Live Music Review: Doves


I’ve been playing in bands live for almost fifteen years, and if there’s one thing that frustrates above all else, it’s playing really well and having your sound ruined by some inexperienced, incompetent or even malicious sound guy. We’ve all heard stories of the support band’s sound mix being purposely sabotaged by the main band’s mixer—yep, it happens. But the biggest problem is that sound mixing, though probably the most crucial part of the live music experience, is one of those things that—along with graphic design and abstract art—everyone thinks they can do, given a go.

This rather long-winded prologue brings me to the Doves gig last night at the Metro. To my delight the band seemed to be able to reproduce the complexities of their sound live, with the help of an excellent keyboardist. But all their hard work was ravaged by the sound guy. The mix was muddy and without top end, and the vocals were a blurry mess. There was no clarity in the guitar sounds, and the drumkit was one loud, very acoustic-sounding snare with virtually no cymbals or toms. Blissfully unaware of how all their hard work wasn’t translating, the band played beautifully. At the very least, I suppose a fan like me could fill in the gaps with his memory of the songs, but my companions didn’t know the band well. We all missed out on what could have been a fantastic, memorable experience.

Doves, for the love of God sack your sound man. Arrogant bastard that I am, I leaned over after the gig (I happened to be standing behind and above the sound desk all night) and told him what a disappointment the mix was, and his harried response was to blame the Metro’s PA. Umm, no good mate, I’ve seen scores of great gigs at the Metro with excellent sound. I’m afraid you’re just crap at your job. The problem is, you brought the Doves down with you.

Anyway, go buy the CDs—Lost Souls, The Last Broadcast and Some Cities are all multi-layered, rewarding albums.

This gig—two muddy washes of sound out of five.

3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. anaglyph
    Jul 21, 2005 @ 12:55:07

    Yep, too often the case. The Leonard Cohen tribute gig that was at the Sydney Opera House earlier in the year suffered the same fate. Inexcusable for such a big show too. I’ve heard very good amplified sound at the Opera House so it was mystifying as to why this show was quite so bad.
    My sympathies – it ruins a good night.

  2. will
    Aug 19, 2005 @ 13:19:46

    I saw Teenage Fanclub at the Metro two nights ago and the sound was absolutely perfect. Same room, same PA, same crowd size, same band lineup (except with one more electric guitar), vocals were clear, separation was great, drums sounded huge……clearly the Doves bloke had no idea.

  3. UniversalHead
    Aug 19, 2005 @ 13:35:50

    Well, I rest my case. Amazingly, as you’ll remember Will, there was a guy who as I was talking leaned across and complimented the sound guy, to my complete shock. Now there’s someone who had no idea.
    The Doves got completely panned in every review I read about those performances. There was also a lot of complaining about background tapes and backing vocals coming from nowhere … clearly, the band is at its best on CD.