Review: Deaf Havana – Sound Knowledge Marlborough, 09/08/18
With the heatwave over and a cool breeze in the air, it was the perfect day for a family-friendly acoustic set. Taking place in the courtyard outside Sound Knowledge and Cafe Thirty8 at lunchtime, an eager group of fans were thanking their lucky stars for being able to get the time off work to come and see this intimate performance from one of Britain’s brightest.
Deaf Havana have been playing stripped back sets across the country to celebrate the release of their fifth album, Rituals, which came out last Friday. On tape it’s a much bouncier affair than the quintet’s previous offerings, leaning towards the pop side of pop-punk, but this outing presented the songs in a vastly different style.
Opening with lead single Sinner, singer James Veck-Gilodi and keyboardist Max Britton took the dance vibes out of the track, swinging the focus onto the lyrics and Veck-Gilodi’s vocal performance. With thirteen years of experience under his belt it’ll come as no surprise that he was note-perfect, unfazed by the up close and personal nature of the crowd.
The raw emotion in the new material is thrilling, Veck-Gilodi exposing his darkest thoughts and doubts throughout songs like Hell (“I don’t really know what I’m doing, and I’m sorry I put you through this/But I never said I’d treat you right”) and Ritual (“Maybe the darkness took hold of me/Maybe I’m just scared of reality/To tell you the truth I’ve never felt so lost”).
Although the tracks sound more upbeat, the lyrics are the most honest that the band have released and they lend themselves beautifully to acoustic performances. It’s easy to compare to The 1975, known for wrapping highly emotive lyrics in sugary sweet songs, but it’s also possible to see similarities with chart-topper Sam Smith (particularly throughout Holy, which contains echoes of Too Good At Goodbyes).
Taking place outside in a market town, the duo did have to compete with external forces: a wailing car alarm interrupting Veck-Gilodi while he was talking to the crowd, while a police siren caused him to grin and almost lose his composure just after the first line of Fever.
Turning towards the people eating outside Cafe Thirty8 just before the launched into closing track Ritual, he joked, “Sorry for ruining your lunch by the way guys, I promise I’ll be gone soon!”. With a voice like his, I can’t imagine anyone being offended by an unexpected musical accompaniment with their caesar salads.
Deaf Havana are drawing on their influences and combining them in an audibly pleasing blend, but they’ve still got the spark which has helped them prevail time and again throughout the past decade. Slipping in two tracks from All These Countless Nights – Fever and Happiness – it’s clear to see that the new album complements the band’s previous release, but it’ll be interesting to see how well it works with their older material when they tour (an outing which Veck-Gilodi hinted will be happening towards the end of this year or early next year).
As soon as the set was over, Veck-Gilodi and Britton were joined by the other three members of Deaf Havana to sign copies of their new album behind the desk of Sound Knowledge. As you can see, we took our daughter so that she could experience live music for the first time, and she even got to meet the band. I’d like to say a huge thank you to the guys for taking the time to get a picture with the three of us. I can’t wait to show her when she’s older!