OXFORD O2, 22 May 2015
This is awkward.
On stage, Dearly Beloved. In front of them, NOTHING. Beyond the nothing, at the back of the room, punters. Must be a bad smell coming off that band coz it’s a big gap and it feels like a void, yet it doesn’t deter DB from hitting it like headliners. Maybe they’re used to big spaces. They are from Canada.
The problem here isn’t the music (and there’s no repulso whiff either, thank feck). It’s age. See those whip-thin 19-year-olds ready to Destroy the Void with kinetic energy and mass kickass? Exactly. Not bloody here, are they? This is a Swervedriver gig, which means that when Dearly Beloved look out from that stage, they see history: the early middle agers. Poor bastards.
But if they’re gutted they don’t show it, impressing with short multi-riff tracks, stacks of gear shifts and upfront bass that’s warmthickwarm with Royal Blood yet flanked by guitars for a proper desert-punk attack. Listening to their Enduro album, recorded down at the Joshua Tree with Dave Catching and a walk-on from no less a maestro than Chris Goss, they do not disappoint on CD either.
With Swervedriver, you know exactly what you’re gonna get: tunes and melodies roughened just enough by pedal-action, volume and distortion. Simple enough, innit? Not much looks to have changed since they were on this very stage in 2008 except that they’ve now got a new record out, Mick Quinn from Supergrass is standing in on bass patrol and everyone here is seven years balder/fatter/greyer or, at the very least, just seven years older. Adam Franklin still looks to me like he should be in Clutch, but the local rag has a different band in mind.
“I picked up the Oxford Mail today,” says the soft-spoken frontmanfella. “It had a Swervedriver feature that we did.”
“They printed a picture of the Thurston Moore Band.”
Nice. Still, no-one here’s in any doubt about who Swervedriver are and for a sizeable few it’s a chance to live it up like 1995. Me, I’m just after a few of those glory-day faves at High Volume – not diehard enough to be chasing the new album, but a chance to hear Raise/Mezcal gems live and loud? Shityeah, and when For Seeking Heat, Deep Seat and Rave Down land pretty early it’s clear we’ve got a crowd-pleaser ahead. Son of Mustang Ford spikes the pace and Franklin still looks right at home coaxing mini storms from that frayed Jazzmaster, so much so that you just start to wonder and hope … maybe they’ll cut loose with a full-squall never-ender? Will they? But it’s a distant hope because tonight’s not the time. Tonight’s about the tunes, and on that front the best is definitely saved til last with a brace of Mezcal highs – locomotive surf-psyche beaster Last Train to Satansville (their greatest 6 minutes 45, no?), and the woozily muscular Duel to finish. THIS is why you come and see Swervedriver live: a Mezcal Head finale and muted hearing for the walk home. Mission accomplished.