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The Twilight Sad / United Fruit / Vladimir – 20 Rocks, Dundee – Sunday 28th April 2013

Since it’s my first visit to the building now rebranded as 20 Rocks let’s start off with a venue review.

The (new) Doghouse wasn’t my favourite Dundee venue (both Dexter’s/Non Zeros and Beat Generator Live are better IMHO) and being taken over by a chain hasn’t improved it.

First off the whole decor suggests a corporate rock-themed bar rather than a cool venue. Bizarrely a couple of relatively minor changes to the layout (a table in the middle of the floor and an extended sound booth) give the impression of having shrunk the venue significantly.

Perhaps worst of all (and probably not unrelated to the first point) is that the house lights are effectively left up for both Vladimir and United Fruit which does neither band any favours. The stage lighting is also pretty random , prompting the comment from James Graham which provides the headline for this piece.

It’s not so bad that I’d not go and see a band there, but going back isn’t going to be a particularly attractive proposition.

So, to the bands.

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Vladimir were good but some way short of the best I’ve seen them, even in the same room.

I’m not sure that much of that was their fault. I’ve mentioned the lighting already but the sound was a little polite too both undermining the band’s intensity.

They also seemed crammed rather uncomfortably onto the stage in front of the Twilight Sad’s drum kit and I suspect that this won’t have been their favourite show.

Still, the strength of the new songs couldn’t be hidden and they very much seem to be on an upward curve again at the moment.

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I’d been pleased when I found out that United Fruit were the main support for the tour as I’ve got the LP and have quite enjoyed it.

It’s more than a little mystifying therefore that they’d lost me by the end of the second song and never managed to retrieve things thereafter.

Certainly they suffered the same disadvantages as Vladimir had earlier on but I’m at a loss to explain why I got so little from their energetic performance. All I can do is put it down to gig fatigue by that stage in the weekend and I’d like to think that this old git would enjoy them in more favourable circumstances.

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Finally to the Twilight Sad and what turned out to be the best performance I’ve seen from them.

Unlike previous occasions that I’ve seen them (and particularly the last time I saw them in the same room) perhaps because of the stark nature of the electronic based songs from the third LP, there was a clarity about the sound. To be honest, I think that the approach of  harnessing the noise rather than submitting to it adds to ,rather than detracts from, their power.

As a consequence, in playing selected songs from all three albums, at times they were quite glorious. Yet, every now and then, it still felt that the songs were there to service the noise rather than the other way round.

Stand out track from the second LP ‘I Became A Prostitute’ actually managed to encapsulate both these qualities. It felt a little muddy early on, yet a third of the way through it shifted and transformed into something magnificent.

My overall impression of the show therefore was that, although very good, it seemed to stop just short of being the transcendent experience that they should be capable of.

Next time?

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