Review: Deaf Havana @ The Lemon Grove

Norfolk rock band, Deaf Havana, played the last of their thirteen UK tour dates in our very own The Lemon Grove on Saturday 25th November, before jetting off to spend the next few weeks touring Germany. With recently reworked versions of songs taken from their fourth album, All These Countless Nights, which was released in January of this year and topped the UK Independent Albums Chart in February, Deaf Havana did not disappoint their Devonian fan base. As one of many who witnessed James Veck-Gilodi announce that this album was on its way during the Deaf Havana set at Leeds Festival 2006, I found myself at home amongst the Lemon Grove crowd as we shared our excitement to finally see the band in the flesh once again.

Opening with Fever, the fifth track on their most recent album, the band got the crowd moving from the off-set. Drummer, Tom Ogden, who has been playing with Deaf Havana since the band formed in 2005, did not hold back in this rocky number. With strobe lighting as heavy as the beat, fans were treated to an energetic performance that lived up to expectations of a final night gig. This was followed by the 2016 single Sing and then Mildred from the Old Souls album of 2013, with both of these songs succeeding to maintain the souring moods and high-energy established with Fever.

As a long term fan of Deaf Havana, I was exceedingly happy when Things Change, Friends Leave and Time Doesn’t Stop for Anybody was next in their varied set. I brought along my friend who had never come across Deaf Havana’s music before, and he was forced to put up with my many remarks of ‘OMG I love this song!’ and ‘I feel fourteen again!’ screeched into his ear as the band treated us to a few more gems from the Fools and Worthless Liars 2011 album. These included Leeches, Anemophobia and Hunstanton Pier, the latter being a soft, nostalgic ode to the hometown where the original band members grew up. As I was reminded of my first Deaf Havana gig experience back in 2012 when they supported fellow rockers, Architects, I surveyed the tightly-packed room and caught a handful of other fans mouthing all of the lyrics to these throwback numbers.

Having become accustomed to the idea of The Lemon Grove as a hive for fresher students, where I would sadly stick out as a too-old twenty-something amongst the eighteen year olds, it really did feel like a whole new venue for the Deaf Havana gig. I was pleasantly surprised to see fans of all ages come together to celebrate good music. It seems that the phrase ‘your vibe attracts your tribe’ is actually rather accurate, as James and Matthew Veck-Gilodi made jokes between playing such as ‘just a few more songs to get through and then we can all go and get a drink together at the bar!’ Maybe it is this down-to-earth, chilled out vibe that appeals to their fans, who turn up ready to have a good time and enjoy a friendly atmosphere.

When new track, Trigger, set off the encore, the crowd were ecstatic. The catchy repetition of the line ‘I held the gun but you pulled the trigger and we watched it all go’, ensured that every person in the building was able to sing along by the second chorus, shouting the words together like an anthem. The decision to play an even mix of songs from throughout the band’s career and pool of albums was a choice that paid off when a highly appreciative audience left the venue still cheering and singing those memorable lyrics. With a set list featuring seven songs from their new album, Deaf Havana demonstrated their love for and full belief in their current music and how it is evolving. Whilst I am admittedly bias due to my adoration for the earlier albums the band produced during my care-free adolescence, my friend who entered the venue unaware of what he was about to see actually commented on the newer songs and claimed them as his favourites.

Sadly, the band did admit that they aren’t planning another tour just yet, and so we may have to wait a while to see Deaf Havana play live again. However, this means that you have plenty of time to add their best tracks to your Spotify library, jam out in your bedroom and get those lyrics nailed for next time they are back down here in Exeter!


Hannah Clifford


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