Deaf Havana // Manchester Albert Hall // 25.3.19

Deaf Havana // Manchester Albert Hall // 25.3.19

Now on their 5th studio album, 2018 saw Deaf Havana take a huge gamble with Rituals, the band’s most distinctive sonic alteration since moving away from the post-hardcore scene back in 2010. Rituals incorporated a number of pop influences and shifted production style dramatically away from the alt-rock sound that the band had been honouring for the better part of a decade. For lead vocalist James Veck Gilodi, Rituals was more of a 6 month long creative experiment than a traditionally crafted Deaf Havana record. “First; James picked the song titles, second; he wrote the tracks that fit the theme of those titles, third; everything was written on the computer, then the band came in to play all the parts”. Despite the huge risk factor, Rituals easily ended up being one of my favourite albums of last year, and seeing how they’d incorporate these new electronic elements into their performance was something I couldn’t wait to witness at Manchester’s beautiful Albert Hall. 

Opening the night are Hot Milk, a dual fronted emo-powerpop four piece who’ve very quickly jumped into the scene recently after spending the past 18 months writing material and carefully planning their introduction. Their planning comes across too; despite only having been around since the start of the year, their recent European tour with You Me At Six has clearly given them an abundance of confidence. The dual lead singers James & Hannah radiate charisma and energy. Almost too much, to the point where it’s hard not to cringe at least a little when no one in the room responds to their request of getting “every single person in this room off their feet!”. Regardless, it’s a very promising introduction from a band who’ve only been around for three months— definitely expecting to see a lot more from them in the future!

The LaFontaines meanwhile have been around for a much longer period of time as they arrive on stage a few months prior to the release of their third album, Junior. The band’s sound is wonderfully unique. A great mix of rap, rock and electronic elements make this an enjoyable set which is further complemented by the fab onstage antics of frontman Kerr Okan. Mid-songs the frontman finds himself all over the Albert Hall whether it be starting pits in the middle or high-fiving spectators in the balcony. The band definitely left the night gaining some anticipation for their new album.

When it finally comes to Deaf Havana’s time to shine, they do so by relying on fan favourites first before heading deep into new album territory. Anthemic tracks such as ‘I’m a Bore, Mostly’, ‘Trigger’, and ‘Mildred’ blissfully ease the audience in and cement the fact that Deaf Havana are easily worthy of playing a venue of this calibre. The 18 song setlist itself is fairly expansive with a good amount of tracks from all 4 of the most recent albums making an appearance. Sonically, the main changes come from bassist Lee also being handed synthesiser duties & James being given a sample pad for the electronic sections in tracks such as Holy.

The LaFontaines’s Kerr makes a memorable appearance during the electronic heavy single, ‘Hell’, adding a rap over the 2nd verse and extra vocals over the main hook in the chorus. It’s an absolutely fantastic moment, but as a huge fan of the original version of the song, I am a bit annoyed my favourite verse and the best bit of the song pretty much gets cut/sidelined. The highlight of the set for me personally is the surprise inclusion of B-Side, ‘Cr33pin’. The song, although being a classic Deaf Havana ballad beneath the production, is easily the most electronic and experimental of the night. 

The classic awkwardly-funny Deaf Havana mid-song banter is still in full force albeit arguably even more awkward than ever as James’s brother Matt takes up a lot more of responsibilities this time out. Slight iterations of “Are we good, Manchester?” take up a bit too much of the filler time tonight. Luckily this is easily forgiven with old classics like ‘Hunstanton Pier’ still sounding as fantastic as I remember.

This time 4 years ago the future of Deaf Havana was shrouded in uncertainty with even James himself doubting if the band would ever return. Tonight however, as the band depart with Rituals’s lead single ‘Sinner’, there’s a sense that at least this chapter of the band shall be remembered as a success. I’m honestly so excited to see where Deaf Havana choose to take their sound from here.

Mike Gardner