Live: Darwin Deez @ Wedgewood Rooms Portsmouth.

Darwin Deez at The Wedgewood Rooms Portsmouth

Darwin Deez performing at The Wedgewood Rooms, Southsea on 20 October 2015 (Simon Reed)

Darwin Deez performing at The Wedgewood Rooms, Southsea on 20 October 2015 (Simon Reed)

“You Up?” proclaims the kick drum belonging to Tim McCoy, skinsman with New York indie pop-rock band Darwin Deez. Tonight’s big crowd at Portsmouth’s Wedgwood Rooms is certainly giving that impression. The band is touring the UK in support of their third studio album Double Down and tonight they are greeted by an enthusiastic, discerning and highly age-diverse audience. Whilst a number will be clambering aboard school buses in the morning, there are some people in here that are even older than me – and I don’t have the joy of being able to proclaim that at most of the gigs I attend these days.

Darwin Deez performing at The Wedgewood Rooms, Southsea on 20 October 2015 (Simon Reed)

Darwin Deez performing at The Wedgewood Rooms, Southsea on 20 October 2015 (Simon Reed)

A trademark of a Darwin Deez show; prerecorded mash-ups and choreographed routines performed by all four members of band permeate the set at various intervals. Bearing little resemblance to the rest of the music; I’ve never seen anybody else do anything quite like this, and it is great fun. They opened with one such performance but unfortunately a technical glitch cut it short. Figurehead Darwin Smith looked perplexed but the other three members of the band just assumed their positions, broke out into the sublimely catchy Constellations and all was well.

Darwin Deez performing at The Wedgewood Rooms, Southsea on 20 October 2015 (Simon Reed)

Darwin Deez performing at The Wedgewood Rooms, Southsea on 20 October 2015 (Simon Reed)

They rattled along, dropping a series of bounce inducing, jingling, jangling guitar infused tunes as they went. Proceedings paused only briefly. There were occasional chats with the crowd (it transpired that the band weren’t quite sure whereabouts in the UK they were) and a timeout was taken for an interpretive dance to Rage Against The Machine’s Testify, book-ended with the complementary tones of Enya’s Orinoco Flow. Yes, it was as weird as it sounds and a joy to behold.

Darwin Deez performing at The Wedgewood Rooms, Southsea on 20 October 2015 (Simon Reed)

Darwin Deez performing at The Wedgewood Rooms, Southsea on 20 October 2015 (Simon Reed)

There’s a great synergy between the members of this band. As well as the choreographed routines, they clearly have a ball playing the music – bass player Michelle Dorrance is Smith’s closest childhood friend – and it shows; a heartwarming permagrin is etched on her face for the duration of the show and it rubs off on everybody else. Dorrance is also one hell of a mover, but this perhaps ought not to be a surprise as she also happens to be an internationally renowned tap dancer and choreographer in her own right. Sometimes you get to see her tap dancing skills at a Darwin Deez show, though sadly not tonight.

Darwin Deez performing at The Wedgewood Rooms, Southsea on 20 October 2015 (Simon Reed)

Darwin Deez performing at The Wedgewood Rooms, Southsea on 20 October 2015 (Simon Reed)

With all the larking about, it’s also easy to fail to notice that Darwin Smith is actually a seriously good guitar player. Alternating between a peculiarly tuned 4-string guitar devoid of E strings and a more traditional looking 6 stringed Fender Strat, he played some really great stuff. I particularly enjoyed the soloing in Chelsea’s Hotel and in set closer Redshift.

Darwin Deez performing at The Wedgewood Rooms, Southsea on 20 October 2015 (Simon Reed)

Darwin Deez performing at The Wedgewood Rooms, Southsea on 20 October 2015 (Simon Reed)

After a set of around an hour, the band made for the sanctuary of the dressing room and the crowd commenced a chant of “one more song”. It seemed a shame for them to limit their aspirations and the band clearly agreed, serving up one final dance routine and a pair of encores – culminating in 2010’s Bad Day and another single from the eponymously titled debut album.

Darwin Deez performing at The Wedgewood Rooms, Southsea on 20 October 2015 (Simon Reed)

Darwin Deez performing at The Wedgewood Rooms, Southsea on 20 October 2015 (Simon Reed)

As the encores played out, I was struck by just how completely absorbed in the music this audience was. I looked around and could see only one person who felt the need to experience the final song through an out of focus screen on the back of a smartphone. The rest of the crowd actually enjoyed the music in the moment – and Amen to that. Darwin Deez close their UK tour with a show at London’s Islington Assembly Hall on 27 October. Latest album Double Down is available now.

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Photography & Review by Simon Reed.                                                                      Darwin Deez at The Wedgewood Rooms Portsmouth 20/10/15

Simon has his own great website here: www.musicalpictures.co.uk

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