Dog is Dead @ O2 Academy2 – 19/02/12

There’s nothing quite like standing at the back of a venue full of teenagers for making you feel old. You know, at the back, with the dad’s, who’ve reluctantly come along to escort their not-quite-fourteen-yet daughters to the gig, so they can scream and giggle at their favourite Jack Wills wearing, Ed Sheeran covering, singer-songwriter. That’s not to say there’s anything particularly awful about Lewis Watson, the Jack Wills wearing, Ed Sheeran covering singer songwriter who’s opening tonight’s gig, indeed, he’s pretty adept at what he does, showcasing a set of covers and originals – along with the aforementioned Sheeran, he does Paolo Nutini’s ‘Rewind’ and a nice version of Bon Iver’s ‘Skinny Love’. His originals, however, fall rather flat in comparison, at times repetitive, and not quite substantial enough to hold their own next to his covers.

Main support tonight comes from Birmingham based five piece, Boat to Row, who are very much a band riding on the back of the nouveau folk movement. Firmly eschewing the ‘nuclear band’ format, they come equipped with an array of instruments, from banjo to violin to mandolin, and their music is suitably jaunty and uncomplicated. Singer Michael King – who, at times, looks exactly like Brian, the geeky one from The Breakfast Club – carries the songs well vocally, although when the band add in other voices to harmonise, there’s something slightly awkward about how they fit together. They’re a pleasant enough band, there’s just nothing immediate that jumps out at you, and in a genre so oversaturated with identical bands, immediacy is everything.

By the time Dog Is Dead take to the stage (after a forty minute break – not like in my day!), the room is comfortably half full. A wave of atmospheric synth builds up into the opening lines of early single ‘River Jordan’ which displays the beautifully rich five part vocal harmonies so distinctive to the band. These harmonies continue into the saxophone led ‘Young’, with the crowd joining in at the chorus, to the apparent surprise of the band. They introduce new single ‘Two Devils’ – released 4th of March – as the song “we’ve made a creepy youtube video for”, there’s nothing demonstrably “creepy” about the song itself, but then what can you expect from a band as upbeat as Dog Is Dead.

It’s back to two guitars and a bass for ‘Hands Down’, which provides a set highlight, some of the crowd even attempting a mosh pit half as the song fades into the refrain, “the greatest thing about this I’m telling you hands down”. The fact that the band leave the stage without having played their featured-on-Skins big hit ‘Glockenspiel Song’, means an encore is inevitable, though from the elated reaction of the audience when the band return to the stage, you wouldn’t have guessed. They end the set to jumping, cheering and a slightly more successful resurgence of the mosh pit; kids these days are so rowdy! With the closing chords of ‘Glockenspiel Song’ stuck steadfastly in my head, I guess I’ll go home to my slippers and cocoa.

Photo by Nicole Broad