The Raveonettes (10/12/09, Leuven)

Leuven, proud owner of one of the oldest universities in Europe, but also the place of a decrepid concert venue. It still had some seats, some of the seats had torn backsides, the sound wasn’t great (or do we have to look at the sound engineer?), the bar was difficult to reach, the place where you had to buy tokens for the bar was conveniently located next to the hall’s entrance (thus blocking both the entrance/exit and the way to the venue)… the night surely didn’t look too promising. Even the opening act, a local act whose main influence was The Cure (so much so that after the concert one heckler shouted “Play A Forest“) and whose singer had the age-old look of someone who urgently needed to have a shit, right after he was done collecting all the pins from the stage floor with his bare feet. The guitarist, clad in a silly bonnet, was mocked for being red-haired by the singer and after a while the guy showed he needed to piss as much as defecate. Good times were had.

So yes, by the time Sune Rose Wagner, Sharin Foo and their two companions hit the stage, all my expectations were gone. But do not fear… The Raveonettes proved they were much better than that. Even though the sound wasn’t great (which hindered a couple of songs), the band shone. Furthermore, after nine years in business you’re noticing the great songs the band didn’t play, proving the band has a great catalogue of superb songs. For every “Attack of the Ghost Riders” there’s an unplayed “Beat City”, for every “Love in a Trashcan” (welcomed by an ovation from the crowd) there’s a “Sleepwalking”.
The Raveonettes is a band which dedicates itself to the 50s and 60s. Yet it’s more than a retro band, adding some contemporary influences. Some of the songs features words and themes which would be highly uncommon in the 50s or 60s, like “Boys who rape (should all be destroyed)” from their latest album.

That the band loves their crowds as much as they love the band was proven by the fact The Raveonettes didn’t just return for an encore (how ironic to start your encore with “Last Dance”) but that they returned after their encore for another two songs. Plus, shortly after the concert, front woman Sharin Foo rushed to the merchandise stand to sell (and sign) the band’s T-shirts, albums and mugs. If anything, it shows dedication to rock’n’roll. “This is whiplash rock’n’roll,” an old T-shirt from the band used to say. It’s a great way to describe the band’s music (both pleasing and lashing out at the same moment), a band whose songs would do great on soundtrack of both nostalgic movies and pitch-dark spaghetti westerns (try “Aly, walk with me” from their previous album).

If you’ve seen the Twin Peaks series or Mulholland Drive, you’ll understand what I mean if I say the concert went all Lynchian after a while: first a song by Sune (spotlight on him, the rest of the band invisible), then Sharin’s moment to shine (she all alone performing “Oh, I buried you today”, the spotlight only on her). Here’s a band managing to draw you into their atmosphere of contemporary nostalgia. And the proof that concerts can be good, even if the sound engineering isn’t up to scratch.

In and out of control has been in the shops since October. It may not be a crime if you don’t own the album, but don’t try and convince me you like rock if you don’t own at least an EP by this Danish combo.

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