Chicago five-piece The Orwells, infamous both amongst venue owners for their raucous shows and other bands alike (the boys rather unaffectionately likened Arctic Monkeys to the Backstreet Boys after supporting them on the road), graced The Dome on Wednesday for a sweaty, sleazy, all-round searing (and not to mention sold-out) set.
Starting off with a stomping rendition of the shambling garage-punk masterpiece that is ‘Dirty Sheets’, it’s clear that Mario Cuomo is in manic frontman mode. Twitching and practically frothing at the mouth, he leans out into the crowd and eyes up those at the front. There’s something quite primal about live music generally. but The Orwells can always be relied upon to really let their audience off the leash.
It might have something to do with their lyrics. Not pretentious in content or eloquent in delivery, but dark and unapologetically sordid. The kinds of lyrics you can scream gleefully whilst wine-drunk, propped up by a teeming mass of clammy bodies all simultaneously trying to mimic Cuomo’s signature brooding drawl.
And it’s fair to say that all eyes are on him. He’s the kind of guy you feel you should hate, yet can’t help but watch in amazement; whether he’s stood, head cocked to one side and arms folded, barking iconic lyrics such as “life is better with a hand full of ass, bad-ass shades and a bag full o’ grass”(!) or just swaggering around, entangled in microphone wire.
New track ‘They Put a Body in the Bayou’ (FYI, just to reiterate the band’s penchant for the macabre, I looked it up and a ‘bayou’ is a kind of stream) taken from forthcoming album Terrible Human Beings incites a fair amount of crowd surfing and stage invasions, as does fan favourite ‘Mallrats’.
At one point, Cuomo waltzes off and the band finish up the hour-long set themselves. It is hard to know whether this was planned or just the antics of a diva-ish frontman – nevertheless, The Orwells return in full force for a vigorous encore of ‘Who Needs You’ that sees Cuomo clamber up onto the speaker, much to the exasperation of the security who are all beginning to look decidedly more haggard than they did at the beginning of the night.
With ears still ringing and the bruises starting to materialise, I catch guitarist Dominic Corso after the gig and ask him if the band ever feel upstaged by their seemingly unhinged frontman. He laughs and replies simply, “if he didn’t upstage us then he wouldn’t be doing his job and we’d be worried.” Seems fair.