Review: Porridge Radio and Dana Gavanski at Norwich Arts Centre
- Credit: Owen Sennitt
On a quiet Tuesday night, Norwich was set to host a band that once self-proclaimed themselves as the "best band in the world."
Brighton-based Porridge Radio were in town at Norwich Arts Centre (NAC) as part of a long run of tour dates in the UK.
Their tongue-in-cheek boast at one time seemed a fair proclamation. The release of their second album, Every Bad, in early 2020 saw them lauded by critics and hailed as one of the brightest newcomers.
An NME cover and Mercury Prize nomination later, it seemed they were well and truly on the path of success.
Unfortunately, the pandemic had other plans, and the ensuing run of lockdown restrictions prevented the hotly-tipped act from being able to capitalise on their album success with a tour.
Two years later, the quartet can finally get on the road, ready to make amends and get back on track after their trajectory to success was temporarily derailed.
Opening the night was Dana Gavanski, a Canadian singer-songwriter who was playing her fifth and final show in support of Porridge Radio on their current UK tour.
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Backed by electronic keyboard and drums, the singer and guitarist played a charming set.
Her songs were reminiscent of 60s/70s French psych-pop, or a stripped-back Stereolab or perhaps Melody's Echo Chamber.
The reverberating tones of the keys let Gavanski’s melodies float delicately above, delivering melancholic tunes that seemed to long for happier summer days.
It was a great way to start the night and the crowd began to fill in as they played.
Porridge Radio sauntered on the set with an assured confidence half an hour later, and seemed eager to perform.
They opened with Born Confused, the first track on their 2020 album. A great track that built to a crescendo of cried vocals from lead singer and guitarist Dana Margolin, repeating an impassioned refrain, “Thank you for leaving me, thank you for making me happy,” as the band gradually dissolved around her.
They continued at pace, playing a mixture of old and new songs. Tracks such as Homecoming Song, 7 Seconds, Long and Pop Song kept the crowd's eyes magnetised on the four piece.
Moving from moments of quiet to searing screams and fuzzed-up guitars, there's a definite Pixies feel to their sound that's also infused with the frenetic energy of post-punk.
While their sound has grown a lot from the lo-fi bedroom pop of their early records, you can still recognise that this aesthetic is at the heart of their songwriting.
One track that stood out was Lilac, which grew from a swaggering groove with dissonant chords ringing out, into noise-drenched impassioned pleas of “I don’t want to get bitter, I want us to get better, I want us to be kinder.” Its this raw honesty, as if the lead singer was exorcising negativity, that made the band all the more captivating.
Returning for an encore, they were joined by Gavanski to play a powerful cover of Wolf Parade’s You Are a Runner and I Am My Father’s Son, which was released as a single in August this year.
The beautiful set design came into its own as they performed the song, with red drapes enveloping a gorgeous illuminated full moon projected in the centre. You could almost imagine a wolf's howl calling from a distance.
The band whipped through their final song, Sweet, one of their biggest singles to date and it all seemed to finish as quickly as it had started.
They exuded energy throughout and appeared to be having a lot of fun performing with each other. As it was a Tuesday night, the NAC crowd were somewhat subdued but Porridge Radio did their best to raise their spirits.
Nonetheless, they put on a fantastic show and it seems they are ready and waiting to reassume the snowballing hype they were beginning to garner pre-pandemic.
Porridge Radio are continuing to tour the UK throughout November, December and into the new year. More details can be found here.