Drab Majesty at Fabric

Support: Neuvo Testamento
February 1, 2024 at Fabric
Promoter: Bad Vibrations

Fabric is about as fitting a venue as it gets for this show. The descent into the bowels of one of London’s most famous clubs – red strip lights and chrome pipes lining the brickwork, the smell of burning meat from the restaurants above at street level – is pleasantly surreal. It’s an industrial grotto that’s perfect for a night of dark disco, maudlin star-gazing, and down-beat lysergic synthesizers.

Neuvo Testamento are an Italian trio who pay unapologetic tribute to all things 1980s, through their mixture of cold wave and energetic disco-pop. One of their heavily-tattooed, black-vested members strikes a hexagonal drum pad and big, pounding machine beats instigate a vibrant set of big, catchy bangers.

Singer Chelsey Crowley, known from the band Terramoto, is certainly a fan of London crowds, sounding genuinely thrilled to be back following “one of their best ever shows” on their last visit – which is fortunate, because apparently their journey here was fraught with problems.

While I don’t know their material, their single ‘Heat’ is a standout, with its cheeky synth stabs, brash beats, and catchy refrain (“are you looking for a fire?”) galvanizing the crowd into movement. Or at least we’re doing the best we can, for its absolutely rammed in here already. It can’t be easy to infect a London crowd with hyper disco energy on a soggy Thursday night in winter. But – for half an hour at least – Neuvo Testamento remind us what it’s like to be out on a care-free mediterranian evening, drenched only in soothing sonic nostalgia.

The last time I saw Drab Majesty in London was in 2019 in the Camden Powerhouse (I think it’s back to being Dingwalls now). While the turn-out that night was respectable, it must be a sold-out show tonight, judging by how shoulder-to-shoulder we are out here in the dark. The response is nothing short of rapturous by the time that our heroes arrive: severely wigged, aloof in bug-eye sun-glasses, and formally dressed in shirts and ties. It’s like watching aliens impersonate the Men in Black at some kind of school disco.

‘Dot in the Sky’ picks up their extraterrestrial obsessions, with shimmering Stratocaster chords ornamenting a cold, minimalist beat like abduction rays describing the road to Roswell. ‘Oxytocin’ is clearly a crowd favourite, with most singing along to its refrain of “I’m in love again”, while many pick-up scattered lines from ‘Ellipsis’ and ‘Long Division’.

Drab play a couple from their latest EP An Object in Motion, including ‘Vanity’ and finishing their pre-encore set with ‘The Skin and the Glove’. While the EP hasn’t tickled my fancy on record quite as much as I’d hoped, there’s nothing like the live experience to help something click. And – seeing ‘Vanity’, with its luscious acoustic phrases and slide guitar – it all makes a lot more sense. In fact, I’d say that Drab have always comes across best to me live: perhaps it’s something to with their harmonies, which seem especially prominent in the live mix – and they’re on especially strong form for this show.

Drab like to keep things suitably demure on the crowd interaction front: “Dear friends”, Deb announces towards the end; “what a treat!”, while the duo toasts us with a glass of wine, and exit the stage, thus marking the beginning and the end of their interaction. I think the appeal of Drab, for me, is that they seem to distill the essence of so many styles and micro-genres from the 1980s, or that fetishize that period subsequently, whilst feeling like something new, without relying simply upon retro thrills. And that they make you want to drive through neon streets in bug-sunglasses, a leather gloved hand on the wheel, and synthesizers going hard in the speakers. And tonight’s show was quality enough for me to take something of that majestic spirit with me on my drab tube journey home.

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