Live Review: Drugstore + Vadoinmessico

Good Friday (6th April) saw Drugstore return to form with the launch of their Aquamarine single held at The Lexington in Islington with Vadoinmessico admirably filling in the support slot. This Gigseen emissary was there for the majority of the night, which sadly was curtailed by philistine rail timetabling.

Drugstore, fronted by Isabel Monteiro, released their self-titled debut LP in 1995 which received a good deal of critical praise and drew them out onto the road with numerous major festival appearances, support slots (Radiohead, J&MC and Jeff Buckley to mention a few) and memorable gigs (of which I've seen a decent number). White Magic For Lovers (1998) and Songs For The Jet Set (2001) followed, and then a haitus for a number of years with relatively few performances. Autumn of last year saw the release of Anatomy, and as we drifted into the spring of 2012, it was great to see the band playing live once again.

Starting off proceedings for the evening were 'internationally sourced' 5-piece group Vadoinmessico, a band of whom I knew little on the night - but now with a little directed digging (Thanks Joe!), I have proudly added to my music collection by way of a fantastic debut LP, Archaeology of the Future.

Aside from a couple of minor false-starts, Vadoinmessico ably served up a set of some cracking tunes backed by some infectious percussive rhythms, frequently latinesque. Most enjoyable was the added element of their using a few unexpected instruments - cowbells of course, a tiny Casio VL-Tone keyboard and that bizarre contraption which even though apparently invisible, manages to make a sound like an enthusiastically rubbed monkey (what actually is that?)

A talented bunch of guys for sure. Highlighted by their habit of swapping instruments for many songs. Highly recommended to go and see play, and/or grab their music. Drugstore could not have asked for a better opening act.

A short break to replenish glasses and lungs and before long Drugstore took to the stage, Isabel arriving with a bottle of plonk in tow (motto for the night: "Let's have a drink!") and from the outset had the crowd rapt. Monteiro is I think, one of those people born to front a band, aside from her blatant ability to turn comparatively simple songs into something truly special, she completely engages an audience, throwing off waves of obvious enjoyment in an ever-so-slightly unhinged manner which can't help but draw you in.

Kicking off with a great run through of Say Hello, Devil and Nectarine, the band left no doubt that even after nearly 20 years and a few personnel changes, Drugstore have still 'got it'.

As the performance proceeded it was a pleasure to hear some of the older tracks interlaced with the newer material. The Funeral, one of my favourites - with it's brilliantly twisted lyrics. El President - for which those assembled in the audience provided Thom Yorke's echoed harmonies, was also a decided highlight. And from Anatomy - Lights Out and Sweet Chilli Girl making it clear that the songwriting is still of course top notch.

Sadly for me, when the clock was to strike 10:45 I knew that I would have to make a run for tube and train to get back to my little hut in the woods (or face turning into a pumpkin) but having sneaked a peak at the setlist - there was no way I was going to miss what was the penultimate song of the main part of the set: Aquamarine, the track for which the event was the single launch.

As Isabel explained, Aquamarine was written with a duet in mind, but not with a specific singer - so after much trawling of MySpace pages she came across Chris Belson (of Columbus and Crusoe) and promptly shanghaied him into the Drugstore cave to record. And thankfully he made an appearence at The Lexington too - and what else can you say? - An awesome voice and a perfect choice.

And so, fairly miffed at having to miss the end of the night (which in one shape or form continued till 4am) I forced myself to leave. But even so, the leaving was done on a high point and set me grinning enough to attract some funny looks. That's the sign of a night out with Drugstore, thoroughly and totally enjoyed. Rest assured I'm not waiting 15 years to repeat the experience this time around.

(nb. An OK-ish quality recording of 11 tracks of Drugstore's set can be found on Mixcloud)