The Duke Spirit at the Astoria

1st October 2008 – 7.47 am

I made it to a gig! The weather was even a bit grotty, but I had a ticket and ignored the devil sitting on my shoulder telling me I'd prefer another night in. I headed in to London fairly early, to have a bit of a wander and catch a bite to eat, an enticing treat to encourage my attendance. This meant I got to the venue early, before the first support act even, but it allowed me to get a good spot at the front near the stage.

I have to admit that I'm not a big fan of the Astoria as a venue any more. I used to think it was one of the better venues in London, and whether I was mistaken through inexperience or it has deteriorated in relation to other venues I'm not sure. It seems to be a dingy and cramped venue, one without any style. Getting to the Astoria early gave me the opportunity to see it better without a horde of people in the way and it didn't look so bad, although it certainly wasn't an exciting place to be. Even so, there is quite a big stage offering plenty of opportunity to see the bands.

It's a shame then that the sound was so poor during the sets of both support bands, with an overpowering bass that masked most of the guitars and quite a lot of vocals. I wasn't optimistic about the sound quality during The Duke Spirit's set, but it turned out to be quite good. I suppose only the main act had a sound set-up. I'm not sure it made much difference overall, as I wasn't terribly impressed by either support band from what I heard. I quietly passed the time before The Duke Spirit came on stage.

For some reason I procrastinated about getting The Duke Spirit's second album, Neptune, apparently trying to convince myself that the band's first album was a fluke. Yet whenever I listen to Cuts Across the Land, the bonus album Souvenirs of outtakes and demo tracks, or their mini-album Roll, Spirit, Roll, I not only enjoy the music but find songs that I rate highly. On top of that, the band's singer, Liela Moss, has a wonderful voice that whilst perhaps isn't like a delicate songbird has a distinctive quality that can produce some powerful vocals. After this realisation I picked up Neptune and found that there is plenty to like.

On stage, The Duke Spirit bashed out some excellent songs. Quite early on the band plays my favourite songs, Hello to the Floor and Wooden Heart, making me quite the happy kitty. And the pleasure just keeps on coming, with Stubborn Stitches also making me bounce a little and the happy pop of My Sunken Treasure cannot help but bring a smile to my face, to name two more obvious highlights.

The music is invigorating and occasionally intoxicating, with Liela charismatically stirring the audience, which is odd only because there could feasibly be only her on stage. There are six band members in total and yet the others seem almost ethereal, on stage yet indistinct from it. Perhaps it is simply the glamour and energy that Liela exudes that causes this effect, because however much the other members try to stand out they are outshone by the singer. Even so, they most certainly all combine together to create a powerful whole.

The band come back for an encore and thrill everyone with a few more songs before heading backstage for the night, and the rest of us file out of the Astoria to find that it's no longer raining. It was an excellent gig, and a splendid night out.

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