Dutch Uncles are a prime example of a British band that produces consistently excellent music while simultaneously flying under the mainstream hype radar. As a committed fan since their 2013 album Out of Touch In The Wild, I was excited to see how their idiosyncratic live performances had evolved since then to incorporate their new muscular sound.
I caught the band playing at The Wardrobe in Leeds as part of a 12-date nationwide tour in support of their fifth album, Big Balloon. Support Slug set the tone nicely for a night of quirky art pop, showcasing songs with deliberate overtures to ‘70s pompous rock acts such as Sparks and the camper side of Queen. The sounds of Slug led seamlessly into Dutch Uncles’ opening number, ‘Baskin’’, a fantastic synth-rock stomper of a song that channels the sounds of King Crimson and Yes through a modern indie pop filter. I’ve personally found Big Balloon to be the most rewarding and accomplished album of Dutch Uncles’ career, so it was delightful to hear the band perform a set list that was suitably biased towards it. Alongside ‘Baskin’’, six other tracks from the album made the cut, with a personal favourite being the insanely catchy earworm ‘Oh Yeah’ which got the crowd moving around the halfway point.
Vocalist Duncan Wallis was infectiously chipper throughout the proceedings, charming the Leeds crowd with witty repartee in between each song. One such example was in the encore, where he solemnly declared that their performance of the song ‘Overton’ was potentially to be their last, a strange claim considering that it’s a track off their brand new album. Indeed, one look at setlists from subsequent gigs in Bristol and Sheffield where they played the song seems to suggest that Wallis was merely pulling the crowd’s leg.
Speaking of encores, the band left arguably their best song until the end, ‘Flexxin’. A staple in their live catalogue since its release in 2013, Wallis accompanied the brilliant faux-disco groove with some nerdy (yet impressive) interpretative dance to create an undeniable highlight of the night. One would hope that a band with such a lively and seemingly accessible live act would eventually get the attention that some of their contemporaries garner (Wild Beasts and Everything Everything spring to mind), although that’s perhaps wishful thinking on my behalf. Until that day happens, however, the current fans of Dutch Uncles are safe in the knowledge that they’re witnessing a band at the top of their game: this night being no different.