DENS + High Hazels @ The Great Gatsby, 30/11/2012
The prospect of DENS, a band who boast Walkmen-like levels of deep melodiousness on record, is exciting enough for the tightly packed crowd at Gatsby’s. Just to make things a little more tantalising however, it takes until approximately three seconds into their set opener for the band to display that they’re also a group who really crank things up when presented with a live audience.
They introduce themselves by adding a frenetic, punk-rock edge to their sound which demands a triumphant, hands-in-the-air response from the gathering in front of them. As the set progresses, they proceed to treat the crowd to succession of confident sounding foot-stompers, with battle hardened drums and swathes of assertive feedback regularly reined in by a commendable sense of rhythm and tunefulness. DENS in the studio and DENS on the stage are clearly two entirely different animals.
Also on the bill tonight are gigging debutants, High Hazels. Rather astonishingly, they had already been given a rather authoritative thumbs up by Messrs Lamacq and Cocker on 6music before ever taking to the stage; hence, the sense of anticipation in the room is palpable.
They open with a delicate, dreamy number delivered with the assuredness of musical veterans, never mind gigging novices. Their songs and their delivery are startlingly mature throughout, despite the occasional reminder that they are still just starting out on their musical journey – a tuning related false start to ‘Five Years’ for example, though this tender heartstring-tugger proves well worth the wait and perfectly displays the talents of diminutive frontman James Leesley. Bassist Paul even manages to survive a part of the wall display nearly landing on his head during the powerful winter warmer 'Loose Stitches'.
In a short set full of highlights, closer ‘French Rue’ still manages to stands out. It's a skyscraper of a song – powerful and quite simply beautiful, both the song and the band that wrote it are surely destined for much bigger stages in the future. Upon taking to the stage, Leesley announced: “this is our very first gig. Possibly our last an’all if we’re not careful.”
He needn’t have worried.
Words by Lewis Parker.