I remember listening the Duke Spirit’s Cuts Across the Land on a loop on the flight to SXSW last year. The first time I got to see the band in its current incarnation was at last years’ festival and I’ve been eagerly waiting to see them again. Unfortunately, the band had troubles getting to NY for the first Ted Leo tour show in the beginning of March. Last night was the finale of the Les Aus/Duke Spirit/Ted Leo tour and the Duke Spirit went out like royalty. I haven’t gotten goose bumps at a show in a long time, but watching the Duke Spirit own the crowd last night and end winning over a room full of Pharmacist fans, I was convinced of the majesty of the Spirit. Opening with lead track “Cuts Across the Land,” it became apparent that the Duke Spirit was not at the Knitting Factory to merely be an opening band. They were there to conquer. For the second song of the night, Ted Leo came out to trade verses with Duke Spirit front woman Liela Moss. Ted’s time on stage resulted in whoops from the crowd, but the Spirit’s reign was just beginning.
Liela was a mesmerizing blur and Dan Higgins aimed his guitar like a rifle and picked off members of the audience.
Live, Liela Moss acts as an explosive lightening rod, the main conduit for the energy and allure of the band. She is the perfect leader for a band creating tunes as sexy, exciting and commanding as those of the Duke Spirit. Howling, thrashing and crooning her way through a set of tunes off their debut album (out on Startime International) mixed with equally exciting new songs, Liela tambourined, maracaed and harmonicaed her way through the set. The base of the band that allows Liela’s delivery to be so powerful is the propulsive rhythm of drummer Olly Betts and bassist Toby Butler and the wall of sound created by the dueling guitars of Dan Higgins and Luke Ford. The set alternates from the pure rock and roll abandon of tracks like “Lion RIP” and “Dark is Light Enough” to the gorgeous blues-infused “Darling, You’re Mean” and “Hello to the Floor.” Ending with my favorite track off Cuts Across The Land, “Red Weather,” Liela was a mesmerizing blur and Dan Higgins aimed his guitar like a rifle and picked off members of the audience. Their domination complete, the Duke Spirit left the stage with Liela’s fist raised and a shout of “oi” to the audience. If you’re in NY and you’re ready to be conquered by the Duke Spirit, swing by Fontanas tonight at 9pm and fall in love. All the info is here and while you’re there, check out the video for “Lion RIP.” Seriously, it’s fantastic.