We arrived to hear “Thank you, goodnight…“, confirming that we had indeed missed Revolution By Night. Oddly, I heard nothing from anyone telling me how good/whatever they were.
This meant, of course, that we did see Pride and Fall. Oh dear. Thirty long minutes from a “band” who appeared not to be playing live whatsoever, apart from the vocalist. And that was where the problems started. Dreary, flat vocals that drained all emotion and feeling from every song, and the music itself wasn’t all that interesting either. No variation, no spark, nothing. If you ever wanted a reason why I despise the general flush of “futurepop” bands (with the notable exception of the ever-wonderful Seabound), this is it.
Thank the fucking lord then, that we had Covenant to banish the cobwebs and remind us just how life-affirming electronic music can be. Yeah, it might not be all live (we’ve had this discussion before, yes?), but they actually put on a show, and perhaps more importantly, have songs by the bucketload that are perfect for the live environment.
So after a teasing, slow intro, the band appear out of the smoke, and straight into 20hz (one of the strongest songs off the new album Skyshaper), and follow it up with Spindrift, which like a number of the songs from the new album, makes far more sense live and sounds way better. I have to admit – Skyshaper has not totally grabbed me yet, but it feels like an album that will grow on me gradually, so I’m gonna persevere with it.
After that, time to look back a little, with a thumping version of Bullet and then the glorious heartbeat of Like Tears In The Rain flowing nicely into Pulse. First real surprise of the night was hearing a radically different version of Figurehead, but it was certainly a change for the better. Also a surprise was the airing of Helicopter, and having stood next to the speaker stacks to get some photos during this, I can confirm that the sound was crystal clear – and also really, really loud!
The Men, however, is not a good showing from the new album – it lacks bite somewhere, trying to be a big anthem but doesn’t have it at all, I’m afraid. Following it with the hands-in-the-air anthem of We Stand Alone really showed it up, too – providing the perfect example of how Covenant really can get this anthem business right – and then just to remind us that little more, came Ritual Noise…
Closing track of the main set was Stalker – again radically retooled and sounding all the more menacing for it. It was notable, perhaps, that it appeared that not all that many people knew it, sadly. Encores, of course, followed – first encore showing new single Brave New World and then the heady rush of Call The Ships To Port. Not quite the incredible version aired at Infest last year, but it wasn’t far off!
The only real aberration of the whole set was the final encore – Happy Man was introduced as a “surprise” – yeah, sorry guys, but it was a surprise to me that it made the album, let alone the encore…Final track was predictable enough – an ever-extended run through Dead Stars, sounding as deliberately vapid as ever, and also still far too familiar.
Still, as I mentioned at the start of this, Covenant are the masters of their tools and indeed the crowd. Lesser-of-stature electro bands should pay attention and take notes – you all still have a lot to learn to be as good as this.