Tonight there is a Canadian theme at Leeds’ legendary Brudenell Social Club, with a highly-anticipated visit from The Dears – but not before fellow Montrealers Plants and Animals take to the stage to deliver a very well-received 45 minute set.
Comparing the band to Arcade Fire is possibly a bit lazy or obvious, (though reasonably valid), but there are also elements of early Waterboys to their sound, a glorious concoction of heart, soul and truly great songs. There is a real chemistry between the members, who have now made five albums together. The most recent of these, last year’s Waltzed In From The Rumbling, provides the lion’s share of tonight’s offerings, but a few older songs are thrown in too, including ecstatic closer ‘Lightshow’, a single from 2012. The Brudenell audience is suitably impressed and attentive throughout.
UK appearances from The Dears are always cause for celebration, and tonight’s performance is no exception, the band living up to their long-held reputation as an intense and thrilling live act. Murray Lightburn and Natalia Yanchak formed The Dears in 1995 and are still up front as a formidable pairing, their vocals contrasting wonderfully and used to such great effect.
A brace of songs from new album Times Infinity Volume One begin the set: the claustrophobic opener ‘We Lost Everything’ and the album’s dramatic lead single ‘I Used To Pray For The Heavens To Fall’ setting the bar high early on.
A big cheer goes up for ‘Who Are You, Defenders Of The Universe?’ from arguably their best-loved album, 2003’s epic No Cities Left before Lightburn grabs an acoustic guitar and ups the tempo for a sprightly run-through of Gang Of Losers’ second single ‘Whites Only Party’. Lightburn is a charismatic and totally engaging frontman who has the crowd hanging on his every word and as usual, plays and sings as if his life depends on it. He even stands in the crowd to perform one track ‘(Hate Then Love)’ armed only with a tambourine and a microphone.
2008’s Missiles long player is represented tonight by a single track, ‘Disclaimer’, which is significantly more muscular than its recorded version, while the introduction of ultimate Dears anthem ‘Lost In The Plot’ is greeted with the appropriate amount of euphoria – it is a stunning version and gives the band a challenge in just how to follow it. “Tonight’s show is punishment / reward”, smiles Lightburn, self-deprecatingly explaining that if ‘Lost In The Plot’ was a reward, then a track from the new album would be the associated punishment! ‘Face Of Horrors’ turns out to be nothing of the sort and is one of several examples on show today of how Times Infinity Volume One is a fully-fledged Dears’ classic.
As on the new album, ‘Onward and Downward’ ends proceedings, (at least for now), and is sung excellently by Yanchak before the band disappear. Lightburn then re-emerges to reveal that the next song is from his favourite Dears album (‘There Goes My Outfit’ from Gang Of Losers) – he plays a remarkable solo version of the track which demonstrates the emotional range of his vocals before starting up another old favourite, ‘The Second Part’, which sees the band quietly return before joining in with a blistering finale to the track.
A sprightly run-through ’22: The Death Of All The Romance’ is the last song for tonight, featuring a sublime double-act with Lightburn and Yanchak duetting, (the track’s modern counterpart ‘Here’s To The Death Of All The Romance’ featured earlier), and is a fitting end to the show. “Best band in the world, Murray” comes a voice from the audience. He could well be right.
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