Live Review: Heavy Lungs’ Bristol Thekla homecoming

Heavy Lungs at Liverpool Sound City (Gary Mather for Live4ever)

Heavy Lungs at Liverpool Sound City (Gary Mather for Live4ever)

For the uninitiated the Thekla is unique in the UK – a boat, moored on Bristol’s Floating Harbour.

However, by virtue of being a former cargo ship it has some design necessities that don’t fully lend themselves to gigs: when it’s packed it becomes very difficult to get to the front because of a bottleneck, and therefore it can be hard to fully hear and appreciate the performance, through no fault of the band. This was a packed gig.

Because it was a homecoming gig, and there’s nothing quite like one of those. After traveling the country or the world, bands may want to reconnect with their roots no matter how good a tour it’s been. The appetite from the crowd is not only more anticipatory but also more forgiving. You can feel the crackling. Essentially there’s just a lot more love in the room.

After playing their first European tour, Heavy Lungs have wisely chosen their hometown as the last night on a quick jaunt around the country, to play at one of its most famous venues and, having recently been refurbished, the Thekla may have to replace the roof that the band seem so intent on tearing off. Nor are they relying on the crowd reaction, they earn it on merit by giving it their all. It’s a suffocating whirlpool of aggressive rock music that demonstrates the true timeless power of the art form.

As with all the best rock bands the power is held by the drummer, and Heavy Lungs have a phenomenal one in George Garratt. It’s a bravura performance of power and aggression in the style of John Bonham and is the key ingredient of the band’s sky-scraping punk. He does well to distract from singer Danny Nedelko, who is a preening, posturing frontman in the lineage of Jim Morrison and Brett Anderson (complete with removal of shirt). Never still, he’s either lost in the music with sweeping new wave flamboyancy or he’s letting it wash over him. Engaging as any great frontperson should be.

It’s been a productive year for the band, and there’s variation in the set; Stutter, as the name suggests, takes a while to get going (by design) and sounds like Graham Coxon having a wet dream. Self Worth is Queens Of The Stone Age on speed, as the drummer wryly points out, thanking them when the song concludes. Meanwhile, Unfaithful One evolves into a dark, drum-driven wormhole as Danny joins what feels like every member of the audience in crowd-surfing.

By their own admission, Heavy Lungs aren’t the finished article yet; the ambition is to keep evolving, keep writing better songs and then eventually become the biggest and best in the world.

Yet in terms of crowd participation and adulation, it’s hard to see how much further they can go.

Richard Bowes

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