Every so often a band comes along that just force you to sit up and pay attention. A performance so electrifying that you simply have no choice but to acknowledge it. On Wednesday night, Chicago garage-rock band The Orwells did just that, with a blistering show in front of a sold out Tufnell Park Dome.
Playing their first gig in the capital for two years, Mario Cuomo and co. sledgehammered through an hour-long set, playing hits from their Remember When and Disgraceland LPs, as well as a smattering of tracks from their new album Terrible Human Beings, due to be released in February of next year.
Wasting little time with pleasantries, Cuomo dives straight into ‘Dirty Sheets’ from the band’s 2014 release with abandon, immediately sending the audience into a frenzy. Dressed in a black wife-beater vest and matching baseball jacket, the frontman strikes the perfect balance between confident and unhinged, throwing his mane of dirty blond curls to and fro whilst periodically eyeballing the front row. Some might call it deranged, others would say raucous is a more accurate description.
Next up is new single ‘They Put A Body in The Bayou’, a track inspired by compatriots Pixies. “Said her papa hates the Federales, and when he drinks too much he smacks her face,” drawls Cuomo, head cocked to one side. It’s not exactly what you would call PG friendly, but the brutally dark lyrics are lapped up by youthful crowd with glee, as they hurl themselves stage-wards.
Twisting and thrusting side to side, Cuomo flashes guitarist Matt O’Keefe a gleeful smirk before launching into ‘Let it Burn’. At this point the atmosphere in the intimate Tufnell Park Dome is beyond fever pitch, and people begin to clamber on the stage, wrapping themselves around the frontman before being hurled to one side by gruff looking security. Far from being alarmed by this turn of events, Cuomo seems to relish in the carnage, channelling his inner punk to almost satanic levels.
Hurtling through songs without so much as a pause for breath, The Orwells rattle off frenetic garage-punk tracks with the confidence and verve of artists of a far greater stature. It’s easy to forget that this is a band still in their early twenties, such is their presence on stage.
Barely a track extends over the three-minute mark, giving the increasingly drenched audience little chance to collect themselves. ‘Mallrats’, the band’s breakthrough single, is a raw and catchy set highlight, swiftly followed by the brilliant ‘Southern Comfort’, on which Cuomo sings about “Girls in the back, trunks full of beer,” before asking if them if he can “taste your tongue.” The Orwells might not be romantic or clever, but frankly, when they sound this bloody good it’s hard to care.
The band close out their short set with a chaotic rendition of ‘Who Needs You’, which starts with Cuomo stood atop the stage speakers and ends with mass crowd-surfing and more than a few stage invaders, much to the frustration of the now increasingly irate bouncers.
Cuomo doesn’t care in the slightest, and quite honestly, nor does anyone else. The four-piece leave the stage with applause ringing in their ears, having furthered their credentials as quite possibly the most exciting live band to come out of America in the last decade.