De Staat & Shht
The Castle & Falcon Birmingham
November 9th 2019
De Staat have bought their ‘Bubble Gum’ tour to grace our shores, bringing Belgium’s amazingly bizarre Shtt along for the ride. Louderthanwar’s Christopher Lloyd was there to review a dual attack of perfect European Pop.
There’s something in the European waters that seems to take what your average run of the mill pop band and turns them into something much more eccentric and exciting. This was displayed to perfection with the openers of the night, Shht. Five Belgian fellas in boiler suits and dodgy head wear, and in the case of the vocalist their band logo shaved onto the back of his head, Shht had the audience perplexed before they’d hit their first note. The bands debut album Love Love Love is a ferociously diverse mix of styles that results in a sound that one imagines would be close to something that Brian Wilson and the Ween brothers would make, had they had all found themselves inadvertently inside Beefheart’s infamous LSD shed before chomping the Plastic Band’s leftover psychedelics and laying down a slab of art-pop weirdness with big fuck off choruses and warm, vocoder heavy vocals.
Rather than try and replicate the sound of the album on the live stage, Shtt take the songs from the debut and give it a funkier and at times, harder edge. Profit, is a vastly different live beast from it’s smooth chorused, original version, showcasing an edgier grit to a band who only a few minutes prior had managed to bemuse the with ‘Africa’, an acapella Sparks meets Mighty Boosh Crimp style jam. Africa is undoubtedly funny when dropped into the middle of a set that doesn’t let up on the energy front, however underneath its somewhat light and fluffy sound is a rather complex set of vocal harmonies which one would assume takes intense concentration to perform live. The song also shows a serious conviction to their musical craft which can be somewhat lost behind the light and frothy image the band employ onstage.
The half-hour whirlwind set drew to a close with a logo-haired, boiler suited vocalist raving his way in ecstatic fury through the audience whom they had in the palm of their hands, baying for more, and thereby setting up one hell of a challenge for headliners De Staat to follow.
De Staat are huge in their homeland of the Netherlands. Recently hand-picked by Muse to join them on their Drones stadium tour, the band is a slick unit that have a definite stadium band fee. Tellingly, parked up outside was the bands tour bus, one that seemed to be longer than the venue they found themselves playing in. De Staat’s fifth and latest album, Bubble Gum, is full of finely crafted songs that you can imagine watching a sea of lasers float over your heads at some massive warehouse or field whilst dancing your little legs off.
When performing live, you can go one of two ways when playing songs as intricate as Me Time and Psycho Disco when in small pub type venue. You can either go down the arena set route and risk coming across as over polished, or you can dive into the anomalous nature of finding yourselves in such a small venue and to treat it as a party, to really strip things down and embrace the fun.
De Staat took former route. Whilst every track was note perfect and the band played some absolute bangers, such as Mona Lisa, my personal favourite track by any band this year, there seemed to be an element of interaction missing that one can only hope was due to the band being so focused on presenting such a tight show that really would be more suited to a 2000+ capacity venues that they are used to. To follow a newish band such as Shht that are all fired up on of their first forays into a big tour was never going to be an easy task, and whilst De Staat didn’t quite pull off the perfect gig, it still had its fair share of impressive moments and would undoubtedly land better in the larger rooms the band are accustomed to.
Words and Photographs by Christopher Lloyd. More writing by Christopher can be found at his author’s archive.