The Duke Spirit -Sound Control Manchester 14.2.11

Valentine’s Day or not, über-cool London five-piece The Duke Spirit tonight manage to draw an impressively big audience to Manchester’s Sound Control, and treat them to an effortlessly solid performance thanks to some stunning vocals and a remarkable wall-of-sound noise from the frequently overlooked four male members of the band.

And The Duke Spirit are nice enough to bring with them Tape The Radio, a decent indie rock band who do a fine job as support act. They come complete with intricate guitar work and amazingly complementary vocals, courtesy of singer and guitarist Malcolm Carson and Tape The Radio’s highly talented drummer Bryan McLellan, both proud owners of completely gorgeous voices. So they’re probably not going to change your life, but they do succeed in providing some substantial indie tunes certainly worth paying attention to.

On, then, to the main attraction. Frontwoman Liela Moss takes to the stage and immediately oozes charm and charisma - no mean feat whilst bouncing around a stage with a tambourine. Moss is part PJ Harvey, part Kim Gordon, and the rest of her is a totally individual artist in her own right. As the constant wolf whistles from the males in the audience would suggest, the majority of the focus tonight is on Moss and her enchanting voice and on-stage personality. However, Moss’ vocals are a mere one-fifth of The Duke Spirit’s unique sound. Occasionally reminiscent of seminal 90’s bands Sonic Youth and My Bloody Valentine, but with an accessible new-wave indie twist, tonight’s headliners tear through a very well-chosen setlist, with a collection of songs spanning their impressive career thus far.

The band have a good number of tracks in their repertoire just begging for XFM airplay. This sounds like a half-criticism. It’s really not. ‘Everybody’s Under Your Spell’ and ‘You Really Wake up the Love in Me’ are unbelievably catchy and instant favourites, showcasing the extent of the entire band’s ability as a whole. ‘Lassoo’ is a perfect slice of good old fashioned sexy rock n’ roll, at once upbeat and simplistic but with some brooding undertones occasionally displayed through Moss’ sultry vocals. As if I needed further proof of The Duke Spirit’s status as one of Britain’s most promising bands of the moment, the five-piece also have a couple of near-epic slowburners under their belts as well, and it is during these more quiet, controlled numbers that Moss’ vocal range really shines through. Her surprise harmonica playing is icing on the cake.

As Moss and co leave the stage and my ears continue to ring, I can’t help but want to do the whole thing again. It’s a rare thing for a band to play music so catchy and accessible, and yet to still have so much substance to their songs, not to mention the musical ability to produce such a captivating performance. Same time next week, please.

Ashley West


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