The Raveonettes took off with Whip It On a decade ago, which lead to an international following. Ten years later, Sheffield’s Queens Social Club is bristling, with a dense huddle of audience coyly leaning on the bar, leaving the other half of the room bare. As befits a band who’ve enjoyed the kind of fanaticism which keeps crowds coming back with each new album (Observator, the band’s sixth, was released in September), shrewd choices have been made this tour. They’ve brought along Glasgow’s Holy Esque for support, who value the same things as the Danish duo: making rooms tremble and making rooms sing. More importantly, branded ‘Raveonette’ baby-grows at available at the back, along with the tees and vinyl. Because if you want lifelong fans, start ’em while they’re young.
Is calling yourself Holy Esque bravado? They don’t display much of that tonight. Maybe they means the exact opposite; that trying to imitate great is no greatness at all. A contradictory M.O. perhaps, but the band seem as aware of what they are imitating as much as what they’re doing fresh.
How does a band become Holy Esque? Three things. Find a keyboardist who superimposes thudding bass texture and woozy Boards of Canada ambience. Have your guitar amp commit seppuku, over and over. Lastly, deny your frontman Soothers, forever. This guy doesn’t aim at Casablanca’s vox distortion or Frank Black’s demented screech, he instead sounds like he’s been singing for twelve hours straight. It’s a wonderfully personal take on rock ‘n’ roll exasperation, and the band’s guitar-mageddon follows suit, veering off from the rounded heft of My Bloody Valentine or U2 into a spiky storm-cloud of feedback. It’s great to see a band forge something unique out of a consistent sound.
The Raveonettes have picked a tough act to follow, but predictably the crowd have been baying for them all evening. The applause grows and grows with each song, even with a mammoth set like this. Live, the band can muster great sonic variety, especially for a three-piece, swapping basses for guitars and guitars for acoustics at the drop of a plectrum.
From the weightless funk of ‘Curse The Night’ to the Smiths-ian jangle-pop of ‘She Owns The Streets’, The Raveonettes have had ten years of recreating a glamorous myth out of a few Fenders and a fuzz pedal. They’re so good at setting a mood, the house lights send reams of Christmas tinsel behind the stage dancing into life and The Raveonettes complete the oddly moving montage.
Without a doubt, the show is stolen by the duo’s velvet glove harmonies, the kind of perfect semi-somnolent whispering that rises above instruments, lyrics, the show itself, into a group memory. Doubts that have dogged the Raveonettes from the beginning (being derivative, pilfering rather than proliferating their best bots) are here swept away by their steely aplomb, with live vocals the jewel in the crown. After a snappy encore, The Raveonettes say their goodbyes, the room slowly gets bigger and, until next time, the tinsel stops glittering in quite the same way.