Drugstore – Dingwalls, Camden Town, London

It’s an otherwise ordinary Monday night in Camden Town. Grey skies, over-priced beer… but at Dingwall’s, 487 people know that something very special is about to happen. It’s a sell-out show for the reunion of perhaps the most underrated band of our generation.

For the uninitiated, Drugstore make music for the broken-hearted. But their world isn’t just one of maudlin introspection. It’s about celebrating the highs and the lows and the everything-in-betweens. They pick you up when you’re down, but they give you every opportunity to wallow in your own sentimentality if that’s where you’re at. I know this because I’ve been there (haven’t we all?), and I’m so very happy to see them together again here at Dingwalls, some 7 years since they last graced a stage.

As singer-songwriter Isabel Monteiro, Brazilian-born and London-resident, takes the stage alone to the wavering tones of Saturday Sunset, we the audience are bewitched. Everything seems perfect and as Isabel whispers those opening lines – “We’re down to the last stop, heading for nowhere” I think it’s fair to say that most of us are already so enraptured that we don’t even realise that the singer’s guitar volume is turned right down until her amiable roadie intervenes in this most intimate of moments, surprising Isabel herself, and turns it up a few notches! And that sets the overall tone for the night. Beautifully chaotic, as only true artists are.

And Drugstore show the heart of an artist with their setlist too. They don’t come here to play you all their singles and win an easy victory. That would be too simple. Instead we’re treated to the finest moments from their three albums, and a wonderful solo set from Ms Monteiro as an encore. Isabel conducts the room with a confidence that suggests that she knows only too well what her audience wants. A heartfelt medley comprising If and Under The Moon is the highlight of the evening.

Counterpoint to Monteiro’s effervescent energy, guitarist Daron Robinson is the lynch-pin holding the whole magnificent thing together and he delivers a fantastic vocal on No More Tears. Drummer Mike Chylinski never misses a beat. It’s hard to believe this is a band who haven’t played together for over seven years.

It doesn’t take long for the evening to turn into a celebration. Isabel has the audience spellbound, and when Turin Brakes frontman Olly Knights marches onstage to duet on the haunting El President, and members of the hugely popular support act Pacific Ocean Fire pile on for the final song, Fader, then it all turns into one big party.

Drugstore don’t sound like anyone else out there. They strip music down to its bare essentials. The love, the hate, the passion… the things that matter. It’s good to have them back. The world’s a better place with Drugstore in it.

With kind thanks to Gary Simpson for use of his pictures. Visit http://www.drugstoremusic.co.uk/

Paul Fletcher

Updated: Sep 09, 2009

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