Allo Darlin’: Islington – live review

Allo Darlin’
Islington Assembly Hall
31st October 2013

Allo Darlin’ played a short tour ahead of recording sessions for their forthcoming third LP and Willow Colios went to check out the London date at Islington Assembly Hall.

Comedian Louis CK has said that he starts every new tour with the best material from his last. Whatever jokes he used to close previous shows he puts at the start of the new show to keep him sharp and always improving the set. It seems a good technique and it’s one employed by Allo Darlin’ tonight as they kick off with single Dreaming, often a set closer or encore at past shows, now just thrown in at the off.

It’s a sign of the confidence the band now has. With two excellent albums already, 2010’s eponymous debut and last years’ Europe, a third on the way, and having toured extensively in the US and Europe they have loads of great songs to draw from. Tonight must be one of their larger London gigs to date in this 1930’s built dance hall complete with sprung floor that, while not being utilized for a full-on mosh pit, does get tested by pockets of the excited crowd who really get into some of the faster songs.

There are new songs interspersed with the old, including We Come From The Same Place and one that’s surely a future single, History Lessons. The latter is redolent of the hopefulness of the older songs with lyrics that bridge both the day to day of  coffee cups leaving stains on A-Z’s and bigger themes with killer lines like “You can try to live in the moment and I’ll contain my rebel heart”.


“We feel like a proper band with a smoke machine” says Elizabeth, showing that the band have lost none of their humble charm despite playing in larger, grander venues such as this one. The best exponents of the ukulele in modern pop, Allo Darlin’ don’t do ROCK as such but Paul Rains’ guitar gives them just the right Teenage Fanclub riffology in places. I’d never have said they sound like The Velvet Underground though but in tribute to the recently departed Lou Reed they announce  “Our song that sounds the most like The Velvet Underground”. To be fair to them, Neil Armstrong isn’t too far off and could probably slip onto Loaded without too much trouble.

A heartbreaking solo rendition of Talulah begins the encore and the tale of youthful reminiscence is truly moving. It taps into deep feelings because the words aren’t throwaway. They are carefully chosen, the imagery so honestly and vividly described and the emotion so heartfelt. (It also takes it’s name from a rather good Go Betweens album which you should definitely try to find).

The band end with a flourish,  with a slightly unexpected run through Darren, a single but not a well known hit as such. But it’s all they need to do as its actually a little gem amongst their set of so many almost perfect pop songs. They are on top form and can’t really put a foot wrong tonight.

Bring on the new LP and more dates in 2014.


Allo Darlin’ records can be bought from their label  Fortuna Pop , and you can find them on Facebook

All words by Willow Colios. More writing by Willow on Louder Than War can be found at his author’s archive. You can follow him on Twitter @ShootTheSinger.

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