The Duke Spirit are, if anything, dedicated. After three albums with little mainstream success, they are still out on the road, touring and releasing albums for the love of it. They are the Bear Grylls of music. Eating giant larva, drinking piss, sleeping with pandas, cannibalism – anything to stay alive. Well, maybe not, but they are still here which is quite a feat. They didn’t crash and burn like so many indie bands who emerged out of the pages of NME in the mid-2000s. But neither have they had that magical resurrection like the Kings of Leon, Elbow or Arcade Fire on their 3/4th album, when everything suddenly started to go right.
Despite surviving so long, I still couldn’t name you a single song of theirs. I had never really bothered to listen to them and I’m sure I’m not the only one. I brazenly presumed that they were a middle-of-the-road indie band with dull songs and an even more pedestrian live show. I’m glad to say I was completely and utterly wrong.
The band tore up the stage from the second they walked on. Singer Liela Moss strutted round the stage, swinging the mic stance and pulling the best sultry voguing she could muster. She has the attitude of Joan Jett and the looks of Kate Moss all wrapped in one. The music has much of the same qualities. It’s not quite ‘Girls Girls Girls’ but it could easily be played in the dirtiest deep-south rock’n’roll strip clubs. It was dark, lurid and sleazy, in the best sense. Heavy, meaty guitars with killer riffs full of sex, aggression and attitude. At one point I found myself shocked and surprised to realise I was actually in the middle of a rock gig. Then moments later, a harmonica was unveiled and my fate was sealed. I was now a Duke Spirit fan. Not that it was totally without its problems. Some of the songs could be more distinctive and individual to stand out more and Liela’s voice is never really given the chance to shine. But in terms of the live show, it was a masterful and hugely enjoyable performance.
The biggest shame was the size of the crowd. It wasn’t unsubstantial, but it was a little thin. If The Duke Spirit had formed and just released their début album in 2012, they’d probably be hailed as the ‘Saviours of Guitar Music’ and the room would’ve been packed. Sometimes its a shame bands can’t start again or wipe the slate clean with peoples preconceptions. You certainly wonder with The Duke Spirit how different things could be.