“This reminds me of my old housemate from Ireland…wait, you guys aren’t letting me speak!” It’s Saturday night in the poky enclave of Dublin’s Crawdaddy venue and Twin Shadow frontman George Lewis Jr. is attempting to tell the audience that their exuberance reminds him of an old Irish friend – but he keeps getting interrupted.
Considering that everyone is here tonight to hear him sing, there’s a hell of a lot of talking over the Dominican-born musician when he does open his mouth between songs. But it’s not mean-spirited. The punters squashed up near the front under his gaze are giddy, even going so far as to chant ‘Olé, olé, olé, olé!’ pre-encore. But perhaps this giddiness is no surprise, given the fervent anticipation drummed up for this gig.
Let’s put things in context: George Lewis Jr. and band, collectively known as Twin Shadow, are on the second last night of their European tour, in support of their debut release, the stunning Forget. Like the lovechild of Morrissey and a regular at Studio 54, it marries introspective lyrics with the precise swagger of disco-inflected beats. Rapturous whispers of Twin Shadow’s talents have been getting louder and louder, with the result that the gig is sold out weeks in advance.
On record, the album (which was produced by Grizzly Bear’s Chris Taylor), is smooth, though not overly polished, full to the brim with vintage synths and machine-drummed beats. Live, the songs are flown through in a much faster and freer style. Case in point is ‘When We’re Dancing’, which turns from a gently-building Orange Juice-style jam into a fast and furious four minutes of indie rock. The guitar is the weapon of choice here, taking a place it doesn’t have on the record (the guitar solo on ‘Forget’ is rocked out for all its worth), while live drums lend the songs a fuller feel.
If you are hoping for slick perfection, you won’t get it at a Twin Shadow live gig. But if you want the spirit of the songs to really come through – that sense of yearning for the past, dredging up of lost memories, nightmares that lead to sweat-soaked sheets – then you’re at the right place.
There are countless heart-fluttering moments throughout the night. ‘At My Heels’ with its Romeo and Juliet lyrics –”There is no key to my gate/but you can still come around/ leave my ladder against my window/and I’ll come down” – invites you to shimmy and shout along; ‘Tyrant Destroyed’ doesn’t take as long to reveal its treasures as it does on Forget; and the outstanding ‘Castles in the Snow’, though perhaps a bit rushed, is as punchy as hell.
The one disappointing moment? Realising that the songs have run out. State had hopes that there would be some glimpse into a new album given, but we are wrong. We get all of Forget, with two songs held back until the encore.
Still, these are early days for Twin Shadow – the band formed last year, they’re touring a debut record, and one suspects that songwriting time has been rare while they’ve been on the road. With such a strong first album, the pressure is on George Lewis Jr. to bring us something equally special. If he can harness the spunky attitude he displays onstage, we’re in for a treat.
Photos: Kieran Frost.
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