Friday, February 14, 2003

The No Rock Review

Philip Scowen - who we hope won't mind being described as "our man in Japan" - offers us a taste of Doves at Tokyo's Club Quattro on the 2nd of Feb:
After a day spent at the swimming pool and Denny's, I make my way to a hot and poky Quattro in the heart of Shibuya's neon sleaze. The venue is five floors up in a department store. There's a promotional stall set up for the upcoming Magic Rockout Festival here (Vines cancelled, but Foo Fighters and Death in Vegas topped the bill, and Goldie is coming along to do a small-hours DJ set, the lucky sod, "yeah, just off to Tokyo to drop a few choons", do they still put it like that??), and a neatly folded bunch of flyers is handed to me as I enter the club. Sonic Youth, Massive Attack and Johnny Marr are all headed this way soon, as is Avril L, booked in at the Budokan - the first foreign artist ever to play there after releasing only one album, which has sold a million here.

There's no support for Doves, but they put on a film before their entrance. It is weird: the band are dressed up in funny costumes, a boy follows a trail to the end of the rainbow. I can't make sense of it, I'm probably not meant to.

The chaps walk on and greet us, Jimi, Jez and Andy and a younger man in a red teeshirt on keyboards (I wonder if it's Martin Rebelski who does keyboards on the album) who looks like a youthful Stuart Pearce. Doves. Three main geezers with the demeanour of amiable pub barmen. Two sport black tees and Jimi wears a military-style dark jacket. Doves give us shy smiles, sincere greetings and thanks all night, and as a first blast, "Pounding", which is like a good lost New Order song off "Brotherhood" or "Get ready".

"Pounding" and "There goes the fear" is a brilliant opening gambit but I can't help feeling they've played their aces too early. Doves are so wistful and soaring when they hit the heights - all minor keys and mournful anthems. It's an insanely uplifting start, and they do "Sea song" and "Rise" after that and the excitement factor drops a tad, and then I lose track because I am bouncing too much and the beer is kicking in somewhat.

There's a film on the backdrop to every song which is a nice touch. Scenes of suns rising, rivers, the band in anoraks, guitars, darkness and stuff like that. "NY" is powerful and ace over film of ocean liners and burning airships. "Caught by the river" is yearning and reminds my colleague C of life back home in Yorkshire. Is it the lyrics, I ask him, is there a river you recall back there? No he says, it's just the feeling of the song. He knows the first album better than I do, and he tells me the titles. "Satellites" has a line about how we have to "hold on", as all ageing rock bands are bound in their contracts to do, but it is an affecting number nonetheless as we in the crowd hold on to something indefinable,don't give up the fight and love it when the lights go off and the band do a beautiful acoustic bit of the song. That was one of the night's highlights.

"Cedar Room" is the closer and they've upped the volume by now. They disappear for less than five minutes before they saunter back onstage, cans of Asahi Super Dry beer and fags on the go. Jimi takes over on drums and the drummer ventures forward on harmonica and tambourine, but Jimi still does the vocals on a brilliantly languid "Here it comes" over inspiring and interesting slow-mo footage of Wigan's Casino Club and the Northern Soul dancers inside. Man can those guys and girls shake it. The final song is an excursion where the guys reinvent Italo House by taking it into a room and introducing it to an early New Order instrumental and the results rock the house. I think it's called "Space Face" but I can't guarantee that. More uplifting tunes like that, please, chaps.

House duly rocked, the dreamy wistful floorshaking Doves depart to sing in the Shibuya streets and the screen shows the words "All these worlds are yours." And now 12 days later as I type this and Bill Drummond's "45" book settles itself into my mind, I know what they mean. I would definitely go and see them again.

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