The Dead Weather, Creature With The Atom Brain

Abbas Ali 19/10/2009

With autumn, comes the return of students, and therefore bands, bands and more bands on the touring trail of the country's universities, hoping to capture gain and maintain a fanbase. Tonight's support, contenders Creature With An Atom Brain, are aiming to capture the heart of Manchester' students, and hail from Belgium of all places, Though it's unlikely you've heard of them, their claim to fame so far is that lead singer Aldo Struyf has played keyboards for Millionaire and the Mark Lanegan Band.

Sadly, it's most likely to stay that way, as the 4 piece offer a set that consists of 70s psych-rock, and which is, for the greater part, made up of overly long songs that sound identical, and proceed at exactly the same tempo. The addition of random time changes cannot disguise the basic over-indulgence, as most numbers are based around a single riff, and lack a sense of direction and purpose. And for a band influenced by Roky Erickson and 13 Floor Elevators, that's a shame, though their brand of drug-induced riffery might go down better in the US, to which the band clearly owe their sound.

While the assembled Academy crowd are largely respectful but unimpressed by CWTAB, everything changes the moment the lights go down, a mysterious blue symbol is lit up on the back wall, and the Dead Weather emerge onto the stage. A supergroup variously formed from members of QOTSA, The Raconteurs, The Kills and of course the White Stripes earlier this year, a quick chat amongst various punters reveals what we already know : most of tonight's audience are here to see what they perceive as Jack White's new band.

All eyes however fall immediately on the magnetic stage prescence of The Kills' Alison Mossheart, dressed all in black, smouldering, very much the rock goddess incarnate, as she sways around, dragging the mike back and forth. She's like every hot female lead singer ever, be it Debbie Harry or Chrissie Hynde, both irresistible and untouchable. The contrast with the support band is like night and day. The Dead Weather sway wonderfully, performing with a sense of theatre and rock and roll attitude lacking in CWAB's set. Beginning with 60 Feet Tall from the bands' one and only album Horehound, its' haunting trip hop blues reminiscent of Portishead.

The crowd are desperate for a sign of Jack White though, and indulging in his rock drummer fantasy behind the skins, he's hard to see, despite his Keith Moon style histrionics. By the fourth song, a cover of Them's 'You Just Can't Win' he's up assisting on vocal duties, which he dedicates to Noel Gallagher, and it's quickly becoming clear that The Dead Weather is very much his baby. The various elements that characterise his output, the early blues, the Dylan-esque lyrics, the Zeppelin riffs, they're all present. The Dead Weather does have a much more contemporary feel than The Raconteurs, though, and the there's more of a sense of musical dynamism in the interplay between the musicians than is present in the simple, direct songwriting of The White Stripes. Ironically, Jack White is also a better drummer than his sibling/wife/mate/whatever Meg, but it's a bit like having Wayne Rooney in goal ; you know he can do the job, but you really want him up front.

By the end, that's where he is, as Mossheart sits up on the speakers, sipping what can only be strong liquor, and White plays a trademark solo on the epically plaintive blues of 'Will There Be Enough Water'. After a brief intermission there is the obligatory encore, which White begins by giving a shout out to Oldham (birthplace of his British wife) and telling the crowd that he “loves walking down the street down here”. The band end energetically on 'Treat Me Like Your Mother', and the song's refrain “You blink when you breath/ and you breath when you lie” is left ringing in our ears on what has been an impressive, accomplished and varied set which has been thrown together and rehearsed in a very short space of time, though it doesn't show. For most of its' members, The Dead Weather may not be their day job, but it sounds like it.

Photo by Luke Hannaford