It did not look good, at least in the beginning, for Dean Wareham at the Islington Assembly Hall. As support act, Hefner’s Darren Hayman, concluded a run through his bittersweet catalogue there were barely a handful of people in the audience. Each was glancing nervously around, wondering if the charms of their idol had been forgotten since his most famous outfit, Galaxie 500, called it quits more than two decades ago. They needn’t have worried. By the time Wareham took to the stage, flanked by a full band, including wife Britta Philips on bass, his reputation as the doyen of slowcore-rock had been remembered, with crackling anticipation building in the air.

Long-time fans were immediately rewarded, with the set opening with 'Flowers', a woozy, psychedelic number from Galaxie 500’s 1988 album 'Today'. Immediately reminding many present what they love about him, Wareham played the deceptively heavy piece with characteristic composure, his shimmering, reed-like voice hardly having changed in the intervening years. Building a bridge to his more contemporary work, 'Flowers' was followed by the moody 'Emancipated Heart' and 'Heartless People', the latter from his recent Jim James (My Morning Jacket) produced, self-titled album. Parallels between the old and new are plentiful, with the plaintive, emotive vocals sitting atop the swirling, dreamlike music beneath.

'Holding Pattern' shook the crowd from its introspection and saw the show begin a crescendo which would climax with 'Fourth of July' from his 1990 album 'This is Our Music'. While he is known for his slower material on record, in the flesh Wareham is closer to a more traditional rock star than many would imagine. Mixing country-rock, disco, indie-pop and a tiny drop of psychedelia, the set grows increasingly raucous as it moves forward, belying his stately reputation. 'Blue Thunder' and 'Tugboat', both bona fide classics in their own right, receive a rapturous reception, while 'Love iIs Colder Than Death' shows the new material more than stands up in comparison. Back for an encore, Wareham returns to the Galaxie 500 catalogue and their cover of Joy Division’s 'Ceremony'. If anything, the song is more powerful in his hands than those of Curtis and co. – no small achievement. Having expected a night of moping rock, Wareham provides something closer to a classic rock set; tight, focused and very much on form in 2014.













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