It took a minute to get used to Dry Cleaning’s onstage dynamic on Thursday night.
While guitarist Tom Dowse, bassist Lewis Maynard and drummer Nick Buxton created a controlled but occasionally chaotic sound rife with space-y effects and feedback, frontwoman Florence Shaw stood there, singing or speaking in a deadpan tone.
Going into the show, the U.K. band’s Grog Shop debut, I knew this would be the case. I loved last year’s debut album New Long Leg
. But it still took me a minute to get used to it.
By the fourth song, “The Hippo,” it clicked, and the rest of the 70-minute show was some of the most exciting live music I’ve seen this year. The quartet showed exactly why it garnered critical raves and a growing audience (the venue, while not sold out, was full of an adoring crowd).
The concert, like college radio and alternative rock in the 1980s, also provided a welcome respite from the hair metal that the masses enjoyed in Cleveland.
Running through most of its debut and other assorted songs, Shaw’s lyrics painted pictures while the instrumentation added the necessary colors. But the longer the show went on, the more that Shaw’s neutral delivery and stoic stage presence — sometimes veering into a seething intensity — proved just as powerful.
Be it a twisted list of food-based slogans in “Traditional Fish” or a tribute to the Duchess of Sussex in “The Magic of Meghan,” her delivery proved dramatic and anchored the show with a unique charisma that, while possibly influenced by many, is all her own.
While the band is touring behind its debut album, it already has another in the can. That album, Stumpwork
, comes out in October, and the band previewed it Thursday by running through the new single “Don’t Press Me.”
That single shows the band continues to have promise and can reach a bigger audience as it continues to play live. There may be a few growing pains along the way — Thursday’s show would likely not have translated to the larger Agora or even the House of Blues — but Dry Cleaning is a young band. They’ll get there soon enough, as they already have the act down.
And yes, it was an act. Between songs, Shaw laughed, talked about the band attending a Guardians game (“We’ve seen your baseball team”) and raved about the Buckland Museum of Witchcraft & Magick in Cleveland’s Old Brooklyn neighborhood.
Once the music started, though, she snapped right back into it and never broke character.
During closer “Conversation,” Dowse cranked up the feedback effects, Maynard found his groove and Buxton pounded away.
Shaw stoically stood there, barely moving other than to shake a tambourine.
2. Unsmart Lady
3. Strong Feelings
4. Her Hippo
5. Don’t Press Me
6. Sit Down Meal
7. Viking Hair
8. More Big Birds
9. Traditional Fish
10. New Long Leg
11. Magic of Meghan
12. Tony Speaks!
13. Scratchcard Lanyard
Eric Heisig is a freelance writer. He can be reached at [email protected]