For the majority of their lives though, Detroit born brothers Bobby, David, and Dannis Hackney must have thought these were just over-zealous words of encouragement rather than a conceivable reality. After their rediscovery five years ago – involving the unearthing and release of a forty year-old debut album previously unheard by anyone - it’s pleasing to see Death finally enjoying a taste of the success which fate had previously denied them.
As they take to the stage tonight it seems like they’ll rightfully be milking that success for every last drop. Dressed spectacularly, managing to just about pull off a collective combination of aviators, leather vests and black velvet jackets, they plug straight into their Marshall stacks and launch into an eruption of power chords. They play through a mix of material, including some from their recent release N.E.W., but the earlier songs spark a noticeably more enthusiastic response from the crowd. As they hammer out the first notes of ‘Keep on Knocking’ a mosh-pit opens up for the night, drawing in most of the surprising number of eighteen or nineteen year-olds present; and though it annoys a few of the iPhone wielding punters planted on the front row, there’s a little twinkle of pride in Death’s eyes as they clock it for the first time.
While there’s no doubt Death are revelling in this moment, they’re far away from taking their own rock-chic too seriously. It’s with a knowing smile that Bobby Hackney takes his power stances and star-jumps whilst hammering out his bass lines, and every time guitarist Bobbie Duncan adopts his Gene Simmons-esque expression it’s only for as long as he can hold back his laughter. They’re not short of humility either - after almost every song Bobby stops to dedicate his thoughts to his brother David who sadly passed away before the band got its break, telling how they’d always dreamed of coming to England, how seeing The Who at Detroit’s Cobo Arena was the most important thing that ever happened to them, and recounting how many times they’d listened to ‘Live at Leeds’. If you didn’t know the back story it might all sound like a cheap attempt at winning the crowd over – but when you consider how meaningful it must be for Death to finally get a sense of what they might have missed out on, Bobby’s words seem undoubtedly sincere.
And as they reappear for a loudly demanded encore including a deafening rendition of ‘Politicians in My Eyes’, they take a minute to calm the crowd and give a final heartfelt acknowledgement of how lucky they feel to be riding this second wind. ‘To all you music lovers, internet surfers, and vinyl collectors’ says Bobby, ‘from the bottom of our hearts, thank you.’