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Review: Drenge at The Sage, Gateshead

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Image: Ben Heward

Image: Ben Heward

In the midst of their second album Undertow slowly climbing the UK album charts, brothers Eoin and Rory Loveless brought their fierce whirlwind of grizzly grunge-rock to one of the region’s most intricately beautiful buildings, The Sage. With thunderous new bassist Rob Graham thickening up their already colossal sound, it was possibly one of the noisiest gigs the venue’s ever seen.

Warming up the crowd in Hall Two was all-girl quartet, Pins. Drenched in glitter with a glass of red wine in one hand and a star-shaped tambourine in the other, frontwoman Faith Holgate danced and screamed her way through an enjoyable set, despite a fairly unresponsive audience. Their sound was rough with overdrive beneath droning vocals and there was a definite sparkle of potential. Set-closer Girls Like Us tessellated into a rendition of Cyndi Lauper’s Girls Just Wanna Have Fun but although it was a cool idea, all the crowd seemed to want was Drenge.

At long last, the trio entered the stage through billowing smoke and launched into new track Running Wild among thin columns of bright, flashing lights. The new album had only been out a week but the crowd’s response was indulgent, the pit filled with bounding, carefree teens and the balconies adorned with immersed spectators.

I used to think the dirty roar of Eoin’s guitar and the wild crashing of Rory’s drum kit was more than enough to shake up a venue the size of Hall Two but the magnitude added by a bass guitar only enhanced their sound and made it stronger. It added depth to the tracks from their self-titled debut that would usually be performed live as a duo and although they were incredible without him, bringing Rob into the mix has definitely made for an interesting change.

A highlight of the night was a raucous run-through of old favourite I Want To Break You In Half followed swiftly by debut single Bloodsports. Naturally, the crowd went wild. The riff running through the explosive chorus of Bloodsports was pretty special to watch live, so definitive and powerful it gave me shivers. It was obvious fans were more familiar with old numbers but leading tracks from Undertow, We Can Do What We Want and Never Awake, also caused quite a stir.

Smoky blackness washed over the stage as the deafening, gritty opening chords of Let’s Pretend rang through the venue and the audience settled. Eight minutes of a teasing build-up layered with frantic cymbal-smashing and blurry echoing of guitars brought the set to an epic close. Many of the crowd awaited an encore even after the house lights had been turned on but Drenge didn’t come back – perhaps the only element of disappointment to a night otherwise completely captivating.

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