Doves @ BBC Electric Proms
United Kingdom | 26 October 2009
Doves performance with the London Bulgarian choir for the BBC Electric Proms erupts as a stunning cultural hybrid of indie rock merged with traditional folklore, writes Samantha Merrydrew.
The move is a daring direction for the Doves to pursue and the pay-off is one that is being shared between a delighted audience and a band caught in a monumental moment of witnessing their music enriched with an unlikely, though extraordinary, accompaniment.
The choir bellies an emotive and immense wall of resonating sound which is both sobering and intoxicating. Doves, positioned at the fore of the stage, with the choir elevated behind them dressed in traditional Bulgarian folk clothing, open their set with ‘Snowden’. It serves as a romantic and imploring beginning that paves the way for an energetic and emotive set, showing all the signs that this unique collaboration of band and choir has been carefully arranged to set a musical tone that flows in a filmic fashion. Brought to the audience as a score for some dreamy piece of theatre ‘10:03’ sounds brave and gorgeous, as the rugged timbre of Jimi Goodwin’s vocals blend with the smooth waves of the combined voice of the London Bulgarian Choir.
The combination of bass-fuzz dance-tinged rock and the haunting harmonies of a choir doesn’t really work on paper. This further heightens the pleasure when it does work in actuality. Doves are almost a kind of space rock, quite far removed from the ancient traditions of a choir whose roots lie in an enigmatic country on the other side of Europe.
Praise is surely due to Avshalom Caspi, the choir’s composer and the man initially commissioned to rework Doves songs to make the final, live fusion possible.
Watching them here at the Roundhouse we are reminded that one of the Doves endearing qualities is how utterly normal they are. No pomp, no pretension, just four thoroughly likable guys creating bloody good music. This is really coming across in their stage presence. There is a real chemistry in the minimalism of their live performance, as the music enraptures, the band stay focused and unwaveringly tight. And through all this they never stop looking and acting like a group of guys you would like to drink a pint with down the pub.
The set goes from the serene to the sublime with the more well known numbers played without the choir – ‘Pounding’, ‘Black and White Town’ – which have pockets of the crowd jumping joyfully, one armed clamped around a neighboring friend the other pumping a fist in the air to the more anthemic and commercially prevalent Doves songs.
‘Kingdom of Rust’, title track for the band’s third album is a storm. Following this is the introduction on to the stage of Baluji Shrivastav, a North Indian classical musician who sits, Buddha like, to the left of the band and plays sitar on the track ‘Birds Flew Backwards’.
The set closes with ‘The Fear’, with both band and choir creating a cacophony of sound with various pieces of percussion. Jimi Goodwin bashes floor toms and cymbals whilst the Williams brothers - guitarist Jez and drummer Andy - smash cowbells. Avshalom Caspi turns to face the cheering crowd with a maraca in each hand and his choir is now shaking tambourines and dancing into the final moments of an awesome show. This has been a moving and magical performance, worthy of the praise it is sure to receive.
For more on the BBC Electric Proms see: www.bbc.co.uk/electricproms
By Samantha Merrydrew.
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