No Devotion hit London on Friday night for their first ever performance in the capital. This is what we made of it...
Some three songs in to their London debut, No Devotion’s Geoff Rickly addresses the throng of people in front of him for the first time to say: “We’re a brand new band, so thank you so much for being here. This is more people than we have any right to.”
He’s wrong about the last bit of course, but No Devotion is a brand new band, and tonight is their new beginning. And as Lee Gaze, Mike Lewis, Jamie Oliver, Stu Richardson and Luke Johnson waltz out behind him onto their first London stage together for over two years, the almighty cheer that greets them confirms they have every right to be playing to a full house tonight.
With a video backdrop that flits between transient light displays, footage of dark, open roads and
DEVOTION plastered across it (clever, right?), the transatlantic six-piece establish pretty early on that they’ve designed their live shows to be a totally immersive, emotional experience. And the music itself follows suit – there’s a bleak, sparseness in their songs and they’re drawing heavily on the driving, pounding rhythms of the ‘80s for their fuel. There are fewer climactic moments than perhaps expected, but even in the rockier numbers ‘I Wanna Be Your God’ and ‘10000 Summers’, they’re a solid, cohesive unit. These are six lifetime musicians after all, and their individual perfectionisms shine through in their performance.
Rickly is on his finest form in years – No Devotion’s songs suit his range more than the sometimes-supersonic exploits of his previous dayjob, and from the breathy introduction of ‘Night Drive’ to the more labouring moments of ‘Stay’ and ‘Grand Central Station’ he’s totally in his comfort zone. He’s able to relax, and it’s when he’s relaxed that Ricky is at his most energetic and engaging on a stage. Okay, so he’s not swinging his mic anymore, but he can’t resist grabbing the stand and thrusting it skywards when the music calls for it.
The most powerful moment of the evening comes when Rickly addresses the past head-on: departing the stage, he leaves Luke, Lee, Stu, Mike and Jamie to jam out a song “written from a place of pain and loss”, in a time between their “old band” and their “new band”. It’s the clearest and most candid look at what the last 18 months has been like for these five, and while they don’t, won’t and shouldn’t spend the beginning of their new career addressing questions about the past, the few minutes of noise and pain they release during ‘Death Rattle’ says more than any interview ever could.
After just nine songs they’re done, and it’s clear that this is not the Thursday / LP hybrid some might have hoped for. No Devotion is its own entity, and their first London outing is a success in every way it needs to be. Exactly where they’ll ‘fit’ in the overall musical landscape still remains to be seen, but for tonight at least, it’s just good to see some old friends back where they belong.
Words by Andy Ritchie. Photos By Ben Gibson. For a full gallery of shots from the evening, head to this link.
Islington Academy, London
July 25, 2014
'I Wanna Be Your God'
'The Only Thing'
'Grand Central Station'