Darwin Deez

Catchy pop rock, dance routines and freestyle rap battles at the Limelight

Tonight's opening band in the Limelight, Rams’ Pocket Radio, couple wistful keyboard and melodic vocals with soaring funk guitar solos and drop-tuned powerchords that work the already giddy crowd into a frenzy. A personal highlight is a piano driven cover of 'Yeah Yeah' by Bodyrox, which I find much more palatable than the original. At one point the band are joined by Darwin Deez himself, who performs an off the cuff freestyle rap, encouraging band members to join in.

Deez and his three piece band take to the stage in a boisterous yet joyous fashion, bodypopping to a G-funk beat before seamlessly launching into their opening track, a satisfying slice of chorus-heavy surfpop and Rivers Cuomo-inspired vocals. The juxtaposition of out and out hiphop posturing and chilled out arpeggio-laden grooves seems strange, but sets the tone for the night.

The rest of the performance is divided neatly between fairly faithful renditions of tracks from Darwin Deez’s eponymous studio album and choreographed dance routines between songs. Actually, simply calling these distractions ‘dance routines’ is probably a little unfair. In the vaccum between tracks we are treated to increasingly surreal (and hilarious) pieces of performance art, including a mock-ballet to an Enya/Rage Against The Machine mashup and a fist-pumping disco extravaganza which has the entire audience dancing.

There is also a blend of The Spice Girls, various show tunes, Prince and Beyonce. At one point, the whole thing breaks down into an old-school Beastie Boys inspired rap battle between band members, with the whooping audience going wild at the mention of ‘The Europa’, ‘The Rusty Zip’ and ‘swal’. This is all carried out with such charm and wit that it never feels twee or (possibly worse) ironic.

The band’s own songs range from groove-laden funk to dreamy 1950s rock n roll, by way of shoegazing indie, and are at times absolutely fantastic. Current single 'Constellations' stands out, as does 'Up In The Clouds'. However, it seems that instead of enjoying these tunes for what they are, a large portion of the crowd are a bit on edge, quite restrained, saving their enthusiasm for whatever madcap lunacy might follow the closing bars of each number.

It would be all too easy to pigeonhole Darwin Deez as being a bit like the Flaming Lips with less substance(s), which is a shame because some of their tunes are very good indeed. Deez himself exclaims on stage that ‘having fun with it is Plan A, but sometimes being actually good gets in the way’. Sadly the infectious fun of the between-track banter doesn’t always quite carry through to the ‘serious’ performances, at times leaving the audience a little cold.

The night ends with a beautiful indie folk number. At the moment the term ‘indie folk’ has connotations of copycat mediocrity in the wake of Mumford and Sons et al, but this last track does not fall into that category. Instead it is a heartwarming, heartfelt performance that leaves this reviewer in no doubt that, despite an evening of peaks and troughs, tonight Belfast has witnessed something rather special.

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