29th January | Thekla
The past few weeks have been inescapable. As the world around us continues to derail, a brief sanctuary is found in the surroundings of Thekla. Standing by like-minded folk can do wonders for the soul and tonight feels like a well-needed pause in the chaos we’ve found ourselves in.
The Lion & The Wolf opens the show, equipped with an acoustic guitar and a lot of witty, in-between-songs banter. Producing pleasant and emotive lyricism, his song subjects flitter between the regret of failed relationships and the similarities he finds between himself and his father. Despite the often melancholic aspects of his output, his enthusiasm is evident throughout the performance.
Laura Stevenson is up next, producing an effervescent and gorgeous set that is noticeably candid, heartfelt and full of humour. Her voice dances between her intricate melodies, as her hand effortlessly glides through complex plucks and dynamic, chorus crescendos. She’s an artist that is able to articulate what it is that makes us human with a wit and beauty that’s so clearly engrained in her talents.
It’s an aspect that filters through to headliner Kevin Devine, who above all, writes songs about the human condition. He’s never described himself as a political songwriter but in the shadow of the past few months – heck, years – his lyrics offer a poignant reprise from our own heads; a engaged, empathetic comment that reaffirms that there are people out there who feel exactly the same way that you do.
Bringing along his ‘Goddamn Band’, Devine’s songs from latest album Instigator are performed with a gutsy, no-holds-barred approach. He bounces across the stage; he spits his lyrics with an impassioned, fiery candour; he gives everything he’s got. His lyrics often cause the room to erupt with agreement – Instigator cut ‘Both Ways’ causing a particularly loud reaction:
“You can’t preach “all lives are equal…
Unless they’re immigrant, women, or black.”
You can’t weaponize Jesus
And be shocked when the heathens shoot back”
There’s a collective community amongst the crowd tonight; a few hundred people that needed to hear what Devine has to say and are all-the-more thankful for it. Of course, all the answers don’t lie here but Devine produces a powerhouse performance that could light a fire under the most hopeless or cynical attendee.
He treats fans to earlier cuts like ‘I Could Be With Anyone’, ‘Little Bulldozer’ and ‘Bubblegum’ that ring just as true and just as hard as they did previously. ‘Private First Class’ – a comment on the unfair imprisonment of Chelsea Manning – is performed with a graceful respect and newly-formed optimism, while a fan-requested ‘Brother’s Blood’ proves Devine’s talents in poetic, metaphorical imagery.
Commenting on the current world situation, Devine says, “I often find it helps to sing together,” before finishing his thoughtful and impressive 90-minute set with ‘I Was Alive Back Then’. Standing away from the mic and allowing his words to mark a sort of communion, you can almost feel the relief throughout the room; a short-lived, stand-still moment where everything doesn’t seem so bad, after all.
Devine is an artist that seeks out the beauty and ravages the dark in this world and right now, we need him more than ever.
Check out ‘Both Ways’ below and grab tickets to the final dates of Devine’s tour here.