Of the contingent of bands earning their fame and fortune by keeping the heart of portentous Nineties Mancunian rock beating, Doves are certainly one of the most lovable.
Of the contingent of bands earning their fame and fortune by keeping the heart of portentous Nineties Mancunian rock beating, Doves are certainly one of the most lovable. Actually hailing from Manchester weighs heavily in the trio's favour, but then being more strident than Coldplay, more exciting than Embrace and more relevant today than The Charlatans all contribute to their current success as much as matters of geography.
But Doves are neither as wildly inspiring as The Stone Roses nor as forcefully bound for a place in the national consciousness as Oasis. They spent many nights dancing at the Haçienda 15 years ago and made an early imprint on dance culture in a musically featherweight past guise as Sub Sub. With such experience behind them, it would be a disappointment to find a band making music without any real sense of identity to claim as their own.
Now on to their acclaimed third album, Some Cities, Doves have fortunately maintained a cohesive vision of their musical persona that can be traced through Lost Souls and The Last Broadcast right up to the present day. As the titles suggest, theirs is a doom-laden world view of epic struggle and personal triumph set to the appropriate soundtrack. Unlike even Oasis, who have always had a flair for bombast, there shall doubtless never be a comedy album-filler about lasagne or package holidays from Doves.
That is both their strength and their downfall. Despite admitting to first-night nerves and thanking the crowd for their huge response, Jimi Goodwin - along with his bandmates, the brothers Jez and Andy Williams - gave a performance that, by and large, gripped the attention. Doves, like many acts today, are an "album band", yet they interspersed their few big singles throughout the set to keep things exciting for anyone without an intimate knowledge of their back catalogue.
Not just for the response but for the quality of music, those were the high points of the evening. The recent single "Black and White Town", "Pounding" and the aspirational closer, "There Goes the Fear", all follow a roughly similar blueprint - Andy Williams hammering out a steady drumbeat, over which is painted a rousing chorus and guitar line. It's the definitive Doves sound, and it characterises some lesser known tracks, such as "Here It Comes", during which Andy stepped out from behind his drum kit to sing vocals, while energising archive footage of light-footed Northern Soul dancers at Wigan Casino unfolded in the background.
Yet where the band stray from the formula - for example, with the pastoral "Caught by the River" or the vaguely prog-rock-ish "Firesuite" - they do threaten to induce a loss of attention and a walk to the bar. It doesn't happen often, certainly not often enough to say that they don't put on a fine show... but perhaps just enough to say they're not ready to join the queue of hometown greats to which they aspire quite yet.
Touring to 9 April ( http://doves.net)
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