As the saviour of dancing concert-goers everywhere, Dan Deacon’s live shows are all about leaving self-awareness at the door. He foresakes the use of a stage, instead setting up shop amongst the audience with only the dim glow of a plastic neon skull for lighting. Beginning what initially feels like an awkward drama workshop, Deacon will typically coax the surrounding crowd into joining him for some warm-up exercises. What follows in the next hour is a transformation so pronounced that no one hesitates to grab a lyric sheet for a sing along or to participate in a free-for-all dance contest.
Tonight, however, is slightly different. Deacon’s non-stop touring schedule has left behind a cyber trail of vibrant photos, exhilarated YouTube clips and salivating bloggers. The word is most definitely out. Where once you could count two sceptical first-timers for every Deacon convert, everyone gathered in London’s Dome Club clearly knows what to expect. Its youth centre set-up (complete with Santa’s grotto) seems ideally suited to Deacon’s theatre of electro-pop absurdity. Yet as the New Yorker attempts to haul his table of noise generators toward the centre of the floor, a melee ensues around him. Everyone wants to be that little bit closer to the conductor, mauling each other for just the slightest peek over a shoulder.
It’s a squeeze only exacerbated by the fact that the stage – a vantage point intended to be left open for the audience – has been ruled out of bounds by the promoters, who feel that they should retain the space exclusively. Nevertheless, Deacon finally gets the show rolling with a rousing whirlwind of sizzling synthesizers, effect pedals and computer-like chirps and beeps. Tracks such as “The Crystal Cat” and the playfully infectious “Wham City” – both from Deacon’s first internationally distributed release, “Spiderman of the Rings” – are met with an uproarious reception that almost renders his unique brand of interaction superfluous.
Despite having little breathing room amongst a mass of sweat-soaked bodies, Deacon body pops between gadgets, his spectacles taped to his flailing head like a mad scientist who has lost one too many pairs to his own enthusiasm. Were it not for a steady stream of adrenaline overriding any ability for detached analysis, it would be difficult to believe that this cheerleading character is actually a classically trained composer. In many ways, it’s a cartoonish sight: wrapped in a tangle of cables, Deacon stands over a veritable melting pot of sound, feverishly dishing out the broth he has concocted to keep it all from overflowing.
Sadly, it’s a spectacle missed out on by much of the capacity crowd. Following four hours of support bands, a poorly organised night means that this all take places well after midnight. Those unconcerned by the departure of the last tube, however, walk away feeling nothing short of euphoric. Deacon’s show is an invigorating exchange between artist and audience that breaks down inhibitions and allows you to rejoice, if only for a brief time, in the magic of shared experience.