Saturday, 13 December 2014

Live Review: Republica @ The Barby, Tel Aviv [11th December 2014]

A few months back, I had a few days listening to and watching videos of bands and songs I used to love as a kid or in my teens. I was just suddenly in the mood for hearing bands like London pop-rockers "A", British rocking dance act Apollo 440, Scottish electro-pop punk trio Bis and one of my favourite ever bands Reef. Living in Israel, I had to get used to the fact that there are some bands I might never get to see out here. I then see an event posted for a band name that I hadn't heard in quite some time. I actually had to make sure I wasn't imagining things. It turns out that 90s British electro pop act Republica, of all acts, were actually coming to Israel....of all places. I was typing on Facebook in capitals for about half a week when I found that out. I was deadly excited for a bunch of reasons. Firstly, I love it when a British band comes here. Secondly, I love it when a British band I actually like comes here. Thirdly, I love watching bands from this was a fantastic combination of everything. I already saw Republica around 4-5 years at the O2 in Islington, London. That was also a reunion tour and I really wasn't expecting them this time around to ever come here. 
Coming into one of Tel Aviv's most well known music venues, The Barby, just a little while after open doors, there is only a handful of people here as DJs from Tel Aviv's most popular Brit Pop line, Bigmouth, are spinning tracks by bands like The Libertines, The Futureheads, Franz Ferdinand and The Smiths. It helped set the mood for the night as slowly but surely, more people started to flow in. As the Dj set grounded down to quite a sudden halt, everyone knew this meant only one thing....


As the band, consisting of original members keyboardist Tim (Dorney), guitarist Jonny (Male) and now including drummer Conor (Lawrence), ascend the stage, the crowd begins to gather and we all know that the legendary Saffron is following closely behind. She then appears and she's barely changed; hairstyle practically the same as when they started around 2 decades ago. The band kick off the night with their second ever single Bloke. I love this track and its "I'm gonna take you on" refrain, so this was a very good start for me. Saffron seems in good spirits and is really rocking out. The rest of the band, on the other hand, seem as though this is just a normal day at practice; turning up in very plain clothing and barely smiling. Looking around the venue from my spot in the corner of the balcony, I can see some people familiar with the song bouncing and singing along. I can't help but think that maybe the rest here tonight are just here for the obvious hits on repeat. 
As the set goes on, the band plays their other singles Rush Hour With Love, Drop Dead Gorgeous and, of course, Ready To Go. The latter two especially get the venue heaving. Almost everybody is bobbing up and down, probably in the same way that they did when they first heard those songs all those years ago. If anything, the songs actually sound a bit heavier than they once did. For Drop Dead Gorgeous, the band have added an epic sounding breakdown at the end. Drummer Conor is rocking a nice slow groove; even has him nodding his head a bit more than before. Ready To Go just sounds amazing. They warm the crowd up with a pre-recorded acapella intro and then have everyone in a frenzy as Jonny plays that unmistakable riff. 

The band also play some older tracks from both the self titled album (Picture Me, Out Of The Darkness, Holly) and second album Speed Ballads (Try Everything, Millennium). There seemed to be a handful of people who knew some of these songs too. These are all new to me but sounded great, especially Try Everything and Millennium. Try Everything is a bit of slow 80s sounding rock number, a bit reminiscent of acts like Toyah, T'Pau and even Heart, just with a slightly more electronic vibe. I can see that some people aren't quite into it, but I was really liking it. The more I thought about it, I never noticed before how similar Saffron's singing style is to that of Toyah (Wilcox). Which is a good thing...
The band delight us with new and more recent tracks. Titular track of last year's EP Christian Obey starts off sounding almost like a Lacuna Coil song, with Conor's heavy hitting drums and Tim's choir synth, but then leads into being a bit of a dark electro pop number. Two very new songs, German Accent and Hallelujah, also get played. Hallelujah gets a great reaction, with its joyous uptempo vibe and "I saw you there....Hallelujah!" chorus getting into everyone's head and singing along. If this song gets released as a single and doesn't regain the band recognition then there is not enough people in this world who understand what makes a great song. 
There were times during some songs where I felt that the pre-programmed beats were not actually in synch with the drums and generally with the rest of the band. Luckily, they were kind of quiet anyway, but as a drummer, it bothered me a bit. That aside, it was really Saffron who made this whole performance worthwhile with her energetic performance, captivating voice, great crowd interaction and, of course, sex appeal. I can't help but feel that the rest of the band is just along for the ride as they seemed less enthusiastic. They could have just been tired, I guess.
Saffron continuously tells the crowd how much she loves us and how great a time they've had in Israel. She also thanks everyone involved in the show and all the fans. When they return for their encore, Saffron only very briefly gets political. She tells us how some people sent her hate mail for wanting to come to Israel but it didn't discourage her. She doesn't judge a country by its government; for that I applauded in agreement. 
For a band who are allegedly trying to brush off the "nostalgia" tag, I find it weird that they repeat both Drop Dead Gorgeous and Ready To Go for their encore. Everyone is still loving it. Due to the age range and amount of people here, there is a similar feel to some sort of high school reunion about 15 years on. Saffron ends the night with an incredibly heart-felt "Toda raba! Toda raba!" which has everyone even more in love with her. Over all, this show was not just a trip down memory lane but has hopefully shown people that Republica still have what it takes. 

Photos come courtesy of Yuval Erel. Check out his blog here

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