This is a show that starts with a whimper and ends with a bang. Well, a few bangs, to be more precise: that happy clatter of carnivalesque percussion that comes at the close of Doves' biggest hit, "There Goes the Fear", and which has long been their chosen live climax. The whimper, meanwhile, is the moment when the band first appear on stage, to the crowd's great delight – it's more than four years since they last had a new album to take on tour – only to decide they aren't quite ready yet and must disappear to the wings again for another 10 minutes. Whoops.
Never mind. When the set finally gets under way, it's with "Jetstream", the exhilarating opener to that forthcoming fourth LP, Kingdom of Rust. Like so much of Doves' work, Kingdom of Rust is boisterous in places, bold in others, and shot through with melancholy. In this and in its evocation of the north-west, it has a similar appeal to Elbow's last record, The Seldom Seen Kid; and it deserves similar success.
"Snowden" and "Winter Hill" make an apt pairing, two songs from consecutive albums, both with the band's signature sound of Jimi Goodwin's bollock-shattering basslines beneath his bleary vocal and Jez Williams' looping guitar. The video projections that play behind much of Doves' performance here glide over mountains and ice flats, majestic landscapes for monolithic tracks. With Williams' brother Andy a metronome on drums, the trio betray their origins in the Manchester dance scene, carefully building a geometrically defined wall of noise.
"Kingdom of Rust", the album's knockout title track, is curiously toothless live but together as a larger body of work, the songs complement one another, encompassing all the bleakness of the post-industrial north.
The crowd clearly holds considerable affection for the band's back catalogue, and with four albums, and almost a decade, under their belts (plus the B-sides collection Lost ides ; better than many full-blown LPs by lesser acts), it is a formidable one. "Rise", from their debut Lost Souls (2000), "Pounding" and "Caught by the River" from The Last Broadcast (2002), the searing "Ambition" and "Almost Forgot Myself" from Some Cities (2005), all get a rapturous reception.
An encore begins with Goodwin and the keyboard player alone on stage for the acoustic B-side "Northenden", which describes the titular Manchester suburb "in the afternoon", when "the kids are deranged". The rest of the band emerge for "Here it Comes", an early hit from Lost Souls, which involves Goodwin taking to the drum kit and Andy Williams singing lead vocal. By this stage, they're just showing off. Don't be fooled by talk of a newfound maturity; Doves have always made grown-up music, and their performance hasn't changed much since they were last here. All the same, it's a great pleasure to have them back.
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