David Devant and his Spirit Wife: The Garage, London

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The Independent Culture
In an era where most Britpop stars have as much stage presence as a sack of wet compost, David Devant and his Spirit Wife's vaudevillean extravaganza is a rare delight. Utilising film, slides and a steady stream of DIY props, this sextet house their wry, glam-influenced pop in a multimedia assault on the senses. Think Ziggy Stardust via Vic Reeves' Big Night Out and you're halfway there.

This evening's sold-out gig showcases most of the material from the band's forthcoming debut, Work, Lovelife, Miscellaneous. If one listens to these well-written songs at home, lead singer The Vessel tends to come across like a Stars in their Eyes David Bowie. Live, however, he's his own man - ridiculously quiffed, enigmatic and resplendent in gold lame.

The shenanigans that accompany the performance of their prior-to-current single, "Ginger", have become something of a visual leitmotif. Tonight, this warped paean to redheaded celebrities name-checks Gordon Strachan, Ralph Malph and Van Gogh off a flip chart, then builds to a crescendo in which one prop-master vigorously grates carrots on to the head of another. It's the kind of display that brings DDAHSW perilously close to novelty- act territory.

In the final analysis, though, it's the careful planning that underpins everything this band do that's so appealing. Their long-winded name, for example, comes from an obscure Victorian stage magician, and who else could The Vessel be but the receptacle for the dead conjuror's spirit? Visual punchlines cleverly emphasise the tragi-comic feel of the lyrics - by the time The Vessel gets behind the organ for "I'm Not Even Going To Try", it's clear he doesn't need to.

If DDAHSW have a problem, it's simply that their records aren't as special as their live performances. Put them on Top of the Pops where we can see them, however, and they'll soon carry on up the charts.

James McNair

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