Django Django has been riding high, recently. A new album with some critical acclaim and mainstream success has lead to their latest tour, which stopped at the O2 Ritz on Wednesday, a sold-out affair at times.
I arrived just in time to catch the first support act, Man of Moon, and was pleasantly surprised by what I found. The Scottish two-piece displayed punchy drums throughout, alongside tight guitars, and an effervescent light show that ought to have been seen by more people. As the Royal Blood-influenced half hour set drew to a close, the final song, ‘Sign’, really caught my attention. Its electronic influences added something to the powerful performance of the two-piece, and complemented Django Django’s synth-heavy performance.
Following Man of Moon came Self Esteem, who were radically different to the opening band. Self Esteem are made up of three vocalists and a drummer, with lead vocalist Rebecca Taylor also occasionally using an electric guitar. Self Esteem’s performance was somewhat confused: stripped back (at times just being one vocalist and finger-snapping), it didn’t directly follow from Man Of Moon. That being said, the more heavy songs from the band were very much enjoyable. Taylor’s talent in undeniable, as seen in her other project Slow Club and when she returned to perform vocals for ‘Surface To Air’ with Django Django – drummer Victoria Smith also produced an impressive display. The issue of Self Esteem is that they either become more pop-friendly (and therefore become a Haim clone) or lose their message by having too small a crowd to play to. It’s unenviable.
Next up was the main act. Django Django walked on stage to rapturous applause, and excitement in abundance. Quickly they delved into album opener ‘Marble Skies’, and the pace kept up, playing ‘Shake and Tremble’ and lead single ‘Tic Tac Toe’ in quick succession. Singer Vincent Neff’s performance was one for the ages: he encouraged people to dance, seemed genuinely thankful for the sold-out show (despite the fact Django Django formed nearly ten years ago), and delivered a vocal performance that at times was mesmerising. Synthesisers were well performed by Tommy Grace, who also deserves a mention for his keyboard skills, and drummer David MacLean and bassist Jimmy Dixon both didn’t put a foot wrong either.
The setlist was varied and the gig succeeded because of that: the performance had a well-rounded feel to it, and older fans of the band certainly appreciated that Born under Saturn had not been forgotten, with ‘First Light’ receiving a warm response. The only issue with the show was the somewhat unpredictable nature of the performance of tracks off Marble Skies. ‘Tic Tac Toe’ sounded even better than in the studio, but ‘In Your Beat’ fell short of the recorded version. The same can be said of ‘Further’. This isn’t a major issue, as I recognise how difficult it can be to recreate some studio tracks. However, given the vast array of instruments on show (by my count there were 11 performed by the band), and impressive percussion throughout, did show the disparity between the performance of some newer songs.
Overall, Django Django served an enjoyable night of live music. Their performance was exciting, immersive, and topped off by some of the finest frontman-ship you’ll see on the gig circuit today. When I reviewed Marble Skies for The Mancunion, I wrote that with a more tempered approach to experimentation, the band would have hit a perfect 10. These same issues are still there: newer tracks were performed unpredictably, but nevertheless competently.