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24th January 2019

Live Review: Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats

Uncle Acid rocked Gorilla with a rambunctious show but sometimes lacked distinctiveness, writes Ashwin Tharoor
Live Review: Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats
Photo: Ashwin Tharoor @ Mancunion

Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats played Gorilla on Tuesday night as one of the last dates on a short UK tour. The Cambridge band formed in 2009 but have gone through many iterations, with the current line-up playing together since 2017. The Deadbeats seem to come and go, as only Uncle Acid (Kevin Starrs) has stayed since the beginning. Their sound has been noted by many to be characteristic of the hard rock of the early 1970s, this is a purposeful choice by the band who even specifically record with vintage equipment.

Opening for them was Blood Ceremony who gave a strong showing with a catchy, but nonetheless, very heavy sound. Their female lead singer was refreshing to see in a very male-dominated genre, and she created an energetic and at times frantic atmosphere with both synths and a flute. The latter was heavily reminiscent of Jethro Tull.

When Uncle Acid and his Deadbeats exploded onto the stage, from the get-go they had heads everywhere swinging back and forth. The bass pounded through your chest and the riffs cut into your brain. Lead singer and guitarist Kevin would often solo so hard you could clearly see the proto-metal influence. Occasionally it felt like the wild shredding didn’t always aim to match the music, but it was very impressive nonetheless.

The whole show quite successfully created an atmosphere of impending doom, particularly with Starr’s high pitched, demonic vocals, and the almost non-stop intensity of it. This is of no surprise given the quaking quartet had supported Sabbath back in 2013.  The drummer, Justin Smith, was on impeccable form, really pinning the whole show together. He was reaching into that unending well of musical energy for almost an hour and a half. Especially interesting were his more unique rhythms and fills as opposed to a lot of the sounds coming out of the heavier genres.

Seeing as people will mosh to just about anything (looking at you Mac Demarco fans), I expected something wild from this crowd, however, there was surprisingly little physical action, just the classic headbang, leaving me somewhat dissatisfied. There were a number of times when I felt like the same riff could only be repeated for so long over and over before it became less exciting. It was at these points that the crowd also seemed to simmer down the most. The choice to play lots of similarly paced songs back to back with no chit chat in between meant they essentially started to blend into each other.

Arguably the whole genre lends itself to this feeling if you aren’t well versed in it already. Whilst the songs do get you hooked, they sometimes seem to follow quite a similar format. Meanwhile, the lead singers face was obscured by hair the entire concert but that’s also just typical of these hard rockers, right?

After their ‘final song’ they followed textbook encore procedure and left abruptly but sadly the crowd did not chant them back on, though they came back and did three more songs anyway. Their best moments were outings that began slowly and built up to a fiery, thunderous climax. They struck this tone with their final song and definitely left a good impression.

Even as a psych-rock fanatic, it was overall less captivating than I’d hoped. However, their energy was undeniable, they’re clearly very talented, and the songs that did rock really blew the roof off.


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