26th May 2005
Okay, here’s the usual disclaimer. I’m not going to be objective. In the slightest. Michael Gira‘s been a hero of mine for many years now, and this was the first time I got to see him live. So forgive me if I don’t give it the whole fair and balanced thing in the following review.
You’ve got to hand it to Akron/Family. Considering they are The Angels Of Light at the moment, and they’re playing support on the Angels tour, that means, as Mr Gira points out later in the evening, these poor guys have been playing two sets a night for the last six weeks. And they still seem very… hmm, I think maybe “mellow” is the word I’m looking for. Spectacular beards, amiable banter, and a serious lack of consideration for what music “should ” be like. They’re wonderful. Coming on at times like a lo-fi Flaming Lips, at others like a backwoods Slint smoking a bong with Devendra Banhart, they’re actually fairly indescribable, which makes reviewing them fairly difficult. Suffice it to say, they make a wonderful noise, and it’s not hard to see why Gira a) signed them to Young God and b) took them on as his band.
So, they get about five minutes between sets before the man himself takes the stage. Sitting in a chair, dressed as if auditioning for Death Of A Salesman (particularly apt considering his history, in Swans, of wringing maximum existential horror from dead-end jobs and consumerism- imagine, if you will, HP Lovecraft kicking Ayn Rand‘s head in) he launches straight into “To Live Through Someone”, every bit as beautiful as the studio version, but now with drums. Ah yes, the drums. The new album …Sing Other People has a famous lack of these, but tonight the Akron guys are in fine rockin’ form. And while on CD the lack of drums, once you finally notice it (so rhythmic is the music anyway), seems to add a whole new dimension, in a live environment the drums… well, add a whole different dimension.
Gira himself is every bit how you’d want: one minute crooning with passion and anguish, the next flipping out, twitching and screaming like a marionette with broken strings and Tourette’s Syndrome. Then turning into your kindly uncle, trading jokes with the Akrons, and telling people asking for Swans numbers to fuck off. Jovially. If “relentless” is the only way to describe Swans, then “intense” is the only word that comes close to summing up this. “Michael’s White Hands” (a paean to a conflation of Michael Jackson and Saddam Hussein united into a single savage deity), already a fairly frightening piece of music tonight becomes utterly terrifying, all insistent trebles, growing more and more powerful until the breakdown- “BRING DESTRUCTION! AND BRING THE END! FEED THE GAS INTO MY LUNGS! I BELIEVE IN MICHAEL’S HANDS!!!” I don’t mind telling you, I could have done with a bit of a sit down after that, but there was no way I was missing any of this gig.
A lot of the new album came out, “Destroyer”, Johnny Cash tribute “On The Mountain”, a truly powerful “My Sister Said”, the Akrons giving the “kill that man” chorus an almost gospelly feel. “How I Loved You” offered up a particularly sleazy “New York Girls”… and we even got a Dylan cover, “I Pity The Poor Immigrant” before the closer, a solo acoustic “I Am Blind”. If anyone says he’s lost his intensity since Swans, I’ll fight them. Right here, right now. Bring it on.
-The Deuteronemu 90210 With The Silver Tongue-