When Floridian alternative rockers There For Tomorrow open up for Canterbury and Deaf Havana tonight, the venue is well on its way to filling up. Their live sound is great, and their music style fits perfectly with the bands to follow. Frontman Maika Maile offers a brilliant vocal performance, the rest of the band appears somewhat reserved at first but they soon liven up, and the crowd join in at all the right places. It’s clear that There For Tomorrow have a good bit of support, sometimes rare for the first act in a three band line-up; many seem to be returning after having seen them before, and I’m sure they’ve left with a number of new fans too.
Canterbury take to the stage next, filling the room with energy. They put in a good effort to get the crowd going, and are rewarded with sing-along’s, claps and chants from the audience. Songs like Saviour and Calm Down see a sea of hands in the air. By the end of their set, there is a buzz in the air, and you can feel the excitement for Deaf Havana.
Following the alternative re-release of Fools and Worthless Liars, it was expected that this tour might see some surprises and additions to the usual Deaf Havana set. When the boys kick off with a pirate-metal-sea-shanty version of The Past Six Years, featuring singer James on the mandolin, all assumptions are proved correct. This bold move to open with an alternate version of one of their most popular album tracks works incredibly well; I’m not surprised to hear some live alternate versions, I’m pleased, and I’m even more pleased with how great it sounds. After switching from mandolin to guitar for a couple of tracks, James is then handed a violin bow to play with, and turns normally guitar fuelled Youth in Retrospect into a progressive tale. It is incredible.
Endearingly, James introduces Anemophobia as a song about a time when he genuinely thought he was going to die. This, too, is not the original album version, and the heavy guitars are replaced by piano – giving the song a new intimacy it is completely captivating. For the first time I feel like I’m fully hearing the true emotion behind the song. When the guitar is picked up again towards the end of the song, it transforms into heavy rock flawlessly. This version is just brilliant live, and gives one of the most honest live music performances I have seen. Friends Like These also sees James switch guitar for mandolin, which is rather magical, and definitely welcome even though this track is normally one of their loudest.
When the band announce they have a great surprise in store for the audience, playing a brand new song from an as yet unrecorded and untitled album, the screams from the crowd could probably have been heard from the next town. At first listen, it sounds like Deaf Havana have taken everything about themselves over the last five years and compiled all of the best bits into this track. I can’t wait to hear it again. Back to the rock swing of things, Nicotine and Alcohol Saved My Life is played in all its glory, followed by I’m a Bore, Mostly, after which they leave the stage to chants for more. The inevitable encore begins with The World or Nothing, Fifty Four, and finished with a beautiful rendition of Hunstanton Pier.
The Deaf Havana boys have sounded great live every time I have seen them, but this set really takes on a whole new dimension. There have been so many style changes during the set, but there is none of the sense of whiplash that you might expect. They pull it off with ease and it’s refreshing to see a band tackle so many different styles in one set successfully. The structure, pace and song choice work amazingly and, although there is perhaps a slightly slower tempo than you could be used to, there is never a dull moment. I’ve had a lot of respect for Deaf Havana as a live band for the last few years, but this show has showed me just how talented they are, and I cant wait to see what is coming next.
Photos © Elise Price and must not be reproduced without prior consent