DIIV at O2 Forum Kentish Town, 12/03/24

Greatness finds DIIV as the band play their first London show in four years

As feedback murmured steadily, a faux television guru appeared on the projected screen behind the stage to inform the audience crammed into Kentish Town Forum: “This is not a melody within your ears, but a method to unlock the deeper potential within you”. It seemed like an address directed at DIIV themselves however. 

The Brooklyn shoegazers have been on a turbulent journey over the past decade or so, one marred by personal demons and inter-band fallouts. With their impending fourth album, Frog In Boiling Water, they’ve started a new chapter, and are seemingly ready to realise their full potential. 

Entering the stage to the enlightened message, bespectacled bandleader Zachary Cole Smith, swamped in oversized clothing, looked half his nearly-forty-years of age, remarkably. With a sheepish hello, DIIV warmed up with tentative opener ‘Like Before You Were Born’ before pulling out ‘Under The Sun’ and their recent droning single ‘Brown Paper Bag’. The latter reflects on the band’s personal troubles, as Cole delicately muttered: “Quietly swept away, I circle the drain”, admitting to being a waster who nearly wasted his talent. The billowing shrouds of smoke can’t shield his candour, given the lyrics were intentionally laid bare on the screen behind the four-piece. 

DIIV are a band that have continuously been on the precipice of greatness. Hyped upon each album release, they’ve soon lost momentum – it’s been a decade of circling the drain, so to speak – with any meaningful trajectory derailed by addiction. That was until Cole finally got sober in 2017. But after the release of 2019’s superb Deceiver, the pandemic happened. Despite stutters along the way, DIIV’s buzzy status as one of the indie rock’s rawest talents has remained in stasis. Case-in-point was seeing the crowd sardine-ing shoulder-to-shoulder for the band’s first London show in four years, hollering towards them whenever a song came to its conclusion.

Newer songs came thick and fast, the likes of ‘Soul-net’, ‘In Amber’, and their new album’s title track. Trudging through ‘Taker’ – DIIV at their most monolithic – and the downward paint strokes of muddied watercolour ‘Blankenship’ from Deceiver, other fan favourites in ‘Air Conditioning’ and ‘Between Tides’ made the setlist, all to the delight of the crowd, which included members of Fontaines D.C. and The Murder Capital. 

Where they were once loose and languid, DIIV now ratchet up the emotional heft and physical force in their riffs, relying on distortion more heavily as they’ve evolved. The band’s journey – both inside and out of DIIV – is crucial, as a VHS montage of tour footage unravels where they’ve come from, linking the past to their new improved present. 

A sense of pride permeated the venue. Not only as the audience eventually managed to sync their disjointed claps and stomps before luring DIIV back on stage for the encore of ‘Doused’, but here was a band of old pals who had addressed their baggage and dealt with their demons. It’s been a long road to recovery, but DIIV are gearing themselves up for greatness after all. 

DIIV play Manchester on 13 March, and Dublin on 14 March. Find tickets here.