AWOLNATION Live Review with Itch and Kongos, Heaven, London 15th February 2013

AWOLNATION band photo

Having never been to a gig at Heaven (which is normally a gay club), we are quite sceptical of it as a live music venue. Upon entering we quickly realise that Heaven has all of the vibe of a good old fashioned underground rock club. Awesome!

Tonight’s first support band are South African brothers (via London where three were born) Kongos. The first thing which strikes u is that the drummer, Jesse Kongos, is on lead vocals. Now we have nothing wrong with this per se, in fact some of the greatest vocalists of all time have been behind a drum kit (Phil Collins and Don McClean to name a few), however it is a little disconcerting when the bassist, Dylan Kongos, is centre stage. You really expect him to be singing, so when vocals appear and his mouth does not open, it’s more than a little strange. This aside, Kongos are actually a great live band. Their sound is funky without being cheesy, full of rhythm and solid groove. Its not long before the audience are tapping their toes and bopping their heads. Kongos music is a mix between reggae and indie pop, however heads turn when rapper Mozart joins the band for an interesting rendition of The Beatles classic Come Together. Having already supported Linkin Park in their native South Africa, we’re confident that Kongos will do big things.

Next up is former The King Blues vocalist Itch. Having interviewed Itch earlier in the day we’re really excited to see what this enigmatic young man has to bring, and we are not disappointed. There’s nothing quite like a hometown show, This If For The Spooky Kids and closing track London Is Burning Go Down especially well. Full of all the energy and testosterone of youth, no one can deny that Itch’s performance is infectiously passionate. His sound is different from the ska sound of The King Blues, it’s a lot heavier and grittier, but Itch’s throaty voice more than does it justice. For all that Itch has gone solo he still has a backing band. Most noticeably is a green haired bombshell Dani Artaud, who’s shrill vocals and enthusiastic percussion efforts give the band an N-Dubz feel. Probably not quite what Itch is aiming for, but still good fun.

Headliners AWOLNATION open their set with a psychedelic intro before launching in to Jump On My Shoulders. The assembled trendy kids are quickly bopping their heads in appreciation. AWOLNATION have a sound which is hard to describe, it’s not quite rock, it’s not quite dance, but treads across the lands in between. Due to this it is hard for us to quite understand what they’re trying to achieve, but it doesn’t seem to be a problem for the audience who lap it up. Vocalist Aaron Bruno skips across the stage like the Duracell bunny on acid, and you can’t help but admire his passion. Burn It Down and Sail go down especially well, and the encore of a cover of Bill Withers’ Lean On Me is stripped back and simple, the crowd love it. Final track Knights of Shame has everyone jumping, dancing and going crazy. AWOLNATION may not be our cup of tea, but there’s no denying that they gave their fans a great show tonight.

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