Duke Special live at The Arts Club, Liverpool

Posted on 16 March 2015
By Christopher Simon
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Avant-garde Irishman, Duke Special stumbled through a mediocre set at The Arts Club in Liverpool.

We could not help but feel underwhelmed this past Friday when Duke Special delivered a passionate yet un-fulfilling performance. Duke presented each song with a sometime overrun speech explaining the context and origins of the song. While this sometimes seemed dismal, I felt compelled to enjoy the music since his passion was adamant.

Duke paced slowly through covers of his favourite songs as well as his own back catalogue; both old and new.
Supporting act ‘Paul Cook and The Chronicles’ relied on the respectful nature of the crowd as his melancholy set dragged on the chalkboards of my mind. We were hastily waiting for the Duke’s arrival.

Duke entered the stage to very cinematic music which set the scene for his personal production.

He flicked at the keys of his piano and rattled through two forgetful songs. One of the only shows highlights came early when he did a cover of ‘Andrew in Drag’ by the Magnetic Fields. The content was hilarious and Duke’s diction was spot on as he played up the irony and crudeness of the song to exciting effect. The fresher release ‘Look out Machines’ echoed warning of artificial intelligence which was thought provoking.

Special has a great knack for dramatizing his music in live venues. The acoustics of the Arts Club helped drastically since the sound felt like it was dripping from the ceiling. The song ‘Apple Jack’ which was rich in biblical imagery was surprisingly contagious and stuck in our head for the remainder of the night due to its melody.

Yet, we find ourselves pushing hard to find positives within the set. It is understood that Special is a classically trained musician and that he does not need critical success to pursue his passion; we respect that.

However, a culture shock was wanted. For a musician who has contributed on several unique projects within the fields of photography and literature; a masterful production which showed classical interpretation of modernity was expected. It was underwhelming since the Duke mostly stuck to his piano with the company of a backing track. There were no gramophones or kitchen utensils which Duke has been celebrated for using.

We just felt that this time has been and gone and that clinching to these old remnants is pointless. While we respect and personally like the Duke for the person he is and his message we feel that we need to progress and look for the next new thing instead of resting in a time forgotten.