The Radio Dept. played London’s Scala theatre Sunday night as their last stop before heading back home to Stockholm. Here’s what I tweeted when the show ended: “Good enough show but a bit short don’t ya think Radio Dept.? 50 min?”
Luckily, I got a chance to talk with Johan Duncanson, the lead singer and principle song writer, after the show. Charmingly enough, he was with Martin Carlberg and Daniel Tjäder (bassist and keyboardist) manning the merchandise. “We’re broke as always so we try to help out in the merchandise booth to make it easier economically,” said Duncanson.
Unlike my frustration after the too short set Duncanson thought the show went really well. He said, “I think this audience was by far the best one [of the weeklong tour], more excited.”
To pay back their audience’s enthusiasm, The Radio Dept. came back on with a very rare encore performance bumping up their show to just under an hour. Duncanson said, “I hate all these clichés about pop culture, you know I’ve been standing there myself so many times like *claps* although I don’t want the band to come back on. I’m just standing there because that’s what you’re supposed to do.”
“We’ve been telling ourselves so many times we shouldn’t do it but we’re easily flustered and vain so that’s why we do it.” Can we blame them? Pop culture cliché or no, it’s hard to deny a hall full of people applauding even after music overhead signals the show is over- or maybe it was just that we wanted our £13 worth.
The band’s short attention span for playing live spills over into their albums. You may have noticed that they have three full-length albums and 17 singles and EP’s. “I hate albums that take like 17 minutes to listen to or shows that go on forever. Y’know if you go see Bruce Springsteen live he’ll play for like two and a half hours. My ideal is to see a band for like 10 minutes and then they walk off stage. We want to do that but people will get pissed off.”
When I asked if there were any creative reasons behind this interest in short bursts of shoegaze/electronic/dream pop Duncanson simply said “I think it’s just because I get bored easily. It’s as simple as that really. Um, yeah.”
The set list at Scala included a mixture of songs from their latest album Clinging to a Scheme (Labrador 2010) and their 2003 release Lesser Matter (Labrador). Their dream poppy sound fuelled by plenty of soft synthesizer and electronic distortion is yummy on their albums, however I was surprised to see how bland songs like “Heaven’s on Fire” or “Freddie and the Trojan Horse” came out live. For the most part the slower more ephemeral tunes harkening back to their shoe gazing days translated better on stage. “Lost and Found” was my favorite by far.
In addition to being on the short side (without even an opening band!) there were technical difficulties which for a band using two Mac books hooked up to a keyboard doesn’t bode well. The issues that arose during “Freddie and the Trojan Horse” and the encore of “1995”, perplexed me even more of how a group that makes such beautiful music could come across so disappointingly.
But, I guess we should count ourselves lucky that we were in the “best crowd”. I’d hate to be around when these guys aren’t in the mood.
On 25 January The Radio Dept. will release a compilation of their 2002-2010 EPs all in one convenient disc to stave off fans until they give us another dosage of their encompassing yet delicate creations that they have been supplying us for 10 years.