On Wednesday night, Sheffield duo Drenge played a sold-out show at Liverpool’s Kazimier as part of the tour to promote their new album Undertow which was released on the 6th April. The Undertow Tour also includes dates at Nottingham, Birmingham, Gateshead, Glasgow, a hometown show at Sheffield’s Leadmill, Norwich, Bristol and London.
The Kazimier, which is scheduled to close at the end of 2015 due to the planned redevelopment of Liverpool’s Wolstenholme Square area, filled up quickly and everyone was there in time to watch four-piece Pins take to the stage. They supported Drenge for the first half of the tour, before half British, half American indie rock duo Big Deal took over. The Manchester girls entertained the crowd with a lengthy set of grungey post-punk songs that unescapably drew parallels to fellow all-girl band Warpaint. The four were joined by a fifth live member on synth and playing a tambourine vigorously. They were full of energy, dancing around the stage with glitter on their faces. I think the highlight of their set for the crowd was when their final song seamlessly transitioned into Cyndi Lauper’s ‘Girls Just Wanna Have Fun’.
At just past half 9, the lights dimmed and sent the crowd into a frenzy. Drenge emerged from the darkness. Brothers Eoin and Rory of course joined by bass player Rob Graham who played on 3 tracks on the Undertow album. The stage lighting slowly brightened. “Remember last time when the lights didn’t come on?’ joked frontman Eoin Loveless, before the band went straight into a track from Undertow: ‘Running Wild’. It got the audience going straight away. Running Wild is the second track on the album and one of the three which is aided by Rob Graham’s talents. It immediately gives the audience a preview into Undertow and its new sound. Rob Graham’s bass allows Eoin to have a crack at more complex riffs. The same can be said for Drenge’s second song of the night, ‘Side By Side’, another Undertow track.
Drenge’s third was one taken from their self-titled debut album: ‘Gun Crazy’. There was something weirdly unfamiliar and new about hearing old Drenge songs with the addition of bass. But it worked well and sounded great nevertheless. Gun Crazy was followed up by another debut album track, the aggressive ‘Nothing’. The crowd going mad as Eoin screams into the microphone “Don’t stop till I’m reduced to nothing!”.
In a small break between songs, an audience member threw a Tunnock’s caramel wafer onto the stage which was scooped up by Eoin. Drenge had told NME the week before that Undertow was mostly inspired by the sweet treats after the three had became ‘addicted’ to them while writing and recording the album. Drenge then went into their next song, ‘The Snake’, revitalised by the breather. It was another Undertow song which was really underpinned by Rob’s bass. You could even argue that it was reliant on it.
Next up, was a fan favourite, 2013 single ‘Backwaters’. The crowd seemed to absolutely love it, singing every line at the top of their voices. Bringing Backwaters to close, they charged straight into ‘We Can Do What We Want’ or ‘#WCDWWW’ as Drenge had called it on their Instagram account. It is a song which is very possibly the best of the album. Despite, the Loveless brothers telling NME that since their 2013 debut, they’ve grown up, We Can Do What We Want channels the imagery of teenage rebellion and disengagement that their debut album and of course Backwaters did.
The halfway point of the set was amusingly filled a song of the name ‘I Wanna Break You In Half’. The moshing on the ground level of the Kazimier pretty much reached its peak, as the crowd went crazy for this noisy track. Drenge’s ninth of the night was arguably the fan favourite, another 2013 single, ‘Bloodsports’. It’s a song which Drenge have played live more than any other, showing it’s popularity with their fans. Every line was sung along with, but none quite as loud as the chorus’ “And we go to all the bloodsports”. Drenge then played ‘Favourite Son’, a track from undertow with wonderful lyrics and a brilliantly catchy riff. During Favourite Son, half of the Pins quartet ran across the platform behind the Kazimier’s stage and burst confetti over drummer Rory’s head.
From there, Drenge went on to play another 3 tracks from the new album; it’s worthy namesake ‘Undertow’, the chilling- no pun intended- ‘Standing In The Cold’ and ‘Never Awake’. The audience were given the full ‘Undertow experience’ with Eoin’s sinister lyrics, Rory’s surging drums and Rob’s ever so complementary bass.
Fourteenth of the night from the Sheffield lads was another old favourite, ‘Face Like A Skull’, with guitar thrashing and drum smashing a plenty. The immense noise being emitted from the speakers and the chaos of the crowd was reminiscent of I Wanna Break You In Half.
The final two songs of Drenge’s set were a fitting finale. The penultimate song was ‘Fuckabout’. A stripped down song with playful lyrics, Eoin mumbling ‘When I put the kettle on, you put heavy metal on’, blending into angsty lines such as ‘All you wanna do is choke on the lies that you’ve been fed’. The fan favourite prompted a lot of attempts at crowd surfing.
Their last of the night was the anthemic track ‘Let’s Pretend’ from their debut album. The song grew in volume, going from delicate riffs and muttered lyrics to screeching guitar and Eoin screaming the line ‘So baby, let’s pretend’. A few fans managed to crowd surf their way onto the stage and dance around the trio, one even clinging onto Eoin as he thrashed his guitar. They were all chucked off the stage by the venue’s security of course. Towards the end of the 5 minute track, Eoin sprinted up the steps at the side of the stage, leaving a roadie furiously unravelling his guitar cord. He emerged, on the platform and crouched down to poke Rory on the top of the head with the neck of his guitar. Drenge then finished in true rock ‘n’ roll style, Rory throwing his drum sticks aside to dive off the stage and into the crowd. Eoin dropped his guitar and followed suit. They were held up proudly by their fans and passed around the room, as Rob launched his bass high into the air and just about caught it.
It’s debatable whether Drenge’s last two songs were the best because they were having trouble adjusting to their new sound and the addition of Rob Graham on bass. But at the end of the day, it was a fantastic gig and in the words of Labour MP and former general election coordinator, Tom Watson, ‘If you want to see an awesome band, I recommend Drenge’.