The Victorian English Gentlemens Club, Nervosa
Matt Stephens 10/11/2007
The support for Sons and Daughters at The Hub last Saturday (10th) night were two bands who might be able to offer something different to modern music. That is, if they have things their way. Two different sounds and contrasting levels of on-stage technological sophistication contrived to happily and fully engage a moderate crowd of student-types and rockers.
6-piece Nervosa, having travelled up from Cornwall to be crammed onto the front of the stage (to accommodate Ss and Ds' not-to-be-touched drum kit) started with gusto and grabbed the slowly filling auditorium with a building funk-down that moved into the catchy 'Breathe In'. They followed this with a set combining raw emotions and some high-class musicianship, the highlight of which for me was a 3-pronged roll of songs mid-set - they went from the soft and melodic to the strong and anthemic and finally onto the simple and nostalgic, confirming their progressive rock tendencies.
With a drummer aptly wearing a T-Shirt emblazoned in 'Animal' regalia, an ability to use slightly off-the-wall song structures and sounds and a lead vocal with a wide range of pitch and emotion, Nervosa have plenty of weapons in their armoury. They had the increasing Hub crowd's attention almost constantly, and the bar in the next room was merely a calling post, not somewhere to stay during this set. It wasn't flawless, and there were one or two moments when one remembered the reality that this was in fact only their second live electric performance, but, like at Oxjam 2 weeks prior, they demonstrated a great tendency to entertain and are very much worth catching in the future when you can!
Next came 3-piece The Victorian English Gentlemens Club (The Vic Club from hereon down) with a quite different vibe going on. All three members took on singing/shouting/screaming duties at various points in a drum-led performance, accompanied by racing bass and part punk, part psychedelic guitar. The set is obviously well rehearsed and they definitely aim to put on a spectacle. Visually they are a joy, sexy and vivacious and the half-full venue were very much engaged when they made their entrance.
A stomping solo drumbeat kicked off the set as the Vic Club formed an enclosed circle (triangle) in the middle of the stage, and brought to mind a fascist rally from the early 20th century. The female 2 thirds of the band (bass and drums) then engaged in an interesting operatic wailing that was hugely appreciated by their followers at the front, but seemed to lack an endgame and the song felt like it was lacking a point. The following songs seemed to swing between just two basic drum beats that were carbon copied in alternate songs. This was disappointing from a band whose myspace page had promised more diversity and innovation than, on this evidence, they perform live.
There were highlights though. Two tracks mid-set shone out and visibly grabbed the ever-increasing crowd's attention long enough to impress. The first, featuring a psychedelic screen projection behind the band, was much quicker and encouraged members of the audience into minor acts of dance... a catchy riff and vocal drew us in and the song that followed capitalised well. Kicking off with the girls' combined drumstick beating with the odd bell thrown in, it came to life with a big bassline reminiscent of Queens of the Stone Age. An anguished falsetto moved into a mesh of feedback and with the bass player seemingly orgasming on stage, the band built up into a crescendo that then progressed into a finish featuring all three members screaming in and out of tandem and then to an abrupt stop. It was impressive.
Alas, despite one or two brief moments of punk or psychedelic hope there was nothing too notable about the second half of the set. The Vic Club have an interesting sound that could be developed further, one feels, but too many of the songs felt the same and failed to capitalise on some notable ideas. They appear to be a band who will have a small but very loyal following who believe wholeheartedly in what they do, but to appeal to a wider audience they may have to differentiate their sound further.