All singing, all dancing Manchester show

In the high pitched yelped words of the Bee Gees, you should be dancing. And Darwin Smith wants to show you how. The 4 man dance machine enter the stage to a hip hop introduction which, somewhat bizarrely, samples The Spice Girls’ “Wannabe”, before breaking into a symphony of perfectly synchronised boyband moves. Is this the right gig?

It turns out this is regular form for Darwin Deez, who launch into 2010 single ‘Up In The Clouds’, a song about hoping for a carefree, joyful state of love. And it may be something about the atmosphere of respite on a Bank Holiday weekend, but Darwin and his cohorts transport us effortlessly to such a place, for a brief few minutes on an overcast Monday night in Manchester.

When Smith stops to address the audience, it is to apologise about his lack of football knowledge, and introduce a “prayer for America”, which turns out to be a giggleworthy cod ballet to the tune of Enya, of which Natalie Portman would be proud. It promptly turns into some very angry dancing, soundtracked by a sample of RATM’s Zack De La Rocha shouting a lot. This is polar opposite of Alex Turner and his po faced mates delivering one song after another, with sleep inducing lack of irony and fun. Instead, it’s live music as a pure expression of joy.

If Smith’s antics broadcast to us that we should not take them seriously, their innocent, thought provoking and emotive music demands the opposite. Punctuated by more synchronised dancing to the adulation of the packed crowd, they faithfully deliver the majority of last year’s self titled debut LP, which, aside from obvious singles, reveals many hidden, overlooked gems. ‘Constellations’, for example, cleverly compounds a wistful tune with an existential yearning. ’Bed Space’ continues the theme, combining heartbreak with quantum physics and space travel.

A plaintive guitar introduction and instrumental transform magically into DD’s biggest, radio-friendly hit, ‘Radar Detector’, to which the whole audience are inspired to wave their hands in the air, no mean feat for a support act. Perhaps it’s a suggestion of things to come for humble 4 piece, who have been touring these songs for over 2 years now.

And for his next trick, the half-black singer songwriter, dubbed the “Michael Jackson of indie rock” ends with some impromptu hip hop and dancing which at times, hovers dangerously close to a mean imitation of The Village People doing ‘YMCA’ via The Beastie Boys.

Finally, as the band stand to take easily the hugest round of applause of the weekend, it’s clear that with their showmanship, and sense of fun, we have seen the biggest, most appreciated act of the weekend, a revelation for many. And while earnest, anthemic headliners Hurts may have their name emblazoned across the stage, they will have half of this audience, and half the appreciation. It’s clear who tonight’s biggest star is.

Words by Abbas Ali

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