Django Django brought their menagerie of synths, tambourines, and white trousers to Manchester armed with their all new third album, Marble Skies. In a not-quite-as-full-as-it-probably-should-have-been O2 Ritz, they put on a show shimmering with their trademark bravado.
Kicking off with Marble Skies’ title track, a catchy electric symphony which sounds a bit like an arcade game theme tune written on a harpsichord, the four-piece set the tone for the majority of the night as a gallimaufry of styles. Their impressive technical proficiency both instrumentally and vocally sounded excellent, but repeatedly failed to electrify the crowd.
And it was not for want of trying. Frontman Vincent Neff gave his high-octane all from the get go, but his candour went cruelly unrequited. The lacklustre midweek crowd didn’t really get into things until the band’s most commercially successful 2012 hit, Default, injected some much-needed adrenaline into the Ritz’s otherwise flat-lining audience.
But that this change of mood came 12 songs into the set after a freight train of unloved tunes certainly made the night feel like an awfully long set-up for not enough pay-off.
But I don’t blame the band for this: where was the hardcore contingent? There were maybe 30 or so that got really riled up when the inhibition-busting old favourites (Storm, Life’s a Beach) were wheeled out towards the end. But even they went flat for Champagne, a track on the new album steeped in Django Django’s art-pop vintage, which any dyed-in-the-wool aficionado of the group should love.
You get the impression that a lot of the punters had heard a couple of the band’s tracks on 6 Music and had gone along with mild interest, or they’d been into the first album and were there mostly for the memories.
Neff’s repeated mid-song calls of, ‘Come on, Manchester’ were slightly reminiscent of the hopeless encouragement yelled to Tim Henman as he limped through successive semi-final disappointments. But what’s weird is that it here it was Henman waving his racket at Centre Court, trying to get them to show some interest.
Audience impotence notwithstanding, there was much to admire here. As well as the established bangers sounding as fresh now as they ever did, the new song Surface to Air (featuring Self-Esteem) really stands out as a radical departure from what Django Django have done before, tingling with a tropical sound which offers a tantalising insight into where the group could take their circus of sounds next. Wherever that may be, their irresistible pop appeal shows that the group still has many rabbits yet to be pulled of the hat.
*Image courtesy of @LazyJane77 via Twitter, with thanks