The Duke Spirit, Buffalo Bar, London

Click to follow
The Independent Culture

Nothing stokes interest quite like a queue.

Nothing stokes interest quite like a queue. And as demand for tonight's show outstrips the Buffalo Bar's meagre capacity, the snaking tail of punters outside only grows larger. Choosing to stage The Duke Spirit's homecoming gig at this tiny in-your-face rock dive was an inspired stroke of hype- perpetuating genius. Not that The Duke Spirit buzz machine needs any more fuel. After last autumn's critically acclaimed mini-album, Roll, Spirit, Roll, tongues are already wagging. Not only are the London five-piece purveyors of fine grizzled rock, but helmed by their mesmerising frontwoman, Liela Moss, they also offer us the UK's first bona fide female rock icon since Polly Jean turned PJ.

Unapologetically fusing PJ Harvey with Hendrix, Joy Division with The Velvet Under-ground, The Duke Spirit spice gritty blues with the raw power of punk and a rebel pop sensibility. But what on record is a cauldron of potential energy, tonight explodes into raging life. Songs jackknife from extremes: hypnotic, druggy rhythms erupting violently into adrenalin-fuelled climaxes. The band's current single "Dark Is Light Enough" starts like a sleeping heart beating through a stethoscope before thrashing itself awake. While "Howling Self" grumbles with sexual tension before dissolving in a white wash of feedback.

Live, The Duke Spirit are notoriously captivating. And, pressed right up against the eager crowd, their seductive power is multiplied. They look as a rock band should - effortlessly worn-in like distressed designer denim. But Moss - peroxide blonde and feline featured - is the main draw. Standing centimetres from the edge of the low, small stage, she's so close we can see the chips in her blood-orange nail varnish. Clearly feeling a little self-conscious, she fixes her gaze above the crowd and distracts herself with her white-lacquered tambourine. But by the middle of the 11-song set any nerves have vanished. Not only is she at ease, she seems to relish the close attention.

Moss is a great frontwoman. A tantalizing amalgam of Patty Smith, Debbie Harry and Nico, she oozes a ballsy, carefree confidence that is very sexy and engaging. Consumed with the moment, she completely lets herself go, allowing every frazzled note to pass through her like an electric current; her voice leaping from her throat in waves of husky howls.

As the music stalks and grinds, so too does Moss. But as the show careers towards its peak - the formidable, squalling set-closer, "Red Weather" - Moss turns her back on the audience to dance with her boys. Packed together in this tiny room, the division between fan and musician has just dissolved. The place suddenly feels that little bit more intimate. For those lucky ones who made it in, tonight was certainly worth queuing for.