In 2014, Deaf Havana closed the ‘Old Souls’ campaign with a lengthy UK headline tour and main stage performance at Reading and Leeds Festival. On paper this sounds like a home-run however; the future was uncertain for Norfolk’s rock group with line-up changes, financial concerns and no label backing. Three years later, with new record ‘All These Countless Nights’ debuting at number 5 in the UK album charts, there is a heightened sense of anticipation for the bands return to the stage in their home town at the Norwich UEA.
Kicking off the show are London based emo rockers ‘DEAD!’. Adorned with flowers and table lamps, this is clearly a band who understands aesthetics as they launch into an energetic thirty minutes of catchy punk with huge riffs. Bouncing around the stage; the band perform material from established EP ‘Tu Me Manques’ and newer cuts such as ‘Something More Original’ and ‘Jessica’. Their performance must be commended for its charismatic passion however; this UK take on American pop punk (think My Chemical Romance, Simple Plan) at times comes off cringe-worthy through the vocalists forced American accent and insufferable speeches between songs. “We are DEAD! But we are here to make you feel alive” ironically does not pull a pulse from the crowd, let’s blame storm Doris shall we?
Up next, three-piece grunge outfit ‘Dinosaur Pile Up’ take to the stage amidst a sulky purple hue and noticeably still performance in comparison to their predecessors. With tight drums, huge riffs and sleazy vocal melodies, the band tears through a set that is both nostalgic and soothing. This performance feels far more authentic than the previous; albeit with a sense of self-indulgence as they rarely engage with the audience, it is the monstrous closer ’11:11′ that finally see’s the crowd moving in unison.
From the first chord of ‘Ashes, Ashes’ to the closing moments of ‘Pensacola, 2013’, Deaf Havana are treated to a ear piercing crowd singing the lyrics back at them word for word; this is a special moment for a band at the top of their game with a tight nit performance. The band perform a rich 18 song seamless set of their catchy, arena ready rock, laced with vocal harmonies and huge choruses with almost no room to breathe. It is then fortunate that front-man James Veck-Gilodi has the packed out venue in the palm of his hand singing loudly as he asks “what kind of band tours in the winter?!” proclaiming that he and his brother Matthew are suffering with a cold – hardly noticeable might I add.
The set showcases a wide array of songs across the past three records with both new tracks and non singles (‘L.O.V.E’, ‘Tuesday People’) being met with sing-alongs just as loud as the “crowd pleasers”. The stage show is a new symmetrical set up, with drummer Tom Ogden and keyboard player Max Britton being placed diagonally, allowing the now 5-piece band bolder stage presence. Speaking of which, Max now feels like a more essential component to the band as he is equipped with an additional synthesizer, and fills in on acoustic duties. Add to this, a new dizzying light show which helps bring the set to life at vital moments, the overall set up creates a sense of cohesion, as if this is the band they have always wanted to be.
Whilst 18 songs is a sizeable, this show flew by quicker than any in recent memory, which is a testament to the song writing displayed by the band over the past decade. The band flew through favorites such as ‘22’, ‘The Past Six Years’ and ‘Hunstanton Pier’ with only brief pauses for James to banter in humble fashion and thank the crowd for all of the support. Matthew also joins in on this from time to time, showing how he has become an essential element to the band. Lead sections of his such as in ‘Happiness’ and ‘Casseopia’ create some of the most harmonious and atmospheric moments of the night.
After an energetic encore of ‘Boston Square’, ‘Sing’ and ‘Pensacola, 2013’ to a raucous crowd, and the stage lights finally displaying their name at the finale, it is clear that Deaf Havana are back in a big way, reinforcing themselves as one of the UK’s finest rock acts. On a personal note, I would like to add that growing up from the same area, knowing the band from their humble beginnings and watching the ups and downs of their evolution; this evening felt like a celebration of Norfolk’s local music scene, and a huge inspiration to all of us. We are all immensely proud of them, and this is a true case of hard work paying off.
Deaf Havana cement themselves as one of the UK's essential live bands.