LIVE: Kevin Devine & The Goddamn Band / Laura Stevenson / Lion & The Wolf @ The Dome, London

By Sean Littlewood

Ever since playing his first UK show, supporting a death metal band above a tiny pub way back in 2002, Kevin Devine has carved out the kind of dedicated audience, only the most prolific, sincere of songwriters manage to.

A lot has happened since then too. In 2007 Devine signed with Capitol Records, and although his one record stint on a major lasted only four months, it laid the foundations for a career that has endured nine studio albums, a whole load of live ones, and countless brilliant, honest songs tackling everything from politics and self reflection, to drugs and broken relationships.

Tonight, as he steps onto the stage for the last night of his Euro tour joined by the compelling, forceful, almost deafeningly loud Goddamn Band – the second, electric incarnation of Devine’s music – all of that seems to come to a head, exploding into one of the greatest, most powerful performances Devine has managed this side of the Atlantic.

Even before the Goddamn Band take the stage, the night is treated to the delicate, acoustic deliverances of Laura Stevenson and Lion & The Wolf, with Devine joining the former for a flawless execution of a Courtney Barnett song towards the end of her set. Both are fittingly well received, although there is some unwanted heckling at one point from someone at the front of the stage by someone worse for wear, and they would later be ejected during Devine’s set.

Offering a typical take of fan favourite ‘Ballgame’, one of his earliest tracks that has seen its socially conscious, self-condemning lyrics aptly grow and develop with their performer, Devine initially takes the stage alone before offering his sincere thanks to everyone in the room “for allowing me to have a career here.”

There’s no let-up though as the band fly into ‘Just Stay’ and ‘She Can See Me’ with precision and volume. There’s clear Nirvana influence in everything about the way the Goddamn Band perform and sound, but it works extremely well. Songs are played to millimetre perfection with mind splitting energy, as if the heavier side of Devine’s catalogue has been locked up inside the amplifiers and is finally allowed to burst out into the venue.

It’s strange and sad how Devine’s some of Devine’s oldest and most political tracks seem more relevant now than ever, and before the band begin a fitting performance of ‘No Time Flat’, a song written way back in 2003 when George Bush was still president of the US, Devine acknowledges how the state of the world makes the need for everyone to come together and unite even greater.

Throughout the bands set it feels like the performer is hitting yet another peak in his efforts as an artist. Sober, mindful, yet somehow even more potent, this version of Kevin Devine’s music manages something his solo one doesn’t; it is forceful, effective and impossible to ignore.

Yet when Devine returns for an encore alone, he manages one of the most effecting performances of the entire evening with a fragile, extremely compelling version of ‘Brothers Blood’. Singing parts of the song without use of a microphone, he simply allows his voice to burst across the stunned audience beautifully.

Finally bringing the evening to an end with a solo version of ‘I Was Alive Back Then’, Devine closes the curtain on yet another memorable, perfectly implemented full band show. And given that his back catalogue remains so full of ideas and observations about the state of a damaged, somber America, there’s never been a time when those songs have needed to be as frantic and furious as they were tonight.