Nation of Language @ Concorde 2, Brighton, UK, September 28, 2023 | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Nation of Language

Nation of Language @ Concorde 2, Brighton, UK, September 28, 2023,

Oct 03, 2023 Photography by Andy Robbins Web Exclusive
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Thursday night in Brighton. Nearly the weekend, but not quite. The threat of rain hangs heavy in the air. On stage there’s a mustachioed man in a grey shirt singing “Flipping through the same old books/But you’re reading less/And it’s September again.”

You’d be forgiven for thinking the final nail was about to be hammered into the English summer’s coffin. Instead, thanks to the giddy joy of Nation of Language’s electro-pop brilliance, it feels like the party is only just getting started.

Having emerged from live music blackout of the Covid years, you could be forgiven if this New York trio have somehow passed you by. Yet despite their relative infancy, a back catalogue already three albums deep allows them to cherry pick a setlist from an artillery stuffed with ice-cool alternative-pop bangers. Anyone fortunate enough to catch Nation of Language in the flesh certainly won’t be forget the experience in a hurry.

Opening with “Spare Me The Decision” from their new record Strange Disciple, frontman Ian Devaney is anchored in position behind his microphone stand by the guitar hung over his shoulder. But after putting his instrument down, the opening bass notes of “Rush & Fever” are hardly two bars in before he’s making the most of his freedom. He bounces around the stage, eyes closed tightly, bathed in the glow of orange stage light, gripping the microphone tightly as he sings his words into it, seemingly lost in the moment.

Following it with “Sole Obsession”, already one of the finest electro-pop songs of all time (to these ears, at least), feels almost absurd given their set is barely 15 minutes in and just three songs old. The magic trick of making melancholy sound euphoric reaches its big reveal as Devaney beams his way through lines as gut-wrenching as “My sole obsession/Finally I feel it fading/Walk me home and walk away”.

He’s not the only one enjoying himself by the look of it. Keyboard player Aidan Noell switches between grins and looks of blissed content, while both she and bassist Alex MacKay enjoy good-natured back-and-forths with audience members between songs.

There’s no escaping the obvious influence of acts including Depeche Mode and Orchestral Manoeuvers In The Dark on their sound, but Nation of Language manage to take all the best-bits of synth-pop (namely the tunes), without taking themselves too seriously in the same way as many of the genre’s original preening participants. “Stumbling Still”, “This Fractured Mind” and “Too Much Enough” are all electronic diamonds, but perhaps there are none better than a euphoric “The Wall & I”. Closing the main set amidst a shower of mirrorball reflections that dance around the inside of Concorde 2, its icy synths and melodic basslines would sit comfortably on New Order’s Power, Corruption and Lies.

They could easily leave it there, while jaws are still on the floor. Instead, they return for a deserved three-song encore that starts with “Automobile” and culminates with “Across That Fine Line”. It’s a silver lining on a set that was already dripping with gold.


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