The Duke Spirit, Royal Albert Hall, London
Voodoo sounds to wake the dead
Sunday 30 March 2008
Bashing holy hell out of a crescent tambourine, you can't say Leila Moss isn't giving it her all. With her burnt bourbon voice, gold dress, patent kinky boots, straw-blonde hair and twisting, turning hand gestures, she has the dress sense of Nancy Sinatra, the tonsils of Grace Slick and the choreography of Vishnu. As she and her five men in black rattle through their rather fine second album Neptune (as well as selections from their first, Cuts Across the Land), the big hollow chasm of the Royal Albert Hall – inhabited by R.E.M. fans with their legs crossed and arms folded – offers only a lukewarm response.
No matter. The Duke Spirit have their eyes on a bigger prize than a bunch of drowsy, disinterested duffers. By all accounts, the north London band are finally whipping up interest in the States (where Neptune was recorded, specifically at Rancho de la Luna under the auspices of Queens of the Stone Age's inner circle, which doubtless helps their cause), and new single "The Step and the Walk" has been all over alternative radio airwaves in Los Angeles lately.
It's fair reward. Their deep dark, voodoo rock is an often delicious thing, each song typically beginning with VU/Stooges shudder, and accumulating until it reaches an irresistible critical mass, Moss snapping her head back to signal a halt.
If tonight's support slot doesn't catch fire, it isn't for want of trying. You can't animate the dead. That doesn't alter the simple truth that The Duke Spirit are giving off sparks right now, from Holloway to Hollywood.
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