Live Review: The Duke Spirit/ Big Deal/ Tape The Radio

Heaven, London, 3rd February

Shouts, slaps, push-up bras: there are lots of ways to get the attention of a crowd, and tonight’s pick’n’mix paper sack of musical confectionery has all the flavours. From black-clad boys Tape The Radio and their anthemic ‘behold my monochrome grandeur’ rock chops, we fade into the subtler, featherlight charm-tactics of [a]Big Deal[/a]. For all the braggadocio of their name, the London duo do anything but shout for your love, standing eyes down and turned towards each other, painfully intimate and isolated onstage.

Ice-blonde and rail-thin Alice Costelloe[/b[ is like an earthbound lost soul who pined away for Kurt Cobain sometime around 1994, and her impossibly sweet vocals entwine with her former guitar tutor’s KC Underwood in a simple but powerfully beguiling way. A deft, cold-lit cover of the Eraserhead-soundtrack song ‘In Heaven’, previously taken on by [a]Pixies[/a], confirms the band’s grungy leanings, while their gorgeous cover of Big Star’s ‘Thirteen’ is pure puppy love. They can mumble and eye their footwear as much as they want, but we’re rapt.

It’s an altogether flashier mode of attention-grabbing from high hoodoo priestess Liela Moss, who blows every Y-chromosome (and a few Xs, truth be told) in the joint as she strides onstage in black leather hotpants, gold jacket and no good intentions. It’s The Duke Spirit’s first gig in London for over a year, and they’re clearly match-fit and brawling for trouble, Liela crouching to the floor and scanning the horizon as she howls, “I just see you” during ‘Lassoo’, pulling witchy poses during a raunchier-than-ever ‘Everybody’s Under Your Spell’ from their recent ‘Kusama’ EP.

‘Hello To The Floor’ is Doors-heavy, hypnotically moody, ‘Red Weather’ a testifying threat. Newie ‘Northbound’ is slow-burning and seductive, and if they haven’t exactly moved on a great deal since we first fell for them, well, this kind of blues-rock isn’t really about moving on so much as tapping in, and [a]The Duke Spirit[/a] are sucking on a rich vein indeed.

‘Don’t Wait’, from forthcoming album ‘Bruiser’, shows off a rarely seen tender underbelly, before Liela shoves untidy emotions back into check with ‘Love Is An Unfamiliar Name’, and ‘Cuts Across The Land’ draws a firm line under dropped jaws. That, ladies and gentlemen, was [a]The Duke Spirit[/a]; we trust you were paying heed.

Emily Mackay