I can’t fully remember how long it was before Diiv’s last proposed show at the Riverside that the gig was cancelled, maybe it was the day before, maybe it was on the actual day. The timing doesn’t really matter; what mattered was that the fear of my favourite band cancelling their tour one show away from the date I had a ticket for had come true.
Not coming as a surprise, there’d been clear signs that this was a band who might cease to exist at any moment, the bigger worry was would they ever be back. Not just to Newcastle, but back at all.
So, as the most important point to this whole review, and away from any selfish impulse I might have about investigating if the band were ‘good enough’ to please me, we must start by saying that it’s really nice to see DIIV back with us; god knows what they’ve had to go through to get back into a seemingly healthy and creative space (the new album’s as perfect as always). Drugs and breakdowns are often referenced in the musical press without a true comprehension of the absolute torture they must be, and the sheer scale of the challenge to make it back at all. To make it back and be delivering the type of interesting, artful, music that’s too rare in any event should be more than enough in itself.
Secondly, it’s nice to see them finally make it to Newcastle, though it’s a shame it’s a cold and wet evening in February; I have a feeling that our climate may make it a while until they want to be back.
Aside from tonight being a tribute to the human spirit, what Diiv’s show suggests is that the band may still have some way to go before they fully heal; because for all of their healthier appearance, there’s a strong sense that parts of life still hurt for Diiv, and there’s still solace in the darkness.
Demonstrated in the narrative of the last album, as well as in their physical setting (the stage is mostly dark and each member steps out of the spotlight as often as possible) and physical appearance (hats are pulled down, hoodies cover faces) Diiv still seem to thrive in the darker spaces of life.
As an interesting juxtaposition, tonight’s visual highlight is lead/rhythm guitarist Andrew Bailey who stands centre stage, seeking out the light. Full of physical exuberance, Bailey’s physical guitar style, complete with horror-show facial gestures, provides the show’s visual focus and is a slight relief for the discomfort that can often be not knowing where to look during a shoe-gazing solo.
Taking us on the far-out musical adventure that is krautrock, post-punk, shoegaze and generally, just, ‘feedback heavy guitars’, Diiv tonight are on spectacular form; opener ‘Horsehead’ and closers ‘Blankenship’ and ‘Acheron’ stealing an incredibly powerful show that somehow takes us to dream-like destinations whilst grounding us in the dredge of heavy guitar lines.
Tonight was worth the wait for me; I hope it was worth the pain for them.