22 November 2007, Manchester Academy 3
The Raveonettes, for the fifth time of asking. They now become my second most seen band. You'll be asking why, what's the big attraction? And while successful in their own way, it's true that they're unknown to most and they're likely to remain obscure. It's not because they're Danish. Their lyrics are in English and they're very cool. But the thing is, what they do best is hard to put on record, and probably wouldn't come across on broadcast either. I have their albums but to be honest I don't play them much. It's the live experience which is addictive, and the reason I make the effort to see them.
The line up this evening is pared back to just the two of them plus a drummer. He does a decent job, but let's face it, much of this material demands concentration and discipline more than anything, to keep up a single metronomic rhythm for each song. It might even be boring. One could understand it if he was actually playing his iPod over his headphones.
Sune and Sharin look great. No quibbles over Sune's hairstyle this time, and Sharin is stunning in black. They're never very demonstrative, but very cool, and communicate in low key dry humour and breathy vocals. They're clearly dependent on programming backing up the sound which makes for a slightly perfunctory nature to the performance, but that's as far as I'd criticise, they are what they are, this is their style. I'd have liked more, but an hour was good.
Some old songs received new treatment. That Great Love Sound and Attack of the Ghosts Riders were okay but personally I didn't need them. Mostly it all washes over you in cosy Freudian wombness. To my ears the new album is much more like the live experience than previous albums have been. It can be a risky approach but I think it comes off. Of course there are some things which can't be done in the same way on record, such as the subterranean rumblings through the floor. Very good vibrations and I could have done with a lot more of those. No, thanks for the sarcasm, I'm not going to go and stand next to construction machinery, it isn't 'just as good'.
Left:- Sharin, ghostly... I need a new camera!
The truth is I enjoyed this as much as any of their shows, and that's mainly down to the sound and the new material. While the masochistic side of me misses the physical pain inflicted by some past shows, to be fair the sound tonight was well balanced, maintaining detail of vocals and music in the middle of the mass of noise. And I really like the new songs. I suppose one could say The Raveonettes have drifted (a little bit!) towards the rock mainstream, and the musical sensibility is less hampered by slavish sixtiesness, but for me where they are at the moment is perfect. I suppose what I'm saying is that you no longer feel like you're not getting it if you're not actually into the authentic retro stuff. There are some songs which are still very much of that world, but the biggest pleasure for me is the here and now feel of the rest.
And here is the new album, Lust Lust Lust. It's a very cute package, coming with little cardboard 3D glasses which give a strange effect to the insert, because the 3D isn't really applied as you might think to the images so much as to the lettering of the lyrics. I'll admit here that it crossed my mind to bring the glasses and stand at the front in some sort of ironic fashion. I didn't in the end because I considered the fact that I would have looked a berk.
I said earlier that I didn't play their albums much at home, but that may change: I really like this album, and I found myself looking forward to hearing certain tracks. There are a lot of tracks I took to, such as Dead Sound and Blitzed. But it's the first track, Aly Walk With Me which stands out, hypnotic, textured and epic, and they closed the show with it. I'd love to hear an extended version of it live...
'We always like to do a cover for you guys', said Sune (he was much chattier tonight than I've seen him in the past), and this offering turned out to be French Disko by Stereolab, as they said, recently also covered by The Editors '...but we think our version's better'. It probably is, though I haven't managed to find that one yet. However, I have heard a few versions by Stereolab on YouTube, enough to make me sorry that I hadn't picked up on Stereolab before. YouTube also has a couple of clips of The Raveonettes doing the song, from the North American leg of the tour. I love it, it's perfect for this band. Shame it'll never end up on record. Actually, how about a covers album?
No encore! This was a bit of a surprise. Sharin announced the last song, there was a plaint from the audience, and she said again regretfully, 'No it really is!' I had to be amused. I've written in previous reviews that I don't care for encores in general, and that they particularly don't suit Raveonettes shows, which tend to be about taking you into a mood and a place, and the whole finish-pause and crowd calling-return to stage nonsense just messes with that. And here I was wanting more. But not that encore business, so I could hardly complain :) Actually I realise that the real reason for no encore was likely to be a technical one rather than artistic, while they maybe could have set up the programming to allow for encores, it would have been more trouble than it was worth.
We slowly filed out. And there was Sharin, already at the merchandise table. I have to say, by the way, that this is a lousy business at the Academy 3. The venue is on the top floor of the Student Union building, and the table is set up at the top of the stairs which is somewhat of a low rent operation, it's really jammed in. True they're only emptying boxes as quick as they can, but it's not impressive. I half thought of lingering, not only as you might assume for the chance of some interchange with the lovely Sharin, but there were one or two decent items there; I liked a bag with a nice raven motif... but it was a bit chocka and I couldn't be arsed to be honest. I was happy to wander off enjoying the afterglow of the show. It was as good as any of the others. And what with their different approach each time - in band line up, in style etc. - this was very much the way I like it.
There was one thing missing, the usual ringing in my ears and partial deafness the next morning. Well, I had been standing roughly where I normally do: I think they actually did have the volume turned down. And I have the most stupid regret! I mean, no one wants to damage their long term hearing, but I'd told one or two people in advance about the ear ringing and all that, and I'd set out knowing what I was in for, or so I thought. I'd been willing to make that small sacrifice, to have another fix for my fatal addiction to The Raveonettes.