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Coven / Galley Beggar (live at The Dome)

11 September 2017

Coven live September 2017Dark clouds were brooding all day before Coven’s first ever show in the UK. AS I left the tube station the heavens opened and a monsoon like shower sent everyone on the street running for cover. I braved the downpour and ran to the entrance of the venue where a few other soaked individuals were also huddled trying to get in. A large clap of thunder rang from the skies, and it seemed a perfect accompaniment for the band who epitomised the six six sixties.

Galley Beggar had just taken to the stage as I walked in drenched through to the skin. They are a wonderful slice of pure acid folk, a kind of mixture of Trees meets Mellow Candle meets Dando Shaft. Maria O’Donnell’s vocals are hauntingly beautiful as she takes us through classics like “Let No Man Steal Your Thyme” and the bands own self-penned piece of melancholy “Empty Sky”.

Focussing on songs from their new album Heathen Hymns, they transported the audience back to the early ’70s when this kind of acoustic music flowered in its heyday. Their musicianship was flawless, with both David Ellis and Mat Fowler creating magic on their guitars. The band can also rock when they need to as well. Catch them live and settle into the feeling of a warm autumnal evening.

Galley Beggar live September 2017

Obviously, everyone here tonight wanted to witness Jinx Dawson’s first-ever gig on British soil. Ever since the classic album Witchcraft Destroys Minds And Reaps Souls’ came out in 1970, it had a big effect on all those who heard it. Part folk song, part Satanic mass, it was the gateway into the realms of magick for many listeners and a record heavy on occult atmosphere.

A casket is placed centre stage and is enveloped by dry ice that swirls around the audience as the mass is played. Members of the band wearing cloaks accompany a cowled figure into the coffin as the dry ice rises and the names of the dark lord ring out over the speakers. Eventually, Jinx Dawson makes her way from the casket like a Luciferian vampire, her face covered, and she stands sentinel among the London fog onstage; then the band hit into “Out of Luck” and the lights and the audience erupt.

Coven live September 2017

Jinx is the only original member in the current line-up of Coven and the band, rather than playing the songs as heard on the album in 1970, decide to re-imagine them and rearrange them. Many numbers are performed like modern doom metal. This includes such classics as “Coven In Charring Cross” and the sublime “White Witch Of Rose Hall”. The band is clearly giving it their all and this works better on tracks like “Black Sabbath” and “Wicked Woman”.

Coven live September 2017

After a couple of numbers, Jinx removes her veil and the audience are now worshipping at the altar of Ms Dawson. She is a powerful singer whose voice cuts through the sound, which is a little muddy at points. She is a singer with that rare thing, presence, and she stands like a malevolent dark angel on stage, pulling all around her to come and dance at her Sabbat and join in the carnal feast of the darkened night. “Blood on the Snow” was the perfect ending for tonight’s revelries in a set that most of the audience wished had been a little longer.

As I made my way outside, the pendulous clouds opened again and the rain hammered down, and it seemed the perfect way to end the evening. Hopefully Coven will return to Europe soon so that Jinx can cast her magick spell once more.

-Gary Parsons –

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