The Dead Weather, Band of Skulls
Edmund Townend 28/06/2010
A dark and brooding atmosphere falls over the London Roundhouse, a bizarre yet incredible venue in Camden, perfectly circular with a history of over 150 years. Tonight it plays host to the darkness bringers - The Dead Weather. Cutting a relatively fresh but grimy blues niche in the music scene came to be circumstantially in 2009 and have already appeared twice at Glastonbury as well as on sold out tours around the world. And why? Well… it might have something to do with their line-up.
Not only does the band sport the 21st Century sensation that is Jack White (on drums no less), but it's fronted by one of the best women in rock, Alison Mosshart. She makes up the female side of duo The Kills with Jamie Hince and the two have been compared (although they sound very little alike) to The White Stripes. If that wasn't enough they are also accompanied by two upcoming and already prevalent musicians. Dean Fertita is a touring member of Queens of the Stone Age, who plays keyboards and guitar with The Dead Weather, whilst bassist Jack 'LJ' Lawrence has previously accompanied White in The Raconteurs.
All in all, it's a musical amalgamation of the perfect amount of talent. All four contributed to the latest album 'Sea of Cowards' and the togetherness of the band is surprisingly well-knit in spite of their beginnings (White, Mosshart and Lawrence decided to record a seven inch after The Raconteurs toured with The Kills, when Fertita happened to be sleeping in the studio - the result was their debut 'Horehound'). Their seemingly perfect fit flies in the face of recent media-led label of 'super group'.
But less about the band and more about the music. The show starts with an introduction of influence, with the band entering to a rough blues recording and launching into a cover of Pentagram's 'Forever My Queen'. Mosshart towers over the crowd, walking agilely across stage monitors and stretching her gait from one side of the stage to the other - taking advantage of White's energetic yet static position behind drums. The cover rolls into the grungy wastes of '60 Feet Tall', with Mosshart screaming and clawing vocally through the dirt of Fertita and Lawrence's outpouring of filth and over White's ferocious bangs, dings and crashes. Much to the audience's surprise and delight, after a crowd-pleasing rendition of 'Hang You From The Heavens' he then steps out from behind the kit to sing another cover, the passionate 'You Just Can't Win' by Them, a b-side from their debut.
Their set is drastically dense and overwhelming, coming in at over two hours long and covering almost every song in their repertoire, and then some. The heavy blues rock the crowd back and forth as they jump from one crazy riff to the next. Mosshart's voice leaps and bounds in all the right places and leaves gaps for her band mates to squeeze in their parts. White comments on the venue - “They say it's unlucky to have a building with no walls” - of course he means corners, although his embarrassment was only apparent to those whose ears were more used to the sheer sound of a rock band in full force.
At first the echo and unnatural acoustics of the former train yard seemed to threaten the tenacity of the performance, but three quarters of the way through the first song the sound techs have it under control - White's experience with old-time music has reaped its rewards in finding the right people for the job, although the lighting is sensationally sophisticated and possibly the only obvious modern aspect of the performance - well besides the post-modern snarls of Mosshart.
Hustle and Cuss has her fawning over her microphone stand with undeniable sex appeal. She is undoubtedly the leader of the band, and seems to allow White to take over once in a while rather than the other way around. She howls and spits her way through songs like 'The Difference Between Us' and improvises in true blues fashion in the simplistic yet shuddering 'I'm Mad'. On the single 'Die By The Drop' White and Mosshart match vocals effortlessly, rivalling each other for dominance. She also picks up the guitar once or twice, whilst Fertita plays keys, and plays riffs on 'I Cut Like A Buffalo' that wouldn't be unfamiliar on a Kills record.
Fertita lives up to White's guitar playing on the albums, although sticks to the songs note by note, only deviating from the path under the encouragement of the virtuoso's duet (which is a shame, as the solo of 'Gasoline' on record sounded far better than it did live). As the rhythm section, White is all over the kit with Lawrence keeping the reigns tight yet still supplying a rough edge. White transforms the kit to his own style, rattling the rides on 'No Horse' and abusing hi-hat and snare in 'Hang You From The Heavens'.
Each song is played with fire and energy, only lagging when it becomes apparent who they audience has really come to see. White has lamented the fact that he did not form a band like The Dead Weather after he left high school. The back catalogue weighs down on the drummer as rapturous cheering is only at its height when he steps out from behind the drum kit to rip into a guitar to satisfy the baying mob - that doesn't mean to say he doesn't enjoy it however, as the brutal yet exhilarating ten minute version of 'Will There Be Enough Water?' shows just before the encore. The repeated final lyric of 'Just because you caught me/does that make it a sin?' is dripping with the dark and cruel attitude that the band is known for.
As if that weren't enough, the band returns with their off-the-wall opener from the sophomore album. 'Blue Blood Blues' has White on strangely effected vocals (sadly without much assistance from Mosshart, but she may have made the song too overwhelming) ripping out classic blues babble in an almost uncomfortably vicious way: 'All the neighbours get pissed when I/come home, I make 'em nervous', followed soon thereafter by the brilliant 'All the white girls trip when I/sing at Sunday service'. White returns to the guitar in a duel with Fertita as Mosshart spits and snarls over them during 'I Can't Hear You' and the colossal set ends with the brilliant 'Treat Me Like Your Mother' (which sports probably the best video to appear on the internet last year, just saying) with a triumphant and ecstatic bow goodbye.