Islington’s Union Chapel is arguably London’s best place to watch bands. Not only are performers nakedly humble amongst the candle lit columns, dominated by the vast dome and rose window, but you can have a mug of tea and a sit nice down – a niche most venues overlook.
It’s a deserving venue for the French twee folk duo, but risky and capacity is far from breeched. Not that the scale intimidates Herman Düne – they’re clearly in their comfort zone. Yaya (David-Ivar) Herman Düne and live bassist Ben Pleng are wandering among the pews laughing, and Cosmic Neman Herman Düne saunters on to guest with support act, the rather bland, Sean Flinn and The Royal We – they’re clearly at home here. They share this familiarity from the stage with ‘Tell Me Something I Don’t Know’ and ‘Be A Doll and Take My Heart’ enveloping the space with ease and allowing Herman Düne to aurally mould the harsh pews to each individual.
It should be all about the music, but they’re a peculiar band to watch. Pleng is small and bobs along with his bass, Cosmic Neman echo’s a cheeky twee Denis the Menace pulling little faces and telling people who go to the toilet that they can’t leave from behind his kit. But it’s the giant Yaya who dominates, with a hat which makes him resemble a paint brush modelled on an Amish version of Grant Wood’s American Gothic. This mismatched quirkiness which makes Herman Düne so endearing and is reflected in tonight’s music.
The set is fast passed with minimal time between songs so their banter is precise and to the point. Regaling the Chapel with tales of being on tour and seeing billboards for Nirvana’s Nevermind, Yaya sincerely amends the lyrics to ‘Not On Top’ to reflect his love of the album, adding to the inclusive intimacy of the show. This is enhanced during ‘I Hear Strange Moosic’ when a call and response sing-along is encouraged, and somewhat uncomfortably obliged.
Of course it’s ‘I wish That I Could See You Soon’ which receives the most whoops from the congregation. Without the trumpets, but wonderfully replaced with tremolo guitar, it’s stripped back yet remains enthralling. Tonight’s biggest revelation is seeing how good a guitarist Yaya is. Hidden among the melodies and heartfelt voice is intricate finger plucking and acoustic shredding which comes to the fore during his solo moments, manifested with ‘When The Water Gets Cold And Freezes on The Lake’.
Ultimately, they have Union Chapel spellbound in a marathon 1:45 set which predominantly focusses on their post 2006 output (when brother Andre left the band) and buttresses their wonderful 2011 album Strange Moosic. Rarely can three people dominate such a cavern while remaining grounded in wry quirkiness and marks a deserved increase in venue size and adoration.