Into the Pit: 168: Recent Gigs – review catch-up

The last month has been a really busy one, and despite attending a number of gigs in that period, I’ve not had the chance to get my thoughts on online for most of them so far. So – as I’m never going to be able to catch up if I don’t do this – here, for the first time, is a set of short-form reviews of a few gigs I attended during April and early-May that I’ve not otherwise covered.

The Comet Line – Live at Mother Live, EC1V – 11-April 2013

I’ve waxed lyrical about how much I loved The Comet Line‘s debut album previously, and this was my first chance to see them live since the album release (and in fact, a few months before that too). Frustratingly – and I really don’t believe that this was the fault of the band – it didn’t quite work out as it should. Poor, I mean really poor, support bands thinned the crowd, and a bizarrely unbalanced sound destroyed the impact of some of their best songs, although saying that the glory of tracks like the headlong charge of Cicero, and the more delicate Wait For Me still just about shone through. I’ll be checking out one of their forthcoming shows this summer, and with a more reliable sound I’ll post a full review of that.

And So I Watch You From Afar – Live at Highbury Garage, N5 – 16-April 2013

The first album from And So I Watch You From Afar was one of the most life-affirming instrumental albums I’ve ever heard – a whirlwind of post-rock and ultra-technical music that was good enough on record, but even more astounding live. The second album was nearly as good, but contained some filler at least, and now the third album – with the loss of a founding member – has definitely resulted in a shift in sound and style, and sadly it’s not a patch on the first two. So I was a little concerned about this show – but as it turned out I perhaps shouldn’t have worried so much. Not far off a ninety minute party, much of the new album was played, building and building in intensity, until a state of utter euphoria was reached at the end as a few of their finest songs from the first album were unleashed. The stadium-rock influenced intro to a fucking glorious Set Guitars To Kill was the obvious highlight for me, but unlike the recent recordings it was hard to fault the entire show. Also worthy of note were the deeply odd support act Antlered Man, who invoked the spirit of both Mr Bungle and Girls Against Boys, which obviously had my attention straight away.

KMFDM – Live at O2 Academy Islington, N1 – 20-April 2013

At least, with KMFDM, I know exactly what to expect, and that is what I got. Just shy of an hour-and-a-half of the Ultra Heavy Beat, as is usual nowadays concentrating on the second half of their career (the oldest track this time was a storming Son Of A Gun), but it is perhaps remarkable that despite how good that first half of their career is, they can get away with doing this with few complaints. Judicious song choices helped here, with only the strongest cuts from recent and the latest albums picked, meaning that the whole set was a classic case of “all killer, no filler”. Highlights? Well, a blistering opening with DIY, and closing with the equally brilliant Hau Ruck stick in the memory, as well as the usual encore of WWIII and Megalomaniac, the former performed (somehow!) even faster than usual.

The less I say about Sheep On Drugs, however, the better. Suffice to say that they currently hold the title of the worst live band I’ve seen in 2013 (at the time of writing, I’ve already seen 25 gigs and god-knows-how-many bands this year), and if I see a shambles worse than that, I’ll likely start asking for my money back next time.

Mesh – Live at O2 Academy Islington, N1 – 21-April 2013

The following night, I was back in the same venue, this time to see Mesh. But first I had to get through De/Vision, a band who I saw at Infest a few years back and yawned my way through a song or two before returning to the bar. I lasted a bit longer this time – about four songs, I think – but I’m still of the view that in the main, their somewhat dreary and uninteresting synthpop really isn’t for me. Aside from one song, though – if more of their songs were as great as What’s Love All About, I’d have been hooked for the whole set.

Mesh provided a set that, it transpired later on, really divided my friends who attended. The new album Automation Baby appears to be about our emotional attachments with technology in the modern world – or something like that – and the live show reflected this, with multiple screens, and a disconnected, electronic voice announcing the song as each started (for example “Automation Baby, track four”), taking away some of the suspense if you were quick enough to work out what the song was – almost as we get spoilers on the internet. Yes, so there was an awful lot of newer material, but there were nods to the past (particularly notable moments for me were a quite brilliant Leave You Nothing, long one of my favourite Mesh songs, and a euphoric, crowd-assisted Friends Like These in the encore), and in any case the last two albums are so good that they are worth showcasing at length. Mesh have moved away from the more lightweight synthpop of old, and the more muscular, intelligent material that has resulted on these recent releases makes for a far more interesting and varied show than we might have had in the past.

Six By Seven – Live at Bull and Gate, NW5 – 01-May 2013

Following on from their return to London after many years a couple of months ago, here was another chance to appraise the new material (and hopefully some old stuff this time, too), and also to make one last visit to a long-famous North London gig venue. Yes, the Bull & Gate is the latest to succumb, to become a “gastropub” – as if Kentish Town needs another. To be fair, the venue on the night of this show was in a pretty grotty state, resigned to it’s fate, but it was interesting to think that we are losing smaller gig venues like this at a scary rate at the moment.

Anyway, before 6×7 took the stage, we had a “hotly tipped” support act in the form of The Machine Room, who were absolutely Not My Thing, as it transpired. Irritatingly twee indie-rock, with minature hand-held synths, that then mutated into indie-funk by the second song. I couldn’t get back to the bar quick enough. Mark my words, they will be bothering the charts within a year, the thought of which depresses me greatly.

Six By Seven were even better than last time, even if broadly it was the same set. So, the main set was the whole of the new album again – which I’m now really looking forward to hearing, as I’m becoming more familiar with some of the songs – and once again the towering highlight was the lengthy, seething Truce, a song that for me has instantly entered the canon of Six By Seven’s greatest songs. This time, however, Chris Olley did deign to play one old song at least, in the form of a glowering So Close that formed the encore. A full UK tour is coming in July, and with a bit of luck I’ll be at the London show of that again.

Death Grips – Live at The Forum, NW5 – 02-May 2013

I was rather later to the party than many on Death Grips – I only discovered them thanks to my girlfriend playing me Guillotine at the end of 2011. And then, of course, I missed their debut UK show in Camden last year too (it appears I blinked and tickets sold out), so once this show got announced I was onto tickets like a shot. Impressively, I wasn’t disappointed by the show, either.

This was a blistering fifty-five minute set, no breaks, no stopping, the duo simply ploughed forward through song after song, with a good mix of material from all three albums. A monstrous Guillotine was chucked away early, bleeding straight into an equally punishing Get Got, and later in the set a thunderous, moshpit-inducing Takyon (Death Yon) somehow seamlessly became (the set highlight) Hacker, where the momentum gained from the previous ten songs was transformed into a breathless, industrial-punk-EBM terrace chant that lasted all of four minutes, and I’d have been even happier with more of it. But as a whole, this was one of the most intense live shows I’ve ever seen – one of such power that it was exhausting to watch, never mind perform, and I wasn’t surprised in the least when it was obvious that there was no encore. A final point worthy of note – T-shirts were just £10 each.

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