The CLUAS Archive: 1998 - 2011


The Duke Spirit (live in The Village, Dublin)

The Duke SpiritReview Snapshot: Undaunted by less than perfect sound, the headliners delivered up to their reputation and a set that left the crowd panting, even if the supports failed to make an impression.

The Cluas Verdict?  7 out of 10

Full Review:
Each time I go to the Village, I find another reason to dislike it as a venue. Sometimes it’s the crowd; sometimes the painfully cool and smooth veneer, its attempts at looking like an underground venue while having fake-marbled, mirror-lined bathrooms. On Sunday it was the sound. While the Village has one of the better sound systems in the Dublin area venue circuit, the effect of this is too often ruined by having the volume turned up to 11: four or five instruments become smushed into one mashed-up whole with occasional words, high registers become toneless squeals and low registers become painful thumps. So while the crowd was big and enthusiastic enough to absorb the volume – and energy – generated by the Duke Spirit, the support acts suffered.

David Hope, acting as opener, is nothing more than a big sweet man playing big sweet songs, and as such was instantly likeable, but as quickly forgettable. Sweet Jane, suffering as their sound was from the aforementioned volume problems, were only just on the bearable side of ear-popping, although whether greater clarity of sound would have improved their performance or not is difficult to say. Not only did the Dublin band take their name from another band, but it appeared most of their music too. Obviously a little too overtaken by admiration for bands of the grungy and shoegazing past, a lacklustre set culminating with their almost superfluous female singer smashing her tambourine and writhing in what she seemed to think was a seductive manner. So rock’n’roll, man.

Despite the unsubtle excellence of their debut album Cuts Across the Land, the Duke Spirit have proven that they are undoubtedly a live band. Stripped down to bare basics, their songs are simple, but have a great depth of sound, reaching down to the bowels and up to the pinnacle of the sound spectrum. After suffering from the dreaded sophomore slump – latest album Neptune simply fails to live up to its predecessor’s edge – new songs such as Sovereign, Send A Little Love Token and My Sunken Treasure were given an energy and verve to match the darker counterparts from Cuts…, such as Red Weather Hill.

As a band, the Duke Spirit are tight, original, energetic and exciting, but collective talent aside, it is equally undeniably Liela Moss that is the heart and soul. One of the best frontpersons to be seen in a band in at least a decade, she long ago reached the poise, sexiness, confidence and sheer rock energy that the aforementioned posturing Sweet Jane frontlady, among others, strives for. Her stage presence, passion, moves and that voice all combine to make her a formidable entity, a ball of blazing energy that commands your attention, although never enough to overshadow her bandmates.

The Duke Spirit records may be good, but live they pound, they scream, they rock, and they make you move.

Anna Murray

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Nuggets from our archive

2000 - 'Rock Criticism: Getting it Right', written by Mark Godfrey. A thought provoking reflection on the art of rock criticism.