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Livingston, live in London

A sort of homecoming for former London residents.

Six years after leaving London for Berlin, alt.rockers Livingston are back in town. We went to East London to check out their much anticipated return. Here’s what we learned...

MNRS could have a promising future ahead of them.

Being an early doors gig, plenty of people are still drinking in the bar next door at the time London duo MNRS (pronounced Manors) take the stage. Well, more fool them as the pair get to work on building up the atmosphere for those watching. Soaring dual vocal work mixes with all manner of dark, layered electronica throughout their set and despite looking half the age of many in attendance, the duo win the crowd over with their intense performance. There’s a slight awkwardness there, but this is sure to go with repeat live shows and if anything here it only adds to how lost they become in the music.

It’s good to have Livingston back.

Tonight has been a long time coming for fans of Livingston. It’s been some years since they played here but as soon as the music kicks in, it feels as though they’ve never been away. Free from the constraints of a major label and with new album Animal under their collective belt, Livingston have further expanded their brooding alt-rock sound, with vocalist and charismatic frontman Beukes Willemse leading the quintet into new tracks such as Big Mouth and Chemicals with powerful vocals and a piercing stare.

You can tell that a move to Germany paid off for them.

Not to say that Livingston’s music doesn’t translate to a UK audience, as it clearly does judging by the reaction of the crowd, but the industrial, stadium-rock feel it gives off has a much more mainland European flavour. A rapid fire rendition of The Hunter and the slide guitar/dual drumming on Skin & Bones sees Jakob Nebel shine as a multi-instrumentalist, with a sound so clear it could be playing out of a Pono. The move to Berlin clearly allowed them to fully embrace the gothic and at times oppressive elements of their sound without any sort of ridicule from an often hyper-critical British press and it has paid off in dividends.

Music is the best release.

Frontman Willemse takes a second to tell us a story in the latter part of Livingston’s set. For twenty years, he was bullied by a man in his native South Africa and one day he decided he wasn’t taking it anymore. Instead of lashing out physically, he wrote the lyrics to fan favourite Somebody, with which he is now touring the world with four of his best friends. How’s that for getting your own back?

Next time, they shouldn’t leave it so long.

By the time an epic Set Fire to Fire and a blistering encore roll around, Livingston are clearly feeding off the energy of the crowd and look like they could play another two sets. Completed by second multi-instrumentalist Chris Van Niekerk, live drummer Jan Siekmann and bassist/keyboard player Phil Magee (who gets a huge cheer every time his name is mentioned), they seem wild-eyed and hungry for more as they leave the stage and that’s surely the biggest proof of all that they’ve been away too long.