DeVotchKa – Melkweg – 23.06.2011

The hottest ticket in town tonight were the youngsters from Sheffield who were singing down the road at a packed-to-the-rafters Paradiso. I didn’t manage to get a ticket but it worked out rather well in the end as I got to see the Denver-based DeVotchKa at the Melkweg instead. I would have been sorry to miss out on catching them, particularly as I had already seen the Arctic Monkeys at the Benicassim festival a few years ago (where they played a brilliant set). DeVotchKa’s music brings an Eastern European gypsy influence into the folk-rock domain, with traces of Mexico, the Middle East and India lurking in there somewhere too. And it’s great!

The lead singer’s powerful voice soars over an instrumental mix that includes guitar, drums, percussion, double bass, accordion, trumpet, keyboards, saxophone, violin, bouzouki and, entertainingly, theremin; as well as, even more entertainingly, the sousaphone (which is a kind of tuba that wraps right around its player). For a five-piece band they put together an impressive and complex mix. The lyrics aren’t always easy to decipher, but that doesn’t matter as it’s really all about the sound, the melody and the rhythm. A mostly full Oude Zaal (downstairs only) was kept entertained for 90 minutes, with a good balance between the upbeat danceable tunes and the more plaintive mid-tempo numbers. I really enjoyed the songs I recognised from A Mad And Faithful Telling and will almost certainly get hold of their most recent album on the basis of last night’s performance.

I must, of course, give the obligatory mention to the chatterboxes in the crowd that couldn’t shut up and listen for more than a few minutes. I wasn’t the only one that felt compelled to ask a nearby “music-lover” to take his conversation somewhere else. It’s soooo frustrating. (For the record, the guy I shushed wasn’t actually Dutch – I think he was American – but it is usually the locals that are the biggest offenders.) It wasn’t so bad during DeVotchKa’s set, but it must have been frustrating for the support act Gregory Alan Isakov. He played some enjoyable country-tinged songs on acoustic guitar accompanied by some atmospheric electric soloing, but was in danger of being drowned out by the chatterers at times. He deserved more respect.

Here’s some DeVotchKa for you: