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Lewsberg - Hare and Hounds, Birmingham, 23/11/2022

  by James Gardner

published: 20 / 3 / 2023

Lewsberg - Hare and Hounds, Birmingham, 23/11/2022

On the way to tonight’s gig I was trying to remember when I first heard the Rotterdam-based four-piece Lewsberg, but I can’t quite put my finger on it. So, if you will, indulge my artistic and journalistic licence: imagine a room, in black and white, in an apartment, with rain hitting the sash windows, piles of records on the floor. A cup of coffee sits steaming on a small wooden table. A song comes on in the background, and the first few seconds make the subject of this story sit up. The dog-eared paperback book is placed upon the coffee table. Full attention is given to the music. The track is arty, lo-fi, angular in places. It is good. Catchy, even. Or is it? The influences are obvious, the playing slightly off. Another thirty seconds in and the song is clearly brilliant. “Who is this band?” You will have got there before me: the answer is Lewsberg. The band’s back catalogue has been devoured and we are on our way to Birmingham’s Hare and Hounds to see them in the flesh. The gig is promoted by This is Tmrw, who next year celebrate fifteen years of putting on the best bands in Birmingham’s best venue, and celebrate they should. The band take to the stage at 8.30pm. With no support tonight, the crowd are not yet warmed up, but they are here in their numbers. A more BBC 6Music crowd you are less likely to see: these people will take “band T-shirt day” seriously. By the third track, ‘Getting Closer’, we are getting warm and the band are in full art rock territory. The track is both empty and hypnotic. “My fingertips are aching/And I can’t even feel my toes/And I can see the way it goes,” is delivered dead pan by lead singer Arie van Vliet. The latest single, ‘Sweets’, which the band have self-released on cassette for this tour, shows them at their delicate best. It again highlights Lewsberg’s way of observing life, making the mundane seem extraordinary and beautiful. With a reputation for a stage presence bordering on cold, the delivery ends up being refreshingly banter-free. Between-song interaction is reserved for quiet thanks and nods to confirm when tracks are finished. The intimacy of the gig on this cold November night is not lost on the band, who invite the audience to ask questions, an invitation they take up: ‘What is the difference between a crocodile and an alliigator?’ is swerved, as are questions on the particular shade of blue of the rather fetching jumper worn by a band member, as is ‘Are you married?’. After an awkward silence the band launch into ‘The Hills’, which was released via the uber-cool label Speedy Wunderground, and which was – if you’ll recall the beginning of this review – the song that brought us here. The angular guitars, reminiscent of Parquet Courts, are simple and catchy. The song perfectly encapsulates and shows off all of Lewsberg’s influences, including the Modern Lovers, Television and of course The Velvet Underground. The nod to the latter is there when the song feels like it’s falling apart: it’s barely there, then we are back and it’s over. The songs tonight are melodic, well balanced and purposefully minimalist. When you start to enjoy them and get into the groove, it shifts into uncomfortable and fuzzy droning, then just as it starts to irritate, it’s back to being smooth and tuneful. And ‘In Your Hands’ is sixty-odd seconds of sickly-sweet pop that Lou Reed would have been proud of. Everything, for Lewsberg, is well-thought-out and well-planned. They stand on stage in a formation that shows all four parts are equal. There are no frills to them, it is purposeful and considered. Yet the songs have humour, lots of humour, with lyrics such as “You’re driving without a licence/I’m driving uninsured/Why don’t we drive into each other/I have a feeling that we should.” In an interview with NME in 2019 the lead singer Arie said: “We’re not looking to blow people away when we play live. It is what it is.” On this reckoning, then, they have failed. Because tonight they blew us away. Photos by Robert Hadley https://www.facebook.com/photosbyindieimages

Also at Redchurch Brewery, London

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Lewsberg - Hare and Hounds, Birmingham, 23/11/2022

Lewsberg - Hare and Hounds, Birmingham, 23/11/2022

Lewsberg - Hare and Hounds, Birmingham, 23/11/2022

Lewsberg - Hare and Hounds, Birmingham, 23/11/2022

Lewsberg - Hare and Hounds, Birmingham, 23/11/2022

Lewsberg - Hare and Hounds, Birmingham, 23/11/2022

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Arty Dutch rockers Lewsberg turn all their influences into a magical night. James Gardner was there and was blown away


Photoscapes (2022)
Lewsberg - Photoscapes
Robert Hadley takes photographs of Rotterdam-based band Lewsberg at a gig at the Hare and Hounds in Birmingham.

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