The Lexington is one of those venues where you’re surprised you’ve never heard of it before once you’ve been. With the bottom floor a pub and room at the top of the stairs a venue with a completely different atmosphere, it is the perfect place for Kevin Devine’s first UK show of the year and also the first UK show touring his two Kickstarter funded albums, Bubblegum and Bulldozer.
The room is comfortably filled with people when opener Katie Malco takes the stage, just her and an electric guitar. She is charming with an absolutely incredible voice, singing songs of hers old and new, and a cover of Bob Dylan’s ‘Tomorrow Is a Long Time’. She is reminiscent of Gabrielle Aplin and Daughter in her sound, and should feel proud that as a support act, she was able to silence the whole room. She is truly one to watch, especially live. A highlight of her set was her performing a song she said is recorded with piano, but she made do with just her guitar. It’s a shame the songs weren’t introduced by name so that the track could be easily found afterwards.
Kevin Devine takes the stage shortly after, the sold out room at capacity as he weaves through the crowd saying hi to faces, both familiar and new. He, like Katie, takes the stage with just a guitar (his is acoustic) and begins with ‘Bubblegum’, but a softer version compared to the recorded full band track. He immediately goes into a pitch perfect rendition of ‘Little Bulldozer’ before a Bad Books song, ‘It Never Stops’, which is when the crowd singalongs appear, showing that the crowd are fans of more than just his solo efforts.
Kevin talks a bit about the tube strike, which is starting that night, saying he’s going to play as much as he can so that nobody has any trouble getting home or feels like they missed something. That is, until a member of the crowd mentions it began when his set began, leaving him with a reply of “oh well” and launching into ‘You’re My Incentive’, a particularly old track of his from 2003.
When ‘She Can See Me’ is played ( with Kevin announcing that he “cheated and put that song on both records”), the pace begins to pick up within the room, as previous songs until this point have been slightly slower but now Kevin is getting into it, along with the atmosphere and vibe of the crowd being almost audible.
It is also at this point that Devine gives an introduction to ‘Private First Class’ and asks the crowd if they know who Chelsea Manning is, seeming surprised at the amount of people who do and explaining it’s not like that “back home”. Of course, this is an issue close to him as he has been very vocal and active about the Manning case for a long time and he is headstrong in his introduction to the song, which is played full of energy.
‘Just Stay’ is a beautiful moment in the set and a personal highlight as the crowd organically begin to sing every word with Kevin, and with him singing into the mic and an entire room singing back, the volumes are matched. He beams as he continues singing, and even after when he comments on how it was a very natural moment without him having to force it.
After a little bit of Limp Bizkit banter (“DJ Lethal!”), it seems as though everyone in the room are old friends, feeling comfortable and at peace with one another when put in front of this music. Devine flows through more songs (23 in all!) and even gives a little shout out to The Front Bottoms with the ending of ‘Cotton Crush’ being the same ending he added a couple of years ago on a live EP release.
‘I Used To Be Someone’ is another great highlight from the show, with a different time signature and almost sounding like a completely new song altogether, just with the same lyrics. Also a little shout of to the slight lyric change to “here in the playground of the 1%”.
The introduction to the next song gets the whole audience laughing and singing along raucously; “Wanna hear a punk rock song on an acoustic guitar that sounds like shit?” Of course it’s ‘Fiscal Cliff’. He takes fun little snippets of hard rock requests after this, strumming out some Metallica with a gruff voice before bursting into laughter and saying “It’s a rock show but it’s a folk guy”.
‘Brothers Blood’ is always a highlight of his sets, that moment when he steps away from the microphone, stops any and all music and is screaming at the top of his lungs is just incredible. There’s really no other word for it. Just incredible. An audience member after commented that the crowd were “so quiet I could hear my watch ticking”. (Check out our Instagram for a video!)
The set closes out with Kevin saying “I’ll see you guys sooner than later, I think” and launching into ‘Ballgame’, another very old track that leaves everyone first singing along, then clapping and stomping their feet until the house lights come up.
After such a monster of a set, Kevin still came out to say hello to people and was happy to talk to anyone, recognising so many people, including one gentleman who saw him on his last tour and had drunkenly heckled him that night, and had come this night to apologise in person. The fact that this one man had poured so much energy into a set and still had time and happiness to come and see people and hug and take pictures is just a perfect example of why he has had a career spanning over a decade and is still able to sell out shows and be listed as many individuals favourite artist. An incredible night by an incredible man.