Dutch Uncles in The Workman’s Club on Dublin 25th April 2015

It’s remarkable that the only misjudged thing about Dutch Uncles’ most recent Dublin headline show was the decor. With one-sixth of their live line-up unable to attend due to taking part in the London Marathon, it was going to be interesting to see how the Manchester outfit’s technical brand of forward-thinking pop came across, but in any case, the Workman’s Club should have set up its main room as a dance floor and not something befitting an acoustic gig.

Even if it took the crowd a few songs to get into the spirit of things, the band didn’t waste any time, bounding on stage around 9.30pm and launching into a brace of songs from their recent 4th LP, ‘O Shudder’; Babymaking and flagship single In n Out set the tone, the latter earning a flicker of recognition from those in attendance, mostly new converts or those simply along for the ride.

The last time Dutch Uncles visited Dublin was for the 2012 Dublin Crawl, referenced by frontman Duncan Wallis after he and his cohorts blasted through the title track from second LP ‘Cadenza’, dedicated to those who saw them almost three years ago. A lot has changed since then, with ‘O Shudder’ having put them on the map to a considerable extent. Newer songs made up the bulk of the set, with a sprinkling of older material here and there.

The newer material translates quite well to the stage, but what makes songs from ‘Cadenza’ and their self-titled debut stand out is their ‘unique interpretations’ at this show, with Wallis introducing their first encore, I Owe Someone For Everything (from their ‘German album’ – ‘Dutch Uncles’ was recorded and released in Germany first) as “one of the only songs from our debut we can play“. Coming from a member of a band that’s known for complexity, that’s a strong statement. Having added a touring keyboard player/guitarist (Henry Broadhead, guitarist Pete’s younger brother) to their live setup, there’s never a dull moment on stage, with instrument swapping aplenty.

With all the off-kilter rhythms on display, you’d be forgiven for trying to work out what time signature the band are playing in instead of following Wallis’s lead and getting down to the likes of Fester (rendered particularly danceable by the singer’s infectious moves, which were mesmerising even on a crowded stage), but they came armed with hooks that got the audience moving whether they wanted to or not; such is the focus on rhythm in their music that drummer Andy Proudfoot would surely be the centre of attention if not for Wallis. (On that note: what a surname for a drummer. I’m sure he’s proud of all four of his limbs.)

Racing off stage after an aggressive take on Dressage, the band returned for a run through I Owe Someone… as well as a couple of more recent tracks: Flexxin (which received a fantastic response) and ‘O Shudder’ highlight Be Right Back, which culminated in an extended jam that gets more or less everyone in the room moving. It may have taken the whole show to make a real impact, but you can bet that they made an impression on plenty of people. Despite playing to a sea of new faces, Dutch Uncles know the value of patience – hopefully we won’t have to wait another three years for another gig on these shores.