LIVE: Deaf Havana @ St Pancras Old Church, London

By Yasmin Brown

Album release days are always filled with nervous anticipation for both artists and fans – as the former brace themselves for whatever response might be coming their way, and fans try to hold off from high expectations to avoid disappointment.

For Deaf Havana – playing St Pancras Old Church on the release day of ‘Rituals’ – this nervous energy was heightened, due to keyboard player Max Britton being absent from the evening’s event. Consequently, not only was the band playing much of the set list for the very first time, they were also faced with the challenge of re-arranging the set to work without an integral member of the band.

There were moments where the nerves seemed to get the better of Deaf Havana, lead vocalist James Veck-Gilodi in particular, with mistakes being made from the opening performance of ‘Worship’ and continued throughout – from forgotten lyrics, to incorrectly played riffs.

Even considering these mistakes, though, there was no need to worry. Despite its departure from the band’s previous sounds, ‘Rituals’ appears to have been embraced by most, and the St Pancras Old Church performance was truly one to remember. Any slip-ups were far more endearing than they were embarrassing, and served as a reminder that the four guys on stage are just stumbling through life like the rest of us.

The band’s humility was highlighted when Veck-Gilodi took the time to thank the crowd for continuing to support Deaf Havana, and to thank us for buying an album they were concerned people wouldn’t like or would somehow have them defined as sell-outs. This fear provided an explanation for the various slip-ups, and somehow made the event even more enjoyable; adding humour and, paradoxically, confirming their talent as musicians.

In particular, there was a moment during ‘Holy’ where Veck-Gilodi dropped his pick mid performance and quickly ad-libbed the lyrics – even managing to make them rhyme – in order to explain what caused him to stop playing so abruptly: “and I never wanted to admit, that I just dropped my fucking pick”. This song also prompted a crowd-only singalong towards the end; a gospel-like experience, especially considering our surroundings.

The nature of the venue made for a stunningly intimate performance, and with each track on the album following a religious theme, it was perfectly apt, too. In all likelihood, it was also one of the last opportunities to see Deaf Havana in such an tiny setting, as December will see them headlining the iconic Brixton Academy – making it even more special for fans in attendance.

The band closed the short show with ‘Evil’ – perhaps the strongest track on ‘Rituals’ and one that brought the show to an epic climax as the band played perfectly in sync, with previous errors all but forgotten. The music filled the small church, building up inside each attendee, and continuing to resonate within us even after we had left the intimate venue.