It’s Re-TROS’ first foray into Ireland, and here they are in Dublin’s biggest arena opening for Depeche Mode. The venue isn’t full when they come on, so they’ve only about 5000 people to impress then: no pressure. The Beijing trio are huge in their home country but not very well known in these parts yet. They recently signed with Modern Sky UK and released their first album for the label. Before The Applause is an awesome collection of dystopian epics. Far from being commercial, they sound like Underworld playing with !!! and Alt-J.
The twin synths stand either side of the drum kit but the three musicians trade out instruments for fun. Dropping the guitars or stepping away from their synths, they might pick up a percussion instrument as the beat goes on. A brief greeting and an explosion of white light introduce the thundering ‘Hailing Drums’. The crowd’s reaction is nearly as entertaining as the band. Standing stock still throughout as if hypnotised, there is little in the way of cheering or clapping. Mostly it’s a kind of stunned silence; which is the appropriate response to hearing Re-TROS for the first time.
The ominous bass tones of ‘Pigs In The River’ follow. The organ stabs and gravelly vocals are immediately redolent of Nick Cave’s ‘Red Right Hand’. Crimson spotlights flicker in time with the Joey Santiago guitars of the chorus. They play with the structure of the song and even play up the Bad Seeds resemblance by dropping a line from it into one of the verses.
The 30 minute set only gives them time for three songs and the realisation that their set is over is physically and emotionally painful. Like a sudden blackout that brings an engrossing film to a premature end. It’s a performance of mastery and intensity so compelling that a number of times I have to remind myself to breathe. The narcotic rush of Re-TROS is addictive. Hopefully they will be back soon. This music is a smaller venue would be overwhelming. In a Stendhal kind of way.