De Rosa / Robert Dallas Gray – Lanternhouse Arts, Cumbernauld – Friday 29th October 2021
I’ll confess, given their sporadic gigging in recent years, I hadn’t really anticipated De Rosa being quite so quick out of the traps in playing their first show in almost two years. So it was a pleasant surprise when the show was announced a few weeks ago.
These pandemic era gigs also seem to be springing up along routes less travelled. After a first gig in Paisley (Arab Strap) and only a second in Falkirk (Adam Stafford/Vulture Party), this show was also my first ever in Cumbernauld.
Rather confusingly, the Lanternhouse is part of a wider education campus, but fortunately as the theatre is essentially the first building you come to, it’s not hard to find – once you’ve tied it down to a vague location.
It seems fairly typical of recently constructed theatres, modern with lots of brickwork showing, with a bar area at the front of the building. The show itself was in the smaller of the two theatres, the Studio Theatre, which turned out to be a smaller version of the Tollbooth in Stirling albeit lacking a stage and, on this occasion, (the promised) seating.
Nevertheless, in the interests of social distancing, we planted ourselves more or less where we were intended to be. The reduced capacity however left plenty of room in the theatre and, pleasingly, it was easily the show with the highest percentage of mask wearers I’ve been to yet.
Support came from former Life Without Buildings guitarist Robert Dallas Gray (“Thanks to De Rosa for asking, no, forcing me to play”!)
Resplendent in a bright pink Husker Du sweatshirt his set was miles away from the jerky energy of his former band, instead comprising a series of reflective guitar instrumentals. I could try and describe the tunes, but instead can point you in the direction of a recording of this very show that Robert has released here:
There was no messing once De Rosa took to the (non) stage as they opened with two of their finest songs – ‘Evelyn’ and ‘It Helps To See You Hurt’. It was a standard that they maintained over the next hour or so.
The first half of the set saw Martin use an acoustic for the likes of (current) single ‘Mystery Walks’ and one of the finest versions of ‘The Engineer’ I’ve ever heard them do.
‘The Sea Cup’ saw him switch to an electric for the remainder of the set increasing the tempo and intensity of the show as exemplified by a rousing ‘All Saints Day’ and potent live favourite ‘In Code’.
The show then took an unexpected turn with the inclusion of ‘First Light’ from Martin’s excellent solo album ‘The Other Half of Everything’ – the first time I believe De Rosa have ever performed a song from that record. Given the fact that the album celebrated its tenth anniversary recently it’s perhaps not surprising that the occasion was marked in some way at this show but the next song certainly was a bolt from the blue.
The band’s 2008 song-a-month project ‘Appendices’ never gained much traction live as it was recorded at the same time as the songs from ‘Prevention’ were being debuted and recorded. The second song in the set ‘Ore’ was always the one I hoped they’d play (but never did) so hearing its distinctive intro was a genuinely jaw dropping moment, and the dynamic reading of the song lived up to a decade plus’s worth of anticipation.
No matter how good the rest of the set was, the undoubted highlight (again) was the now traditional set closer ‘Devils’, which expands on the recorded version with an anthemic, extended coda.
Prolonged demands for an encore (including a rendition of the appropriate section of ‘All Saints Day’ ) encouraged the band back on stage for a blast through ‘Father’s Eyes’ before departing for good.
I’d have been happy with any sort of De Rosa show after the last couple of years but I don’t think anyone could reasonably have hoped for this to be as great as it was. The band were clearly enjoying themselves and a satisfying setlist with the added bonus of a couple of surprises hit the mark. Perhaps the only slight disappointment was the omission of more songs from ‘Weem’ and new material as the set largely relied on favourites from ‘Mend’ and ‘Prevention’.
Yet all that does really is suggest that I’ll not be totally satisfied with any De Rosa setlist until they’ve played for at least two hours. So never, then!
But the list of songs that they didn’t play (’Spectres’, ‘Cathkin Braes’ and ‘A Love Economy’ for starters) is just as impressive as what they did play.
Still, it’s great to have them back and hopefully it won’t be too long before the next show.
1. Evelyn 2. It Helps to See You Hurt 3. Pest 4. Mystery Walks 5. Hopes & Little Jokes 6. The Engineer 7. The Sea Cup 8. All Saints Day 9. In Code 10. First Light 11. Ore 12. Tinto 13. Devils
14. Father’s Eyes
A remastered version of ‘Appendices’ and recent single ‘Mystery Walks’ are available from the De Rosa Bandcamp:
Martin’s solo album is still available from Gargleblast Records:
Two sets of photos from the show: