Tonight was only the third night of The D.O.T’s inaugural UK tour. Apart from some low key gigs in London and an appearance at Fuji Rock festival in Japan (where Rob is basically Jesus without the hair and beard) this was the start of the pay off of over a year and half’s work for the duo.
The iconic King Tuts backdrop was shrouded in red, black and white as the twin skull banner of The D.O.T decorated the whole back wall of the venue. While Tuts was probably only filled to three quarters capacity it was still obvious by the feeling of anticipation in the air that I wasn’t the only one eager to see what the live results would be of the combination of Robert Harvey’s distinctive wail and Mike Skinner’s production nous. Just after ten the heavy door at the side of the stage swung open and the shaved head of Rob Harvey strode out confidently and hopped up on the low stage followed by a suited and booted Mike Skinner.
It’s fair to say the pair we’re given a typically rousing Scottish King Tuts welcome, with banging on the walls and cheering and clapping a plenty. Mike took to the mic to offer us a “Safe” by way of approval to our rowdy shouts of encouragement and he was met with the first chant of “Music, Music, Music” from a section of the crowd. There was always a lot of love for Rob Harvey’s old band in Scotland; I personally made the trip to Leeds for their last ever shows with about 20 others last year. While The Streets were undoubtedly the bigger band out of the duo’s previous endeavours it seemed tonight it was going to be Rob who would be given a reminder of his musical past.
But the past is the past and tonight was very much about the present and the future for The D.O.T. It’s fitting the live existence of the band burst into life as debut album “And That” does with “And a Hero”. Rob’s lead vocal soared into the chorus to be met by Skinner to join in and sing together“you leave them pain wherever you go, can’t be a killer and hero” before heavy garage style synths blasted in. All in all it was a pretty impressive live first impression to cast; the way their differing vocal styles played so well off each other was particularly encouraging.
Over the past year or so a lot of songs and quirky video diary vignettes have been posted on the-dot.net. For the most part in those snap shots of the band Mike Skinner seemed to take a step back from the microphone to do what he’s done in one form or another for the past twenty years, which is produce. Throughout the first few songs of the set however his voice was very much in the mix. The next three songs they played don’t actually appear on “And That”, strange you might think for a band whose first album at this point wasn’t even officially released for another four days. I suppose when it’s been reported you have over sixty recorded songs to choose from for the record it’s inevitable that some may not necessarily fit in the scheme of the album as a whole but would still flourish in a live setting.
One song saw Mike taking on the lead vocal duties and keys and synths as Rob played guitar and sung the chorus. Mike joked with us afterwards saying “I’m not used to this multitasking all of a sudden”. Another saw the pair sing in unison throughout and revolved around the lyric “just cause your talking doesn’t mean I have to listen”. Mr Skinner was talkative throughout taking every opportunity to have a chat to the crowd between songs. Sipping a half bottle of vodka he shouted “Thank you for bracing through the rain, did you notice the rain? do you ever notice the rain?” before praising the venue by saying “this is great, we’re a new band and King Tuts is absolutely legendary.”
“Weapon Of Choice” followed and is probably the song on “And That” that is closest linked to The Streets in style and again saw Skinner taking the lead vocal. Having said that however for those people thinking Awww “The D.O.T will just sound like the streets” or “it’ll sound like the dancier moments of The Music“, throw out your preconceived ideas because for the most part it doesn’t. The D.O.T have created something else that’s very hard to define, you know there’s something there that works and that it’s good but you’re not 100% sure what it is and why it sounds so damn infectious.
By mid set songs were flowing into each other effortlessly, it had all got really fluid and slick. There were trumpet samples in some songs, another had a slower 60’s Motown feel with Rob’s immaculate vocals really shining through, while others were very dancey and harked back to the last century with mike declaring “it’s like the 90’s”. Before “Makers Mark” (which again isn’t on the album but was released on the-dot.net) Mike started comparing The Streets gigs to The D.O.T ones so far saying “here I can dress like an estate agent and get away with it”. Just as he was about to continue on his observation he was cut off by a spontaneous chant of “there’s only one Robert Harvey, one Robert Harvey” which sprung up from the same section of Tuts that voiced their approval of The Music earlier. Mike took it all in his stride and had a bit of banter with rob singing there’s only one Gary Barlow to him, obviously some of the crowd had taken the earlier lyric of “just cause your talking doesn’t mean I have to listen” to heart.
By my calculations they had now powered their way through eleven songs in about 40 minutes, the majority of which aren’t on “And That”. All that was about to change though as we were hit with the one two punch of “What You Living For” and “Shut Up And Keep Talking”. The later I still periodically find myself repeating the chorus in my head over a week later at inappropriate times of the day, it’s just ridiculously catchy. Mike carried on his playful exchange with Rob about Gary Barlow telling us “We do take requests we can do back for good, a million love songs”, alas though it was all just a rouse and no Take That cover was forthcoming. The main set drew to a close with the massive sounding “Right Side Of Madness” which Mike dedicated to a crowd member who had shouted for it earlier in the evening. Again their vocals worked brilliantly together and the song shifted back to the 90’s dance sound in style but with pretty great guitar work over the top of it courtesy of Mr Harvey.
As the pair took in the well deserved applause from an overwhelmingly receptive audience there was a moment of slapstick humour as Mike went to shake Rob’s hand for a job well done but as he was facing the crowd he didn’t see it and left his new partner hanging. The loud cheers for an encore grew immediately and pulsated towards the small King Tuts stage.
Rob was again first to take to the stage with a repeated shout of “yes yes yes” in approval of the din being made by the crowd to herald their triumphant return. Mike soon followed with a “How would you feel if you were waiting to buy a flat and the estate agent was as sweaty as I was would you buy it?” to which he got the reply from a male member of the crowd “I’d shag ya“.
Without further ado Mike slung the military drum sample start of “You Never Asked” on while taking up the vocal void left by the absence of Clare Maguire. It sounded fresh and full of life and ideas with the pair’s vocals again blending flawlessly as Mike played with more knobs than an Amsterdam brothel. The set itself then climaxed with the beat laden defiant throb of “Goes Off”. As a parting bit of showmanship and perhaps also to drive home the fact that it is about the new band rather than past glories the duo then ran off a rehearsed “We are The D.O.T” between them both switching words and letters along the way. Soaking in the last of the applause from the front of the stage they left happy men with a birthday and a day off to look forward to the next day before a gig in Edinburgh on Friday.
So what did I learn about Mike Skinner and Robert Harvey’s new musical outlet tonight then? Well firstly after their banter and the way they feed of each other’s positive energy there is no doubt that The D.O.T enjoy what they are doing and the music they create, secondly Rob should be a bit more observant on stage and not miss Mike’s congratulatory handshakes in future, and lastly and most importantly as expected The D.O.T are pretty damn great live, “And That”.