Having released their latest record Rituals back in August 2018 to critical acclaim and chart success, we naturally had high hopes for Deaf Havana’s headline show on Saturday night at Kreuzberg alternative staple Bi Nuu.
Considering they’ve a new sound more appropriate for rose-tinted summer evenings than slightly-above-freezing temperatures in dreary early March, their show was completely sold out, with as many revellers crammed into the venue as possible. There was none of the weird hostility that’s unfortunately so often present at Berlin gigs – everyone in attendance was solely there for the music, making for a mellow and uplifting atmosphere.
Bi Nuu is a charming venue (side note: possibly the friendliest door staff I’ve had the good fortune to encounter in Berlin), tucked away under Schlesisches Tor U-Bahn station. It’s a rabbit warren of different spaces, with a concert hall that’s big enough to accommodate the hordes of eager fans Deaf Havana tend to accumulate, but intimate enough to result in a personal and cosy performance.
Sadly, due to the indisposition of numerous bandmates, support act Airwaves weren’t able to attend. The headliners certainly made up for this – their set was packed with hits, a fluid and energetic recital which didn’t take itself too seriously. It’s fascinating to observe the evolution the band have experienced since the release of their first record more than a decade ago; their new work is something of a departure from their heavier roots, but they’ve still managed to stick to their core ethos, albeit with a rather more pop-punk sound.
Having “thrown out the Deaf Havana rulebook”, their latest album is lyrically not too far from their previous works, sentiment wise. What is notable is the shedding of their post-punk skin, with lighter melodies and stripped back instrumental parts, delicately layered to create an unexpected and curious scenario.
The theme of redemption is present throughout the record, and it wasn’t difficult to see how well this transferred to their live performances. Their current line-up of members works tremendously together – throughout the show, everyone on stage was bouncing off each other, using one another as springboards to explore new and exciting territories.
The impassioned vocals of lead singer James Veck-Gelodi certainly got an airing out on this occasion – building rich harmonies and intricately explored textures with the instrumental sections allowed his voice to breathe (with some Mariah-Carey-esque melismas making an unexpected appearance at intervals throughout the show). It can’t be denied that this was a tight performance, with the band clearly being fully in control and aware of their craft, whilst happily avoiding the trap of being over-rehearsed.
As long-time followers of the band will be more than aware, their latest release was rather risky, considering it’s such a departure from their original sound. However, as witnessed on Saturday evening, it would appear that Deaf Havana are still able to pull off a killer performance, regardless of the genre they’re experimenting with. It’s natural to wonder what the future of an artist will be after such a stark change, but if this weekend’s show is anything to go by, we’ve got a lot more to look forward to.