NATION OF LANGUAGE + WALT DISCO – CONCORDE 2, BRIGHTON 28.9.23
“Today had been a marvellous day, especially with England beating Iran 6-2 at the World Cup, but tonight’s performance was amazingly even better than that for me! Ian, Aidan, Alex and manager Georgie take note and book another Brighton date as soon as possible!”
It seems that the Nation of Language trio consisting of husband and wife duo Ian Richard Devaney (lead vocals, guitar, synthesizer) and Aidan Noell (synthesizer, backing vocals) as well as bassist Alex MacKay thought the same and thankfully planned another Brighton date as part of their tour to promote their third LP ‘Strange Disciple’ which dropped a couple of weeks ago on 15th September.
They hail from Brooklyn, New York and have made a name for themselves creating music from another lifetime. From signing to PIAS mid-campaign, selling out a UK tour months in advance, to the release of their top quality albums, 2020’s ‘Introduction, Presence’ and 2021’s ‘A Way Forward’ albums, and newbie ‘Strange Disciple’, Nation of Language are a band that seriously needs to be on every synthpop fans radar, whether you are stuck in 1979 or revel in discovering new acts flying the flag for the genre.
This evening, Nation of Language entertain us for 78 minutes from 9:34pm until 10:52pm and during that time they perform 16 compositions, 5 of which can be found on their debut long-player ‘Introduction, Presence’, 4 are from their second album ‘A Way Forward’ and the remaining 7 are found on the new ‘Strange Disciple’ album.
A tell-tale sign of the band’s quest for world domination is in their choice of intro tune this evening, that being Leonard Cohen’s ‘First We Take Manhattan’. No doubt they started their quest in Manhattan and Brooklyn, before expanding right across New York and the rest of the USA and onto the UK (8 dates on this tour) and Europe (9 dates on this tour) and then after that they will be returning home to the USA to play 26 dates from October onwards.
Tonight they open with ‘Spare Me The Decision’ (from ‘Strange Disciple’) which has a lovely deep bass synth sound, and is followed by ‘Rush & Fever’ which features a more bouncy beat, cue first dance of the night! Another newbie swiftly follows as they perform ‘Sole Obsession’, a tune which my colleagues likened to the intro of Freeez’s 1983’s ‘I.O.U’ hit, which we first encountered in the summer when we made our way to Koko in London to see them. On that night Ian told us that this song brings back memories of 2017 when he proposed to his beautiful wife and afterwards they went off and played at The Half Moon in Putney after which they slept on a bench in Heathrow Airport.
‘On Division St’ was their fourth offering tonight and was delivered with aplomb. They informed us that their tour manager is from Brighton (that’s Georgie listed above) and jokingly added that it always rains when they play here. ‘Stumbling Still’ from the new LP had a great twangy bass riff going down courtesy of Alex and is interspersed with decent synth keys from Aidan. It’s adequately described in just two words “A blinder!” and ensured that I would be visiting their merch stall afterwards in order to snap up the clear vinyl version of the new release.
Their sixth choice was ‘The Grey Commute’ (from ‘A Way Forward’ album) witnessed Ian take to the guitar for the first time tonight, and the song bore more than a passing resemblance to 1977’s ‘Hiroshima Mon Amour’ by Ultravox! which was way ahead of its time and had coincidentally been played across the soundsystem not long before the band came on stage this evening. Up until this point Aidan had been raising her hair above her head at various stages. I assumed that this may have been some extra seductive way of feeling the music and putting it across to us. But no, she was in fact struggling with it and so enquired as to whether anyone had a spare hair tie. The young lady in the front row just along from me dutifully obliged and the hair malfunction was rectified!
The crowd favourite and earworm ‘September Again’ was the trio’s next selection. The heavy boom of the bass notes on the synth certainly tested my ears at this point. Ian then took to his guitar again for another newbie in the form of ‘Sightseer’, but brought the euphoria levels down a tad. As with the three Nation of Language gigs I have thus far attended, they don’t go for introducing any of the songs, but simply rely on the music speaking for itself. So we are thankfully (again) free of any cheesy small talk that others may use.
The simplistic but effective plinky OMD style keys and thumping bass synth signalled the arrival of ‘Wounds Of Love’, after which we had one of the (many) set highlights in the form of the Depeche Mode ‘New Life’-esque ‘This Fractured Mind’, which witnessed Ian briefly joining Aidan on keys, when he wasn’t dancing about the stage and making his grey shirt darker with his sweat.
A couple of tunes from ‘Strange Disciple’ were up next, the first of which being the dreamy retro feeling ‘Too Much, Enough’ (another reason for buying the album), which saw Ian on guitar again, and it’s culmination had keys sounding a tad like Gary Numan’s ‘We Are Glass’. The second choice being ‘Weak In Your Light’ which has the vibe of ‘Autobahn’ by Kraftwerk. Alex then went into Peter Hook mode with his bass as they finished off the main set with ‘The Wall & I’ which is the closest they came to sounding like New Order.
There were a trio of encore tunes for us this evening, one from each of their three albums. They began with ‘Automobile’ (from the 2020 ‘Introduction, Presence’ album), followed by ‘A New Goodbye’ (found on ‘Strange Disciple’ album) which was quite possibly the tune of the night for me. This had a real retro vibe and bore strong similarities musically and vocally to the criminally underrated band from a decade ago, who went by the name of Mirrors.
They signed off after Ian stated that “This has been f*cking awesome” (he wasn’t wrong) with fan favourite ‘Across That Fine Line’ (from the 2021 ‘A Way Forward’ album), which saw Ian on guitar again. This is a really boppy number with its bouncy electronic beat, including some twinkly Moog notes and decent Akai synth tones and was a great way to end the show. Eight minutes before curfew, they were done, cue beeline to queue up for merch! I can report that both Nation of Language and their support act queues were very busy indeed, with as many t-shirts being sold as vinyl and CDs. Thus a very successful night all round!
Nation of Language:
Ian Richard Devaney – lead vocals, guitar, synthesizer
Aidan Noell – synthesizer, backing vocals
Alex MacKay – bass guitar, backing vocals
Nation of Language setlist:
(Intro tape) ‘First We Take Manhattan’ by Leonard Cohen
‘Spare Me The Decision’ (from 2023 ‘Strange Disciple’ album)
‘Rush & Fever’ (from 2020 ‘Introduction, Presence’ album)
‘Sole Obsession’ (from 2023 ‘Strange Disciple’ album)
‘On Division St’ (from 2020 ‘Introduction, Presence’ album)
‘Stumbling Still’ (from 2023 ‘Strange Disciple’ album)
‘The Grey Commute’ (from 2021 ‘A Way Forward’ album)
‘September Again’ (from 2020 ‘Introduction, Presence’ album)
‘Sightseer’ (from 2023 ‘Strange Disciple’ album)
‘Wounds Of Love’ (from 2021 ‘A Way Forward’ album)
‘This Fractured Mind’ (from 2021 ‘A Way Forward’ album)
‘Too Much, Enough’ (from 2023 ‘Strange Disciple’ album)
‘Weak In Your Light’ (from 2023 ‘Strange Disciple’ album)
‘The Wall & I’ (from 2020 ‘Introduction, Presence’ album)
‘Automobile’ (from 2020 ‘Introduction, Presence’ album)
‘A New Goodbye’ (from 2023 ‘Strange Disciple’ album)
‘Across That Fine Line’ (from 2021 ‘A Way Forward’ album)
Support this evening came from Glasgow’s Walt Disco who will be returning back to Brighton when they support OMD at Brighton Dome on 26th March (Tickets HERE) and then again the following night at Eastbourne Winter Garden (Tickets HERE).
Back on 1st April last year, Walt Disco dropped their debut long-player, ‘Unlearning’, which held a dozen examples of their work and tonight they would perform four tunes from the album as well as a trio of other tunes, which I think are currently unreleased, as part of their 29 minute set that commenced at 8:30pm on the dot.
The outfit consists of Jocelyn (James Potter) on vocals, Charlie Lock on Squier Precision bass, Finlay McCarthy on guitar and keyboards, Lewis Carmichael on guitars and Jack Martin on drums and by my reckoning tonight is at least their seventh gig in Brighton including having previously played at One Church and Horatios as part of 2019’s ‘Great Escape‘. The others being pre-Covid gigs at The Hope & Ruin in October 2019, Green Door Store in November 2019, and the post Covid gigs at The Hope & Ruin in November 2021 and Green Door Store in October 2022.
It’s a breath of fresh air when you come across a band that are doing their own thing and are quite difficult to pigeonhole and certainly Walt Disco falls into this category. I suspect that many journalists have pondered when endeavouring to describe the Walt Disco sound and image, and no doubt mine will be added into that mix.
The way I see it is that they have a queer New Romantic vibe going down, with vocally the tones of Dundee’s Billy Mackenzie (RIP) of The Associates, who themselves released an unauthorised cover version of David Bowie’s ‘Boys Keep Swinging’ as their debut single in 1979. And there I would suggest, lies the inspirational key for Walt Disco! Their third tune tonight, ‘Come Undone’ certainly reminded me of a chugging beat style version of David Bowie’s 1979 ‘DJ’ single from the ‘Lodger’ album.
Their opening number was ‘Gnomes’ (the plural of Bowie’s 1967 release?) and I suspect that the crooning style vocals took many of the crowd by surprise. Tune two was the first of four from the album in the form of ‘Cut Your Hair’, in which I spied some unusual neck guitar playing from Lewis. This tune had more oomph than the opener and Finlay’s keyboard playing was thankfully louder in the mix. Overall this track reminded me of Classix Nouveaux, who were on the go from 1979 to 1985.
As the Walt Disco set progressed the venue started to fill out more. Surprisingly tonight’s gig had not sold out, which is a shame, but no doubt when those that attended report their account of the night to friends, then there will be more punters next time around.
Walt Disco’s tunes four and five segued into each other but were very different beasts. The first of these being ‘The Captain’ which had a slower beat than its predecessor but benefitted from a decent keys break within the track. The second was ‘If I Had A Perfect Life’, which saw Finlay putting the Roland synth through its paces with some sharp bleep action across a dance beat. This for me was their best number.
Finlay switches to guitar, to join Lewis on the other for the jaunty sounding ‘Macilent’, which saw Walt Disco offering their heavier sound and thus wandering into Nine Inch Nails territory. They signed off with ‘Weightless’ which was another heavy sounding dance epic, which witnessed Finlay juggling between synths and guitar. If he heard it, I’m sure Gary Numan would be a fan of this track.
At 8:59pm they were done and I was slightly taken aback by the almost deafening applause from the punters who were showing the love. It’s fair to say that Walt Disco came and conquered!
Jocelyn (James Potter) – vocals
Charlie Lock – bass, backing vocals
Finlay McCarthy – guitar, keys and backing vocals
Lewis Carmichael – guitars
Jack Martin – drums
Walt Disco setlist:
‘Cut Your Hair’ (from 2022 ‘Unlearning’ album)
‘Come Undone’ (unreleased?)
‘The Captain’ (unreleased?)
‘If I Had A Perfect Life’ (from 2022 ‘Unlearning’ album)
‘Macilent’ (from 2022 ‘Unlearning’ album)
‘Weightless’ (from 2022 ‘Unlearning’ album)