Dutch Uncles

Dutch Uncles


“Hello Ritz, we’ve gone too fast and need a breather” beams Duncan Wallis, frontman of Stockport’s finest Dutch Uncles.

He’s not the only one. Just three songs into their biggest headline show to date and the energy in the room is electric. While a moment of respite gives an adoring audience a moment to gulp on one of many after work drinks, the band have a few seconds to take it all in. There were questions asked if the venue may prove a tad big for them but they’ve made the transition from Academy 2 with aplomb.

Over the years Dutch Uncles have amassed an impressively loyal local fan base, increasing with each record but largely fuelled by their deserved reputation as an excellent live act. They’re revered in Manchester as ‘one of our own’ despite their satellite town origins, in much the same way as Elbow. There is another potential parallel to draw with the boys from Bury, an ambitious but not unfounded feeling that one killer single could elevate them into stardom nationally; just one sporting montage away from the masses.

Tonight’s set draws heavily from new record O Shudder, a brilliant piece of elegant, 80s tinged pop which is much more deserving of the five star ratings that contemporaries Wild Beasts were receiving for Present Tense twelve months ago.

Its title may sound like a Rabbie Burns poem but fits the anxious lyrical themes perfectly. If lead single ‘In’n’Out’ wasn’t clear enough on the source of uneasiness, then set opener ‘Babymaking’ alleviates all doubt. Conscious of the promiscuity of the new songs, Wallis acknowledges mid set that things have ‘got freaky’. I don’t hear anyone complaining.

The minimalist stage set up suits the band perfectly, shifting between post-punk shadows and Soft Cell pink; it’s refreshing to see a band comfortable with their influences, nor ever over reliant on any of them.

Dutch Uncles photo by Adrian Lambert

Dutch Uncles photo by Adrian Lambert

While it’s easy to praise the new material, tonight is a celebration of years of hard work and excellent songwriting. A case could be made for nearly every song but it is the fantastically urgent piano of ‘Cadenza’ that really has the place in raptures, while the brilliant off-kilter art-pop of ‘Fester’ is the band’s finest moment to date.

It’s not just the music yet to receive the audience it warrants either; it’s a travesty that the internet isn’t awash with vines of Wallis dancing. Looking like a Saturday Night Live sketch where Jim Carey is cast as Carlton from the Fresh Prince, Wallis shakes and shimmies majestically, clad in a flowery shirt with enough give to make The Communards blush. If only British television was willing to promote bands in the way Letterman, Fallon et al do in the States and we could have our very own viral Future Islands moment.

No homecoming triumph would be complete without some special guests. The first is the puppet from the video for brilliant new single ‘Decided Knowledge’, who offers a more convincing lip sync than you’ll find on any X Factor tour. There are sentient guests too, in the form of Scouse Folksters Stealing Sheep, who provide backing vocals for glorious finale ‘Be Right Back’. Solid as an album closer, it’s given a new lease of life on stage, a funkier, Nile Rodgers feel, which duly brings the house down.

Applause rings out long after the band leaves the stage and a sense of pride lingers in the air. It’s not because they are local lads that Dutch Uncles are loved, it’s because they’re so damn good.

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Joseph Curran

Features Editor and gig reviewer