On a grey Oxford night, I was initiated into the world of David Devant and His Spirit Wife live at the Wheatsheaf.  Amidst the student fringe homely tattiness of the aforementioned hostelry, after a poor pint of Flowers and a better pint of lager, I wondered whether DD&HSW live could match the promise of their first two albums ... and was not disappointed.

David Devant and His Spirit wife are a Brighton quartet, consisting of Mikey Vessel, Colonel, Professor Rimshott and The Pope, with occasional involvement from Foz on guitars (as in this gig).  I won't claim huge inside knowledge of the band as I only discovered them  recently, but their background is of  band that began in the late 90's and blended rock, a large black wig, and a dash of magic and illusion into what must have been some unique stage performances and two fine albums, "Work, Lovelife, Miscellaneous' and 'Shiney On The Inside'. David Devant himself was a 19th century stage musician and the band originally saw themselves as a mouthpiece for the late Mr Devant and would call forth a doorway into the world of his dear departed spirit wife. 

Somewhat disappointingly for me as an initiate of David Devant live, the wig had been quietly but firmly placed in the past as the band were obviously focused on the impending release of their 3rd album and intent on putting themselves across as simply a damn good four piece band, playing with spirit (no pun intended) and, reassuringly from the start, intent on enjoying the show themselves.

Fuelled by chips and Pukka Pies from the shop round the corner, and despite a few early tuning problems, David Devant treated us to all the "extraneous details" from their two albums ... including 'Miscellaneous', 'The Last Ever Love Song', 'This is for Real', 'Dangerous Dilettante', 'Life on a Crescent', and the fantastic 'Space Daddy', ending the show with the inevitable 'Goodnight'.

Despite the absence of some firm favourites ('Radar', 'Lie Detector' and to one particular fan's obvious chagrin 'Ginger') and sadly no 'Auntie Mable', the David Devant devotees who came from far and wide (even Leamington Spa!) to this small, but atmospheric Oxford venue were treated to 90 minutes of quite simply great music in a relaxed but passionate atmosphere.

The old songs were interspersed with what must have been most of the new songs about to be released ... 'My Soul's Window', 'Contact', 'You Saw Me Coming', 'Lifeline', 'About It', 'Whatever Turns You On', 'Social Comet', 'Fall In Love' and 'Holiday On Ice'.  All seem accomplished, individual, in the band's past tradition and eminently listenable.

Sadly, to the great detrement of all music fans, bands like this don't seem to fare too well in these days of manufactured TV pop.  But it's reassuring to know that if you look hard enough you can find them.  David Devant and His Spirit Wife ply their trade with good humour, obvious enjoyment, and witty lyricism.  Vessel's vocals sway from the almost operatic at times to wry and sneering punk. The songs are strong and if you listen closely, the humour and social commentary are poignant.

Unlike many bands these days, each melody has it's own clear identity, each song it's message.  Listening more and more to their two previous albums, DD&HSW are growing on me and getting repeated airplay on my car stereo. This live gig did nothing to reduce my enthusiasm.

With 90 minutes over, the wigless Vessel symbolically parted the crowd, Moses-like (but without the big bushy beard), for the band to make their way through the middle of the small and merry throng to the dressing room at the rear.

Then, decent chaps that they are (or maybe simply because the broom cupboard was in fact a shoebox) they stood by the exit and shook everyone's hands as we left.  Now there's something you don't see very often - and who said they didn't even want to try! (Listen to WLM and you'll get the pun).

Yep, you've guessed, I liked them, and 6 months ago I'd never even heard of them.  There's hope left for British music yet!  I just wish they'd had the foresight to bring some more of the "New Stuff" CD's that had sold out within 5 minutes of the door opening.  Oh well, we'll just have to wait for the new album a little bit longer and keep playing then old stuff for now... life can be so hard ...











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