The Von Bondies, KCLSU, London
Monday 04 May 2009
Getting involved in fisticuffs with your former mentor, who also happens to be one of the heroes of the garage rock scene, may raise your profile, but when it becomes the one thing everyone knows you for – as happened when The Von Bondies' Jason Stollsteimer was attacked by Jack White of The White Stripes in 2003 – then it is unlikely to prove a recipe for long-lasting success.
That the incident went on to define the band was quite unjustified, as The Von Bondies had already garnered a fervent following as a result of their two-boys, two-girls line-up and growing live reputation. Despite this, it is still something of a surprise to find that they're back, a full five years after their last album was released, with a new record, Love, Hate and Then There's You.
You would be forgiven if their return has passed you by – it has all been rather low-key. They even appear to have lost their roadies, tuning their own instruments before starting their set.
As soon as they tear into "Tell Me What You See" it's clear they haven't lost the intensity which saw them gain plaudits the first time round, although gremlins in the sound system means their vocals can barely be heard. Once that small hurdle is cleared, however, there's no stopping them, and each song sounds harder and more alive than the versions on record, especially the lively stomp of "No Regrets".
The difference live is partially down to the intensity of Stollsteimer. Genial and joking between songs, when singing he never goes out of full-throttle – at his fiercest, it is very reminiscent of White's distinctive vocal style.
However, just as important to not only the band's look but also their sound are the two female members, Christy Hunt and Leann Banks, whose deadpan contributions to each song provide a compulsive counterpoint to Stollsteimer. They also bring a touch of glamour to proceedings, frequently playing up to the audience – especially the drooling males – by throwing various rock'n'roll poses, and on "Not That Social" they get their own chance to shine.
Requests are taken for an encore that takes in "The Fever", "It Came from Japan" and "C'mon, C'mon", leaving the crowd persuaded that this is no half-hearted return. The sad question that has to be asked is whether they have missed their time, but then a band that tune their own instruments clearly aren't too worried about gaining mainstream success, as long as they can continue playing their music.
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