story of when he was at a party and ruined his white outfit by spilling a tequila sunrise all over it, and performed a beautiful acoustic version of ‘ There Goes My Outfit’.
A great performance from a band who have 20 years of experience behind them, but if only this was played to hundreds of hardcore fans.