Going to see a band from your past, that you never got to see the first time around, is always perhaps something of a risk.
03 August 2007
[Note: An edited version of this review appeared in Alternative Magazine Issue 07]
Happily in this case, there was little in the way if disappointment. After a bit of a delay – and two support bands that I have seen before, and neither did much for me this time (Cybercide and KiK) – and something of a smaller crowd than might have expected, NE finally appeared on stage, ripping into a supercharged Getting Closer and not letting up by following it with Let Your Body Learn. Although not huge, it was a seriously vocal crowd that was clearly made up of many old-school fans – which meant that almost every song was well known by them, with the exception of the two slightly-unexpected new tracks. Both of these stuck to the classic NE pattern of beats and vocals, with little of the experimentation that so hamstrung much of last album Big Hit.
Despite the appearance of both the expected (Godhead, where words were fumbled but was otherwise as filthy as ever, and Ascend) and the unexpected (Hearts and Minds, Blood Money, For Fun) in the middle portion of the set, it all seemed that the pacing was a little off. The atmosphere went a little flat, there was little of the earlier crowd interaction. That didn’t stop the hyperactive movement of Doug McCarthy, though, who seemed to cover every single inch of the stage over the course of the set, his distinctive vocal-style not affected whatsoever by the years, and as ever behind a pair of dark sunglasses.
Things picked up again in the final stretch, though, first through the odd-as-ever-rambling of Lightning Man, before the pace kicked back in with Control I’m Here, a raging Murderous (“WHERE IS THE YOUTH?”. Oh yeah!) and then the close of Join In The Chant – complete with crowd singalong to finish it. We were even treated to an encore – of Fun To Be Had, and a final, astonishing rendition of I Give To You.
There is most certainly life in the old dog yet – the new songs show promise, and while overall the gig was a little patchy, when they are good they are utterly, utterly unstoppable. The only question left – why were there not more people there? This is one of the bands that are responsible for the whole EBM scene, and in their opening Getting Closer they showed more energy and life on stage and in the music than almost every other electronic band I have seen live in the past few years. Those who purport to be into EBM – particularly the newer stuff – clearly need to take a look at the older stuff too rather than just whatever is in fashion now – or am I being too harsh?
[For photos from the gig, please head here – external link]