Django Django are an elusive beast; touring infrequently outside of Scotland, they finally released their long-anticipated second album Born Under Saturn at the beginning of May to great acclaim, and are currently following it up with a comprehensive UK tour. This gig has been circled on my calendar for months in the fancy red glitter pen previously reserved for birthdays and weddings – yes, I have been that excited. I first saw them at Reading Festival in 2012 just after they had released their criminally under-appreciated debut Django Django, and the tent was pretty sparse. Yet, with their quirky matching t-shirts and out-of-this-world live performance, it was one of the best shows I had seen at the festival, and I was eager to hear both the old and the new songs performed in Bristol.
Conversely, at the O2 Academy the eager crowd was packed to the rafters, but had all arrived sensibly early, so there was none of that queuing nonsense. Support was provided by jazz-rock band Roller Trio [3/10], whose saxophonist performs guest instrumentals for the Django’s song ‘Reflections’. I don’t know whether it was just not to my personal music taste, but I was not really a fan. Individually, each musician was clearly incredibly skilled with some kick-ass drum solos, however when they came together to freestyle, I was almost driven from the room by the cacophony of noise, off-time beats and discordant notes. Their last song was actually pretty good, with a catchy chorus and less of the unstructured jamming, and if the rest of their songs had lived up to this I think I would have enjoyed it a lot more. But thankfully, their set was relatively brief, and they were replaced by Django Django [10/10] coming onstage amid billowing clouds of dry ice and resounding cheers.
Beginning, of course, with the wonderfully immersive jungle build-up of ‘Introduction’ leading straight into the psychedelic disco of ‘Hail Bop’, the band immediately set the tone for the rest of their fast-paced and energetic show. Bespectacled special effects wizard Tommy Grace is a joy to watch as he bobs up and down to the beat, while masterfully wringing various strange noises out of his monstrous set up of synthesisers. Next up was a personal favourite off their first album: ‘Storm’, a song that perfectly demonstrates the wonderfully pitched harmonies of guitarist Vincent Neff and bassist Jimmy Dixon that Django Django have become known for.
While the crowd’s enthusiasm for these older hits was palpable, what was most surprising was the amazing response that newer songs received, despite having only been released within the past couple of months (read the review of lead single ‘First Light’ here). ‘Shake and Tremble’ harks back to the rock n’ roll stylings of hit single ‘WOR’ and was incredible to see live, while ‘First Light’ and ‘Reflections’ both had extraordinary visual shows featuring among others hypnotic sunrises, Egyptian cats and a dancing Greek figure with a giant orange segment disguising his crotch – the album artwork for Born Under Saturn. What else?
Though this band ostensibly falls under the loose definition of “Indie” and does play up to the stereotype somewhat, with multiple tambourines, shaky egg things and a guiro (one of these bad boys) all making regular appearances, throughout they come across as very genuine guys with a sense of humour and a real knack for pop hooks. This is most apparent in light-hearted tracks such as ‘Life’s a Beach’, which was one of the grooviest songs of the night, and had both the band and the audience jiving away to the summery riffs. The set was made up of mostly their first album, as apart from its lead singles, Born Under Saturn is quite a variable album and many of the slower songs would probably be tricky to integrate into the live show. After closing with the sirens and pounding beats of ‘WOR’, the band returned to do a brief encore of ‘Silver Rays’, which with its sweet yet melancholy melody and funky rhythms was a fantastic end to the show.
10/10 would Hail Bop again.