Dutch Uncles + Sky Larkin @ Spanky Van Dyke’s, Nottingham 01.05.13

Manchester alt pop crew live in Notts

May 1st, 2013 at Spanky Van Dyke's, Nottingham / By Allan Judkins
Dutch Uncles Prior to attending this gig, this Bearded reviewer knew all but very little about Dutch Uncles. Except for that video where the singer relentlessly flails his limbs in a ruthless Napoleonic Dynamitesque manor. Having failed at actually remembering what the music was like, it was decided that this small piece of choreographic evidence was enough of a dealbreaker to go out on, and the evening was to seemingly unfold into much appreciation. And yes, more flailing.

Spanky's in Nottingham holds a righteous reputation for its diversity in events, despite being literally cornered by the DHP complex of Rock City, Rescue Rooms and Stealth, usually succeeding in bringing the bigger names to their venues instead. There's a commendable head count here tonight already to catch the support, of whom are Sky Larkin. These guys are the support for the entirety of what seems like a monster tour for both, and their on-stage presence renders them a very well composed and well travelled act, now in their seventh or eighth year of existence. The amazing female lead vocals would fail to disagree with anyone's musical palette, and in a clever conjunction with soaring guitars and washy cymbals it not only provides a tasty starter but an adverse style compared to the headliner. Not in a conflicting way, the flow is spot on somehow. Sky Larkin's sound is warm and fuzzy with more of a sense of abandon.

The music of Dutch Uncles, however, is more clinical and rigorously executed pop. There's a definite leaning towards the retro corner here, a worthy nod towards Talking Heads (image included, note the baggy shirts tucked into trousers), Kate Bush and XTC. But enough said from the rookie listener, this band are now on their third album and it's mainly on their set list tonight. It's all fairly tech, one has to say. Failing to cease the toe tapping to their quirky, percussive, rhythmic melodies (they have a electronic xylo-pad, dontcha know!), they regularly throw a spanner in the regular 4/4 beats we naturally expect to hear. It's interesting to see how the rest of the crowd tackles Dutch Uncles' signature choice of, er, time signatures, when dancing too. Some do okay, but obviously no-one pulls it off like their singer Duncan Wallis, a maverick of a manouveresman, and a crafty pianist at the same time. A shame that the venue's stage isn't high enough so everyone can see not just him, and his quiff, but the whole ensemble working so tightly together and clearly having a ball. However, the stage does boast a vast series of different coloured lightbulbs forming several different shapes flickering at different times... which, on paper, can sound like it reeks of the 80s but in light of the act tonight, it has to be said that it's a pretty cool combination.

Dutch Uncles have been clearly very well received, so much that they sign off on a trio of encores. The last of which, is a Grace Jones cover, cheekily revamped and renamed 'Slave To The Atypical Rhythm'. Nice. While their songs in general demand much attention to subtle detail rather than going for the easy hook, their quality blend of energy, ideas and impeccable musicianship really cut through with added finesse, and some interesting chic to top it off.