Standing at the back of the small Brighton venue, The Haunt, it was clear that the audience were not brimming with enthusiasm for their hosts of the evening, Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats. This is a real shame, because Uncle Acid’s performance at the very same venue three years beforehand proved that they can be a great live band with an infectious energy and, given the right circumstances, that they have the ability to fire up an audience like few others.
Unfortunately, it seems that this time around, Brighton caught Uncle Acid on an off night. If, throughout the band’s rather brief 75 minute set, the crowd seemed somewhat on the apathetic side, then it was an attitude seemingly shared by those on stage. The band gave a solid but mostly unremarkable set that cast an excellent group in a somewhat jaded light.
Things started promisingly enough; opening with ‘Mt. Abraxas’. It’s one of the group’s leanest, meanest songs and none of its power is lost live. Granted, the vocals have a little less presence and depth to them live than in the studio, but nevertheless it was a fine way to open the evening.
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The majority of their set was fairly enjoyable but rarely scintillating. Their tried-and-tested mid-tempo doom metal-come-psych pop formula works wonderfully when delivered right, but can fall very flat if not performed with the right amount of gusto. The main problem with their set was that the band couldn’t seem to muster the enthusiasm needed to bring their songs to life.
It didn’t take a genius to notice that large swaths of the audience were less than impressed with the group’s performance. There was a good amount of audience chatter throughout their set – particularly a problem during the show’s one moment of subtlety and quiet, ‘Slow Death’. It’s a brilliant song and in the right circumstances it would have been a set highlight, instead its ominous atmosphere is completely quashed by a wall of crowd noise. The audience are surprisingly stilted for a metal gig, with barely any movement at all, even towards the front. This clearly irked the band, as on a few occasions, the audience is chastised for its lack of movement, at one point being called “zombie fuckers” and at another being begged “for the love of god, fucking move”.
Almost 3 years ago to the very day, Uncle Acid played the same venue to the same sized audience and the atmosphere both on stage and off was very different. During that evening, the band gave a hugely enthusiastic, energetic performance which, in addition to a crowd that was far more enthusiastic, saw them play to a montage of old horror and biker film clips that added a hugely entertaining visual aspect to their performance.
The sheer energy of their last gig at The Haunt only serves to highlight what their second performance at venue should have been. At no point during their show were they bad – in fact, there were a few moments of great lead guitar work that bettered anything the band did during their last show at The Haunt – but they were often merely OK. It would be easy to blame this lack of synergy on the audiences’ disinterested shoulders – and it was certainly a factor – but, if Uncle Acid had given a more dynamic, enthusiastic performance and managed to maintain the quality of the set’s high points, the audience would have no doubt been more receptive to the band’s charms.
It’s a shame that Uncle Acid’s performance was blasé this time around, because they’ve already proved that they can be a powerful live force when they want to be. It’s hard to say exactly what triggered a decent but underwhelming set, but the short runtime, lack of projections and seen-it-done-it attitude of most both on stage and in the audience certainly didn’t help. Uncle Acid are a great band and tonight’s show didn’t change this fact; but it is disappointing to see a band with so much live potential phone-in a mediocre set. Perhaps it’s best to chalk it down to an off night.