Deaf Havana Bring An Energetic Performance To Bristol

by Ben Leslie

Days before Deaf Havana were due to perform, PearShaped managed to secure tickets for the gig at the O2 Academy in Bristol, resulting in a very excited phone call with a mate and a surprise start to the week. 2017 saw the return of Deaf Havana after years of silence with their fourth studio album, All These Countless Nights. I reviewed this album a few weeks ago and gave it a 35 rating, thinking it was okay but nothing special. Having played it many more times since, including belting it out on the drive up to Bristol on Monday night, and subsequently seeing them perform it live, I am going to have to change my rating to a 45. It’s a brilliant album that I would certainly recommend.

Before Deaf Havana graced the stage, support acts Dead! and Dinosaur Pile-Up entertained the Bristol audience. We arrived at the venue a bit late and so missed the first support, joining the crowd mid-way through Dinosaur Pile-Up’s set. However, to be honest, I think the less said about these guys the better. Admittedly their music is not my favourite genre, but from the reaction of the surrounding crowd, who almost certainly has a better knowledge of heavy metalcore music than me, they did not go down well. The next surprise of the night came in the break between these guys and headliners Deaf Havana, when the venue decided to play an eclectic collection of country classics to the audience, and whilst we were loving it, the crowd was not so much. It was a relief when Deaf Havana finally stepped out on to the stage and broke into their opening track of their latest album, Ashes, Ashes. Their music is full of enticing guitar solos, bassline licks and incredibly well written, deeply personal, lyrics, and all of these components combine to make them an incredible band to see live. Frontman James Veck-Gilodi apologised throughout the night about a cold he’d been battling, and despite many cups of tea by the end of the set he really couldn’t speak. However, this had very little impact on their performance as the crowd seemed to know every single lyric, screaming each word straight back to the band and providing a backing vocal to every song.

Mixing up tracks from old and new releases, they flew through the first half of their set, only pausing to say thank you and so James V-G could get a top up of his cuppa. It wasn’t long before the mosh pits broke out and parts of the audience seemed more content with shoving each other as hard as they could rather than listening to the music. However, it also wasn’t long before these guys were removed, and everyone could enjoy the gig, which was shaping up to be a cracker. As the incessant bassline of Fever kicked in, the crowd erupted, and by the time the huge chorus came around there wasn’t a single silent person in the room (perhaps with the exception of the balcony, who couldn’t look more disinterested if they tried). Their older hits were received with the same reception, and Mildred, Tuesday People and 22 from Old Souls proved to be even better live.

St. Pauls remains my favourite from their new album, and it gave the crowd a chance to catch their breath as the band slowed things down, with James V-G belting out beautiful lyrics of heartache and desperation before brother Matty V-G dived into a Springsteen-style guitar solo. They finished their set by playing two hits from their second album, Fools and Worthless Liars, and the crowd was on another level, screaming and dancing along to these anthems.

Back for the encore they burst into another classic, Boston Square, full of delightful guitar sections and a trademark huge chorus that signaled they weren’t finished in Bristol yet. In my review a few weeks ago I wasn’t sure about their heaviest single from All These Countless Nights, entitled Sing. However, after seeing the track performed live once again I am going to have to change my mind. As they yelled “we’re gonna sing, like we mean it” over and over again, it was apparent they really are incredibly happy to be back performing their music again after nearly splitting years before, and are truly at home on stage. They wrapped up the gig with Pensacola, 13, the last track on their latest record and a nostalgic nod to a past relationship. It was an incredible finish to an unforgettable night.