Better late than never, the saying goes, so here’s some life to this tour diary. I remember how, back in October, when dEUS announced they were doing Vorst Nationaal/Forest National (this is Belgium, where even concert venues can have two official names), I took that as the worst piece of dEUS news in years. I just hate those huge venues and couldn’t figure how they’d fit in there (even though they’ve had much more massive audiences in festivals, but it ain’t the same ya know.)
Still, this is dEUS we’re talking about. I should have known better!
First day, with my two younger sisters (who spent the gig on their first row seats, about 3 lightyears from the stage) and a bunch of friends. Met Bart from the newsblog again, as well as Hans who’s also on the ISRC. I was really looking forward to seeing Elbow, as I missed them during their last club tour – voice as perfect as ever, they are great, but their setlist did absolutely not fit the place. They should have gone for all that’s noisy in their repertoire. But as support acts go, this is one absolutely brilliant band. I can definitely not say the same thing about Snow Patrol, who opened the day after, and whose music struck me as nicely executed, absolutely not bad in any way, but just plain bland/dull/boring FM rock. The crowd didn’t even cheer when they played their radio hits. I felt a bit bad for those lads.
Our idols then. Not much sense in making separate reviews, as I’m writing more than one week after, and the setlist was nearly identical both days, so it’s gonna be mixed up a little.
The audience roared when the lights went out and the Sun Ra sample started, and 7000 fans are a noisy thing when dEUS come on stage. Quite impressive lighting, with huge floor-to-ceiling lightspot ramps, all that you need to flood Vorst and blind the fans a little in the process. They kicked off with Pocket Revolution, no surprise there, skipped Magdalena (so my prayers were heard) and right into Stop-Start Nature, a nice change. Then, okay, I knew they’d played it at recent gigs, so hearing the song wasn’t a surprise to me, but I couldn’t help but scream with pleasure when I heard the very first chord of One Advice, Space. I would never have thought they’d bring that one back from the depths of ‘99. Just as beautiful as ever – too bad they’re playing such a shortened version of it, as I’m particularly fond of Craig’s verses at the end of the song. Instant Street was as insane as ever, that crescendo from hell just seems never to stop.
I couldn’t help noticing some tension on Tom’s face, as he scanned the audience from time to time – he’d told the media that Vorst is a very dear place to him, as that’s where he saw Prince (one of his all-time favourite artists) when he was 15. He asked the lightman to flood the audience, so he could see everyone up to the ceiling (shadows in the distance). I wrote on the forum that I wasn’t really happy with the static crowd, but truth be told, there was definitely a lot of handclapping and cheering. And I was happy with it on day 2. So it wasn’t that bad (forgive me now?)
I have to say that from a technical point of view, I think day I was the best. From where I stood, the sound was better, and also the band played really concentrated (perhaps they were more relaxed the day after and cut some slack a little). Big, big thumbs up to Vincent, their live sound engineer, for making Vorst an aurally enjoyable place. Even though he modestly told me later on that it’s «just another venue». Which sounded like one huge aquarium last time I saw Radiohead in there.
Back to music stuff. Worst Case Scenario is probably one of their strongest live songs these days, there’s just so much happening in it (with, with the exception of Tom’s singing, the whole band doing absolutely nothing during the first 45 seconds of the Zappa sample), as is the evil version of Turnpike. Something that nicely surprised me: I felt there wasn’t enormous response to Roses in the pit, but then Sun Ra started, and the first row went berserk. New album, 6 years and a half later, new fans, they’re 15 or 16, they haven’t heard Roses before and they wave their arms during Nothing Really Ends. I loved seeing that. A lovely kick in the ass of the Dutch journalist who wrote that seeing dEUS today is an enjoyable trip down the mid-90’s nostalgia lane. Don’t you dare make me feel old
Rock Chick came right after that, and even though I think it’s a bit weird, and unnecessary, to add another Magnus title to the list, I like what they’ve done with it. It’s downtempo groovy and a relaxing listen. On day 1, they made a mess out of What We Talk About, which went really nicely the second day. Then, on day 1 they played the best version I’ve heard of Nothing Really Ends. Every note was perfect, Tom’s singing was beautiful, and the outro, which can sound a bit messy sometimes, was fantastic. Very much the highlight of Wednesday to me.
The first encore was the same both night – an untouchable trio of Bad Timing, If You Don’t and the ever-evolving, ever-bettering Suds and Soda. With bits of the Arctic Monkeys, that «Supersharp» hip-hop spelling thing, and the very appropriate chorus of the Beastie Boys’ Sabotage near the end – WAAAAAAAAAH! (Ruined both my voice and my bootleg because of that). Sweat, blood and broken teeth everywhere in the pit, of course.
Then came Hotellounge as second encore (and then Serpentine on day 1). I am really happy that they’ve reverted to the original version (I still have to find someone who genuinely loved the live version from 2002). It’s absolutely amazing how faithfully they can play it with the new line-up – apart from the backing vocals, that could have been 1997. Ok, nostalgic trip, sorry. Tom sang some verses from Gainsbourg’s Requiem pour un con («écoute les orgues, elles jouent pour toi…»), something he used to do years ago already, but it took some deeper meaning as it was just 15 years since the French singer died.
So yeah – dEUS is big enough for Vorst in their homeland. They’ve been for years actually, they could have filled it in 99 already (though not that fast). But it’s not such a dramatic step. I enjoyed both evenings tremendously.
Heeeeeey time to go to the afterpaaaaaarty!
Sorry, it’s not going to be as entertaining as my antics of last year. I skipped the Wednesday after entirely, as I felt quite uncomfortable about going to greet everyone and all that, while I haven’t worked on any of my sites ever since I went to Copenhagen and Barcelona. I didn’t ask for a guestlist allowance and purchased tickets for the first day long in advance. But I’m a shameless shit. I loved the gig so much that I just had to go on the second day. I dropped a mail to the tour manager, and he fortunately put me on the guestlist for Thursday (thank you a lot for that). So… Concert ended, Bart and I went down some stairs at the back of the concert room, then to the left (security guards everywhere, the staff in this place is used to much more famous stars), into a lovely little VIP bar where the whole crème of Flemish entertainment was gathered. I’m not much of a B.V. spotter, so I didn’t recognise many people, but there was Stef Kamil alright, chatting and laughing with Tom, first time I saw them together away from a stage, that was nice; Christian Pierre sporting a beard and some sort of mullet hair, and a classy cardigan, suits him very much (he made me think of the Broken Social Scene frontman, who is a really lovely guy); the “product manager” (yuck) for dEUS at Universal, who happens to be a young, fragile-looking woman with very short hair (she was giving away free drink coupons); and all sorts of people (including the band members of course).
Then I went to the real afterparty (after scoring guest passes for Nele and her sister, and a girl I know), at the KVS in downtown Brussels. Stopped by at the nightshop, got really scared by two massively surgically-enhanced prostitutes who wanted to lure me into erh… whatever. KVS is a really nice place, first time I ever went there, it’s a theatre, a very modern building right across the old KVS (a beautiful old building being completely renovated). I have no idea who the DJ was, but he was playing some cool stuff. Tom was being assaulted by beautiful girls, as usual, Mauro was dancing with just about anyone who got close enough (nicest guy ever, really), and then it all went very silly because of the girl I know. I promised her not to write about it here, so I won’t get into any details. But she ruined any fun heavily for me, and I left after hardly one hour. So that’s all there’s to say about the crazy afterparty this time. Bummer.
PS: from now on, I’ll edit the date of my posts so that they reflect the date of the gig. Not quite conform to reality, but there’s good logic behind it.