MUSIC | Doves at the Varsity: Perennial underdogs come out on top

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Doves, a perennially underrated English rock band, received a small piece of vindication on Thursday night, easily selling out Minneapolis’s Varsity Theater performance after a long six-year absence from town. Though Doves have been critically acclaimed since their inception in 1998, they have never received the mainstream recognition that many believe they deserve. With their new album Kingdom of Rust and performances as strong as we saw on Thursday, they may find that recognition yet.

The quartet (mainstays Jez and Andy Williams and Jimi Goodwin were joined by a keyboardist for this tour) started out the evening with the lead track off of the new record, “JetStream.” The band seemed initially a bit hesitant, suffering from first not enough bass and then too much of it, but by the time they hit crowd pleaser “Almost Forgot Myself,” they started to really connect with the packed audience. They then really allowed the guitar-heavy sound to rip, tearing through Kingdom’s title track, 2005’s “Black and White Town,” and a stunning rendition of “Caught by the River” from 2002’s The Last Broadcast.

Between songs Goodwin cracked jokes with the audience, shouting out a confusing reference to the Blues Brothers’ “four fried chickens and a coke” line, as well as wittily responding to a few audience members’ adoring cries. Lead guitarist Jez wasn’t a flashy showman, but definitely proved his worth as a guitar wizard deftly maneuvering into some blistering solos. Brother Andy was outside the limelight, but pounded out his intricate drum rhythms with a precision that spoke for itself.

After playing for over an hour, Doves briefly removed themselves from the stage before sauntering back amongst chants and screams for more. The four-song encore was about a half hour long and contained the slow-burning “Northenden,” “Here it Comes,” a spirited “Last Broadcast” (which began as a cover of the Doors’ “The End”), and the evening’s highlight: “There Goes The Fear.” Before leaving the stage Goodwin thanked the crowd for “being an absolutely wonderful audience”; the band shook fans’ hands and gave high fives as they left the Varsity’s stage under an overwhelming din of applause. Hopefully they won’t wait another six years to set foot on it again.

Jon Behm (jonbehm@gmail.com) is a Minneapolis-based photographer and writer. While his specialty is music, Jon has a wide variety of interests that tend to take him all over the Twin Cities on a daily basis.

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