The Duke Spirit put an exclamation point on 2010


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By Seraphina Lotkhamnga

The music of the Duke Spirit has always had a certain moxie – “The Step and the Walk,” if you will, to name-check a song off the band’s second album “Neptune.” On Thursday night at the Roxy, the London quintet exuded a swagger befitting its tunes, barreling into West Hollywood to play an explosive set worthy of the Sunset Strip’s rock star-laden past.

From the moment singer Leila Moss and company strutted on to stage to catapult themselves into the brooding bass line of “The Step,” the Duke Spirit commanded the packed house, and they kept it that way although nearly half the songs the fivesome played came from their forthcoming album “Bruiser,” which isn’t out until February.

On stage, it’s impossible for Moss to avoid being the focal point, and it was obviously not going to be any different this night. With sultry looks peeking out from behind her blonde fringe and her legs kicking underneath and around the microphone stand, the radiant frontwoman carried the momentum with her assertive vocals in songs such as “Lassoo” and “Into The Fold.” Supremely confident physically and vocally, Moss transformed even new songs such as “Everybody’s Under Your Spell,” early in the set, into a euphoria that immediately filled the venue.

Mostly alternating between their older songs like “Red Weather” and new ones such as the chanting “Procession,” the band also slowed the tempo down for a few intimate tunes. Standout songs included the deeply affecting “Hello to The Floor” and fresh ballad, “Villain,” which opened up with just haunting vocals and piano.

The slower songs provided a glimpse into “Bruiser’s” leaner sound – the new songs’ edges are a bit more rounded but not dulled. The energetic but less noisy arrangements on new tunes such as “Surrender” and “Don’t Wait” give Moss a bit more room to operate.

The quintet played its encore of “This Ship Was Built to Last,” “Lion RIP” and “Cuts Across the Land” as if it were putting an exclamation point on 2010 a day early. Certainly if you were looking for an adrenaline-pumpiing soundtrack to the end of a great year – and a starting point for 2011 – you didn’t have to wait for New Year’s Eve.

L.A. trio Crash Kings preceded the Duke Spirit with a bombastic set that relied heavily on material from their 2009 debut album, but Tony Beliveau and crew found room for one new song, as well as a cover of Nirvana’s “In Bloom.” Orange County’s Free Lions began the night with a dose proggy indie-folk featuring the sibling vocals of Shayne and Jocelyn Fee.