Doves: Soaring towards 2009

Royal Festival Hall. 12 September

Photographer:Shirlaine Forrest

15 September 2008

The last seven days has been a good week for Northern rock’n’roll. First Elbow won the Mercury Music Prize, beating off Radiohead and countless shite records by nobodies that had probably only sold about 621 copies combined. Then it appeared as if Glasvegas, Scotlands newest and best band, may beat those cynical old has-beens Metallica to the top of the album chart, eventually coming a virtuous second.

Although it might not have been the Hacienda, the Royal Festival Hall on Friday proved a fitting enough venue to host a weekend of celebrations for Heavenly Records’ 18th birthday. Rather strangely, after an excellent set from Cherry Ghost who are fronted by Bolton-born troubadour Simon Aldred (think a more Americana sounding Richard Hawley) , it’s Manic Street Preachers who kick things off properly with a six song set chronicling the two singles music they released on Heavenly in 1991.

Devoid of the ceremony they’ve enjoyed as headliners over the last decade and half, instead they rip straight into the set with the classic ‘Motown Junk’ before tearing into early b-side ‘Sorrow 16’. ‘We Her Majesty’s Prisoners’ reverts back to its original title tonight (‘Ceremonial Rape Machine’) as singer James Dean Bradfield admits they changed its name to keep the label happy. ‘Starlover’ follows, with bassist Nicky Wire apologetically excusing its adolescent lyrics, before ‘Spectators of Suicide’ makes way for ‘You Love Us’, played with as much tenacity as any of their recent triumphant shows. At least the crowd may have known that one. Yes, the b-sides are pretty shit, but seeing them played in this manner tonight paints a fitting testament to what the Manics did when they ‘sold out and took Sony’s money’, as Bradfield jokes.

Doves haven’t played a gig in over two years, but tonight they are tremendous. Very much the dustmen of anthemic rock, the Manc trio do their thing without glam or fanfare, but put in a startling effort all the same. Peppering their set with a raft of early favourites, including a rousing ‘Caught By The River’ which is immediately followed by their biggest hit, ‘There Goes The Fear’, they play a slew of new songs which range from the slightly dour (‘The Outsiders’) to full-on floor stomper (‘Jetstream’), harking back to their days as anonymous chart friendly dance troupe, Sub Sub.

Doves’ strength lies in their consistency and in the heart-felt quality of their songs rather than in any poster-hogging charisma. And what their 38 year old singer Jimi Goodwin lacks in star quality, he more than makes up for with the lovestruck melodies of ‘Almost Forgot Myself’ and ‘Seasong’. Like their most prominent band, Heavenly has had a rich heritage destined to continue for a while longer yet. And if the next Doves album is as good as it seems, then we won’t even mention the Magic Num…

by Andrew Future


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