Django Django photo by Francesca Nottola

Django Django photo by Francesca Nottola


I saw (and reviewed) Django Django live in Manchester earlier this year at the Manchester Cathedral and the risk of repeating myself is high, so I’ll make a conscious effort to avoid that. The ‘problem’ is that they are simply brilliant, and at The Albert Hall – if possible – even more brilliant than at the Cathedral. The previous show had been hacked by a fault in the power system (which singer Vincent Neff mentions tonight: ‘Do you remember the Cathedral? Were you there?’ We were, and loved every second of it, except those 30 minutes of lack of explanations about what was going on. Tonight the crowd is very motivated: it’s no Bank Holiday weekend, it’s December and it’s a Sunday night. I’m surprised to see that the venue is almost full but not overflowing with humans as I expected, because I can’t comprehend how could people know of their existence and not want to see them live every day.

While I’m waiting, I observe and I am impressed by David Maclean’s massive set of drums which rivals Tommy Grace’s infinite set of keyboards. So jealous is bassist Jim Dixon of those keyboards that he’ll temporarily invade Grace’s territory more than once during the gig, occasionally leaving the bass to Neff. They have all the tiny percussion items you can think of and dozens of tamburines.

Two things I’d like to say before I forget: Django Django are not all Scottish, although they met in Edinburgh: only synth master Tommy Grace and David Maclean are, while singer and guitarist Vincent Neff is from Derry and bass player Jimmy Dixon is a Yorkshire lad. To quote Dixon: “It’s the same with Franz Ferdinand, only two of them are Scottish.” Also, their name has nothing to do with Django Reinhardt, Django (web framework) nor Django Unchained. The name comes from a ‘a record called Sort of Django; it was a kind of dancehall record’. They have been attributed the repellent labels of ‘artrockers/artpoppers’ (because they met at the College of Art and because they make art), but thankfully they are everything but ‘pretentious art wank’, as Pete Paphides famously (and wrongly) defined dEUS’ debut album in Time Out.

Django Django photo by Francesca Nottola

Django Django photo by Francesca Nottola

The Djangos get on stage at around 9pm and my lady neighbour is possessed by the Django demons as soon as the volcanic eruption of the sounds of ‘Introduction’ starts, making the former Methodist chapel tremble. I won’t go too much into setlist details because you can find them in this accurate setlist that matches mine. As you can see from the statistics there, the band played mostly songs from their acclaimed self-titled debut album.

We are only at the fourth song and at ‘First Light’ and ‘Reflections’ the venue has already turned into a gigantic club. I don’t know about the other thousand clubbers here tonight, but for me what works in this band is that they use a lot of electronic sounds and synthesisers without being tacky, their drums are real and rock-y, their videos are surreal and creative, their DJ experience has made them masters of rhythm and floorfilling intuition and their voices and artwork are polished and truly beautiful. Also, their interaction with the audience is fantastic. They are genuinely cool, but they don’t act cool: they talk, interact, thank, laugh and cheer with their crowd, creating an amazing feel-good experience one simply cannot get enough of. You can so feel they are having fun with you that you’d like to get on stage with them and dance. Except that the stage is too high, so I can’t.

If you have a look at their posts on social media, they are smart and funny. Escapism with a clue, not Bez-style (sorry Bez). Also, I like Vincent Neff’s tops, which always border the outrageous but are always, eventually, great, a bit like ShiteShirts. Ok, less outrageous than ShiteShirts. Despite not being particularly political in their lyrics, Django Django interviews and internet posts show that they have got pretty clear ideas on which sides to support, which is always a refreshing relief nowadays.

In the background, the projection of an uninterrupted sequence of colourful moving geometric shapes provides visual delight. Tonight on stage, as often with the Djangos, we also have James Mainwaring of Mercury Prize-nominated Roller Trio on saxophone and guitar and, although one would not expect it, his jazzy sax swims perfectly in the Django Django’s electro-surf-rock-dance-synth silver pink sea. By the way, if you need a selection of good videos to watch while on drugs, I’d definitely recommend theirs.

In his accent created in heaven, Vincent Neff says ‘Finally the Albert Hall, it’s been fucking ages!’ And tells us that he’s been to the Christmas markets and that he found them very posh. I think there’s nothing less posh than the Mancunian Christmas markets, but frankly, with that accent, Neff can say whatever, and we will always agree.

Django Django photo by Francesca Nottola

Django Django photo by Francesca Nottola

As I already wrote for the May concert, both albums are very good, but when the Djangos play live it’s really something else, their value multiplied to infinity. They are great, that music comes alive on stage, while studio versions can be a bit cold. In this intimate live session in a London cab with Vincent Neff on vocals only and bassist Jimmy Dixon on guitar (he is a great guitarist too) you can really appreciate the beauty of their harmonies, melodies and voices.

With the irresistible ‘Reflections’ we are about halfway through the band’s generous set and the crowd is wild, dancing, screaming, shrieking, throwing jackets and plastic cups in the air, getting on other people’s shoulders, sweating in a frenzy of happiness. Try not to dance to that song and let me know how long you last. Neff does not stop moving for one single second, he jumps on stage for the whole gig, while Dixon at some point gets on one amp and looks at the crowd with open arms in an iconic Jesus Christ pose. They know we love them and they do love the People of Manchester back, we can feel it.

Finally Manchester can hear ‘Waveforms’ in its full power. It’s the one that got interrupted three times in May. The trauma has been overcome now.  Tonight’s version of ‘Skies Over Cairo’ makes me think somehow that it would be great if mixed with the monstruous 1994 hit ‘La Macarena’ and that it would also be nicely surreal to have the Albert Hall dance to the Macarena. The vibe in the venue is truly incredible and the joy, wherever I look around me, is immense, people dancing everywhere. An impressive spectacle of humanity at its best. And I wonder: how can the world be so crap if something like this can happen? An existential dilemma I’ll never solve.

It’s roughly 10pm, Neff explicitly says ‘hi’ to the pregnant women in the balcony (family? friends?) and the show continues with ‘Life’s a Beach’ and ‘Wor’ and he concludes the first part of the show by thanking Manchester, saying that it is amazing to be here and that we are ‘fucking amazing’. They recently mentioned in an interview that they are very busy with family duties: it looks like weddings, babies and family life have not affected their music, in fact they may have enhanced it, which is unusual.

10.30 pm is encore time with a bit of crowd dance management: put your hands up, go down, hands first left then right etc., which I’m not a big fan of. The only 90 seconds I did not love, so not really decisive.

That’s it, three more songs and we are done. A wonderful gig, fantastic buzzing crowd. People have been dancing wildly for at least 1.30 hours and the scent of sweat surrounding me is evidence of that. It also makes me escape the merch desk very quickly though.

Thanks Django Django, please come back soon.

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Francesca Nottola

I write, translate, edit texts and take pictures. I solve problems for pensioners and create problems to everyone else. Sometimes a history researcher and language tutor, I would happily live in a national archive or in the head of professional musicians. Unfortunately, I say what I think