VUKOVI Bring Their Sci-Fi Epic ‘NULA’ To London | Live Review

London, Electric Ballroom, March 15 2024

Photo: Bridie Florence Cummings

“Obviously there’ll be a pit, it’s Vukovi!” someone cackles as they jostle past, pint aloft as they slink further into the packed out crowd. Pits and pints seems to be the unanimous agenda on everyone’s mind tonight – everywhere your gaze falls, a grinning face is peering over a plastic cup, working through the amber liquid at pace so it doesn’t all go flying when moshing commences.

Tonight, the Electric Ballroom is set to trascend to stratospheric new heights. Two years on from the release of ‘NULA’, Vukovi are finally bringing their sci-fi alt-rock opus to life – and fans have travelled from far and wide to catch the phenomenal record being played in full for the first time ever. In a way, the night is somewhat of a pilgrimage for Vukovi fans, so it only makes sense that everyone is on edge and ready to let loose as soon as the Glaswegians step foot on stage.

Suddenly, the room is plunged into darkness, before a red glow slowly emenates out from the stage. As the robotic announcement of ‘Departure’ blasts out over the speakers, fans limber up, preparing for lift off. Lights fluttering overhead, Vukovi finally take to the stage, the titanic ‘NULA’ symbol glowing brightly onstage. The thick ambience of the intro track floods the room, a blanket of tension – a tension broken by the woman of the hour herself, Janine Shilstone, elegantly lobbing a half-full pint out into the crowd.

Instantly, the room knows what to do. Tainted quickly takes control, and fans are eager to satisfy Shilstone’s call-to-action, bouncing and gleefully crying along. But it’s just not good enough, not for Shilstone; “you guys are fucking amateurs – get the fucking pit open right now!” she scolds the crowd, before the sea of bodies splits in two without a moment of hesitation. As a shit-eating grin splits her face in two, Shilstone is assured of one thing: she’s the ringleader tonight. And she’d have it no other way.

With a renewed bounce in her step, ‘LASSO’ rumbles into life. Fans hoist the pit back, back, back, as the opening builds – before Shilstone announces the drop with her innocent, butter-wouldn’t-melt utterance of “OOPS!” The crowd is an entirely new beast, adrenaline encarnate. The renewed vigour puts the previous efforts to shame, the pit collapsing in on itself as the track unfolds. As fans howl along “make us! your popstars!”, fists fly from the front to the back, people bouncing along to emphasise each syllable.

Photo: Bridie Florence Cummings

While fans delight in Shilstone’s sharp-tongue and buckets of attitude, it’s balanced out by the fact she’s a total charmer. Every time Shilstone takes a second to catch her breath and chat to the crowd, she’s glowing with a humble, giddy sense of pride – or cackling about Buckfast. “Tonight is sponsored by Buckfast!” she laughs, taking a generous swig inbetween tracks. She’s a vision in red, dressed to the nines in sequins, and an absolute sweetheart – even if a little tipsy.

By the time ‘Quench’ hits, it seems the crowd is equally as quenched on the bevvies, crowdsurfers starting to clamber their way overhead. ‘SLO’ is much of the same, the sticky floor bouncing under the might of the crowd’s joyous howls and movement. When it comes to Vukovi, you’re guaranteed to get sweaty: movement is guaranteed. The Glaswegians are the embodiment of the most chaotic, frivolous festival set, delivering back-to-back tunes that will keep you on your toes. 

But Vukovi undoubtedly have a softer side. Behind the arduous alt-rock breakdowns, noise-pop magic and Buckfast chugging, Vukovi tracks hold a lot of heart – and Shilstone is a total chanteuse, able to knock out a velvetty smooth, heart-wrenching solo at the flick of a switch. ‘Shadow’ serves as a stunning reminder of her versatility, performance oozing grace as she falls into the flow of the introspective track.

‘Sad’ comes as perhaps the most subdued track on ‘NULA’, yet again showcasing Shilstone’s show-stopping vocals. However, rather than causing fans to drown in floods of tears, the emotional peak of ‘NULA’ is transformed as man in the crowd decides to rise to the occassion – quite literally. The fan manages to stand upright as the climax of the track hits, the glistening lightshow causing a halo to glow around his silhouette as Shilstone’s laughter eats into her climactic howls of “I love you and I hate you but I can’t forget…” 

Photo: Bridie Florence Cummings

It’s the perfect encapsulation of Vukovi’s symbiosis: a community that provides a safe-space to unravel trauma, but also one where you can smile in spite of any emotional hardship. Fans truly leave reality at the door, swept away in the Glaswegians’ joyour uproar of riffs and sparkling breakdowns. ‘NULA’s closer, ‘XX’, only hammers this idea home as Shilstone’s cries of ‘’we’re stronger together!” ring out over the crowd.

To round things off, Vukovi knock out a slew of absolute bangers. While the night has honoured an album you could almost call a classic by now, belting out bangers well-and-truly stitched into their fans brains, newer tunes go down a treat. ‘Creep Heat’s opening cry of “forgive me mother, for I have sinned,” are howled out by the crowd, and ‘Mercy Kill’ is met with equal degrees of clamouring glee. The whirling pits show that Vukovi fans are more than ready for the band’s next chapter signed with Sharptone.

Certified classic ‘La Di Da’ waves the night off. As Shilstone unleashes the magic opening words, the crowd reaches its boiling point. “Love me, love me -”  she begins, before the room cracks open for one final hurrah, eager to soak up the final dreggs of the evening’s chaos. The track is bread and butter Vukovi, tailor-made for a brazen, ridicolously fun time. As Shilstone loses herself in the track, throwing her body around like a puppet on a string, it’s electric. Simply put, it’s the perfect cherry on top of a brilliant night of Glaswegian magnificence.

And, with the final triumphant round of “la lala lala lala!”s being hurled out, that’s it – “bye!” Shilstone simply says, grabbing a Scottish flag and waving it behind her with a flourish. It’s fittingly sassy, oozing that penchant Shilstone sass – and the fans wouldn’t have it any other way.

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