As The Clash’s ‘Rock The Casbah’ rings around a jam-packed Islington Assembly Hall, there’s a palpable tension in the air. It’s been well over a year since Drenge’s last tour proper; three years since second LP ‘Undertow’. And tonight’s sense of occasion is only amped up by the band themselves - the stage comes decorated by a handmade banner that brings to mind a ’50s prom reading ‘Drenge presents… Grand Reopening’, there’s a red ribbon tied between microphones, and even their tech is wearing a customised boiler suit. As the lights dim, and the foursome - bassist Ed Crisp is the newbie this time around, joining Eoin and Rory Loveless and Rob Graham - bound on stage, this might be a mid-sized venue, but there’s a mighty roar.
The ‘Grand Reopening’ means… well, an opening ceremony. Reintroducing themselves to the live stage, Eoin’s reading a speech unfolded from his breast pocket, while Rory’s gleefully preparing to cut the ribbon. “We’ve spent the last three years on a beach in Alicante,” Eoin later jokes. From the handful of new songs aired this evening - and the reworkings of old favourites they’re sprinkled around - that’s definitely not the case.
Opener ‘Bonfire’ is thunderous, Eoin’s booming vocal more like the reciting of a political manifesto than singing. Later, the frontman ditches his guitar completely. The newly-revealed ‘This Dance’ owes as much to classic rock as their debut did to filthy grunge, while ‘People In Love Make Me Feel Yuck’ is sleazed up with additional keys. Noodling guitar solos weren’t something you’d readily associate with Drenge: tonight they crop up in a few places, Rob also making very good use of his whammy.
It’s all greeted with open arms, crowd surfers and circle pits. From the tangible, limbs-flailing euphoria of hearing new takes on much-loved staples, to the teasers of new material, it’s all very exciting indeed.
Photos: Emma Swann