This was one of those gigs that really took me by surprise. I mean, Apop are no longer the draw they once were, right?
How wrong I was. A big and enthusiastic turnout, all the more surprising with it being a wet and cold Sunday night. But first, we had to get through support act Seize. Despite the encouraging noises I had heard from some about this lot, I just didn’t get it at all, I’m afraid. A mix of female vocals, breakbeats (with a reasonably impressive live drummer), and little else due to the sound mix, to my ears they just came across as somewhat dull and one-dimensional. They may perhaps make more sense on CD, or indeed in a club, but in the gig environment it just struck me as wrong place, wrong time.
After some considerable wait following Seize, it was finally time for Apop. Four years have passed since I last saw them (in Nottingham), and following last year’s, um, change of direction for the new album, hopes were not all that high for this gig. Put simply, they have changed from being a dancefloor-orientated band to being an electronic-rock band, and appear to have been met with a cloud of indifference – despite the fact that the new album, when taken on it’s own merits, isn’t actually that bad.
It took all of a few seconds of the intro to dispel the worries, as a long and drawn-out intro to old favourite Eclipse surprised everyone. What a way to start and get us back on side! What was noticeable was the difference between songs from the new album, as the following You Keep Me From Breaking Apart and Tuning In To The Frequency Of Your Soul showed only too well…
Contrary to my earlier reservations, Stefan was not afraid to play old stuff – including one so old I can’t even remember the name of it, quickly followed by enduring dancefloor anthem Starsign, again stretched out to tease the crowd. And in true pop-style, he even lets the crowd sing most of the chorus! It gets even better – Deep Red is amazing, beefed up even more than normal (and with a fabulous red lightshow for it), and even Kathy’s Song sounds great – even if, as usual, going on that little bit too long!
There were more surprises to follow, too – In This Together (the song that showcased the new direction, and didn’t appear to be all that popular on release) has clearly grown on everyone judging on the rapturous reception it got, Burnin’ Heretic was given an unexpected airing, while Shine On remains probably the weakest cover they have attempted yet (I always thought Fade To Black was way better!).
Set closers Unicorn and a storming Until The End Of The World were also both fantastic, benefitting hugely, I think, from the band and crowd both feeding of each other’s exuberance and energy. Needless to say, there was no question of them not coming back out for an encore, and we were duly rewarded with a thumping Non-Stop Violence and the gothic grandeur of Love Never Dies [Part One].
And that, so many thought, was it. But not quite. They came out one more time, to the apparent surprise of many, to play my favourite Apop song of all – Bitch. And that, finally, was that. After all the worrying that their time has passed, they remain in the live arena as vital as ever – they have just moved on. There aren’t many bands willing to make such a giant leap in style and sound, but it appears that their brave move has paid off after all.