Thursday, 14 February 2013

Review: Desaparecidos live at the Electric Ballroom, Camden

So last week I went to see Conor Oberst perform solo at Barbican, and it was a really lovely gig. A great venue, and a good mixture of Bright Eyes, solo and new songs. White Shoes had me in floods of tears and You are your mother's child had me crying for my pregnant mate who couldn't be there. Even my boyfriend, who was a stand in, and doesn't LOVE Conor, enjoyed it (or at least didn't moan the whole way through). The only downside was it was all seated, and although the view was good, we were a bit far back and you never quite get the atmosphere of a proper gig. I was jolted towards the end gig, though, when Conor said 'my other band is playing next week'. And he didn't mean Bright Eyes, who I've seen numerous times. No, he was talking about Desaparacidos, his best and loudest side project. The band only has one album so it would be guaranteed they would be playing all my favourite songs on it, and they haven’t played for 10 years! But tickets had sold out ages ago. I had to dig around.
After a close call with a conman on Gumtree (don't ever put a request for tickets on there!) I finally got a ticket for £50 on eBay. Quite a lot over the face values of £15 but £15 seemed very low in the first place (it was £30 for Conor solo). I would have paid up to £100 if I'd had the money!
So I met up with the guy selling the ticket outside – thank god he turned up! – and then there I was, at my first ever gig I'd been to alone. I did a smooth manoeuvre to the front; there was a guy at the barrier obviously saving a space for a friend, so I kind of slid into the spot over a period of about five minutes. Come on, you can’t hog barrier, be there, or be usurped. I could tell he was a bit grumpy so I offered him a Tic-Tac (I was on a strict no fluids policy, as I have a pathetically weak bladder) and then I felt I’d made my peace. When his friends did finally turn up there were about 12 of them, so I didn’t feel so bad.
I hadn’t heard of support band Johnny Foreigner, but I admire their name. I think he said, ‘we’re from Chicago’ when he came out in a very-non-Chicago accent, but at the end he admitted they were from Birmingham. I’d describe their sound as a yelpier Bloc Party, and the band had a girl and a black bloke, so it covered all bases. Was good to hear a woman screaming (hold on, that doesn’t sound quite right) and they looked the part. She reminded me of Kylie off Corrie. I enjoyed them and I rarely say that about a support band.
Desa (can I call them that for now, I still struggle to spell it) came on about 9.15, and the place KICKED OFF.
They opened with a new song Left is Right (thanks to Lee who sold me the ticket, because I only had two of the new songs, and he alerted me to two more! I'm a bad fan) and the energy was just crazy. I felt like a young person again!.Conor came out in some hideous stars n stripes sunglasses and the long hair he’s got at the moment and a little stars and stripes neckerchief. I hate his long hair but that’s beside the point. I can honestly say, I think I had the best spot in the house, right in front of where Conor finally came out, and just on the edge of the mad moshpit so whilst I got jostled a fair bit, I didn’t want to kill someone (an occupational hazard at gigs).
Probably the most amazing song was the second one, Happiest Place on Earth, which is one of my favourite songs of all time, it just has the most amazing lyrics, a song about war that you don’t resent for being a song about war. Actually, he’s good at those (see also No one would riot for less and the silly When the President talks to God - notable for me going 'I DOUBT IT!' quite a lot). It was just perfection, and everyone was going mad. I was even headbanging – WTF.
Probably the best thing about Desa is they don’t have any slow songs, every single one is a screamer. So it was a nice contrast to the acoustic gig of the week before. Also, as they only have one album, you knew every song. It’s quite cool to go to a gig where you’ve been listening to that one album for 10 years, never expecting to hear it live, because the band had disbanded. And then when they get back together it’s not a tired old money-making racket like Pulp, for example.
At one point Conor  played the song $$$$ and limp-wristedly threw some money in the air, that never even got as far as the end of the stage, and at the end of the gig, the bouncer stole it! What a git. It was £35 as well because I could see it sitting there (hey big spender) – that would have covered the extra cost of my ticket! Conor also said he'd been shopping on Camden Market; wish I'd gone there that day!
All of the songs were good (there was a Clash cover which I wasn’t fussed on, but it beats Moon Over Kentucky or whatever crap Morrissey normally tries to inflict). But my favourite has to be Man and Wife, The Latter (Damanged Goods). I must have played that song in my car over a thousand times. It’s just pop perfection. So to hear them play it seemed slightly unreal. The crowd was literally bouncing all over the place, I haven’t been to a gig with energy like that in years. And thank fuck I was on the barrier, or I would have had to run for cover.
It was so nice just to be that close to Conor and not to have to worry about anyone else, but just to do exactly what I wanted. I would definitely recommend going to a gig on your own, it’s fun.The crowd was small as well; there wasn't even a queue. I thought Conor fans would have turned out in droves.
I really pray that Desa put out a new album now, Conor is at his best when he’s screaming or heartbroken, and about as far away from a country guitar as possible. He promised to come back sooner, so don't let us down!

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