As we walked into Fibbers tonight, slightly late due to the two “quick” pints of proper beer at a nearby pub, the first support had just started and, from what I initially heard, I feared that we might have been better staying for a couple more. (I’m joking, I always try to get to gigs on time to see the support – there can’t be much worse for them than seeing a venue fill up shortly after they have finished playing to a near empty room.)
Death Letters are a duo from The Netherlands – Duende on guitar and vocals and Victor on drums – who opened their set with a very heavy sound which all but drowned out the vocals before slowing down to a much quieter section which showed just how good a voice Duende has, then reverted back to something much louder where even his near screamed (I assume) vocals were swamped by the music. The set continued with occasional moments of quite contemplation and atmosphere being broken up by swathes of huge sound and frantic and enthralling drumming. Coming across as a smaller, heavier version of Tears of Ishtar, Death Letters recorded output may never find its way into my CD collection but they are one of the most exciting support acts I have seen for a long time.
I last saw Mojo Fury supporting Amplifier down the road at The Duchess and sort of enjoyed their set, despite the mix not doing them any favours. Tonight, they seemed to be playing to a completely non-responsive audience. Theirs is a mix of shoe-gazing rock, indie guitars and, at times, white rap vocals which reminded me of The Beastie Boys. (Last time, I compared the vocals to Talking Heads based on the one song in which the vocals came through…) Sadly, the 80’s reminiscent electronic backing track still features in their set and still does very little for me. The set started to get more interesting with a track which was introduced as being from their new album – I didn’t catch the title but it was the best so far, energetic with some nice interplay between guitar and drums. Something bordering on funkiness followed before that backing track put in an appearance for the last song of the set. Still not quite gelling for me, this was a better performance than the previous time I saw them and tonight’s set did get better (and the audience more enthusiastic) as it went on.
I freely admit that the only reason I was at tonight’s gig was because it was first brought to my notice by a Facebook post from Prog magazine. I had never heard of Anneke Van Giersbergen or The Gathering, the Dutch prog-rock band she fronted until 2007. But the fact that she had been in a prog band was enough to pique my interest. As, it seemed, it was for a portion of the audience – which was much bigger than I was expecting. T-shirts featuring the names European prog (Ayreon) and symphonic metal (Within Temptation, as well as the UK’s own Winter In Eden) bands were very much in evidence and the audience was heavily made up of long-haired males. So, it was quite a surprise when a large portion of the set was more pop than prog orientated, while still retaining rock roots. A look at the set-list here (which looks accurate, although I don’t remember her dancing amongst the audience) shows that it featured songs from The Gathering, a Devin Townsend cover and a Eurythmics cover, as well as her solo project Agua de Annique and the latest album – Everything Is Changing – which was released under her own name. Throughout the set Anneke’s gorgeous vocals, slightly accented and occasionally warbling, were only matched by her great smile and perhaps the prettiest guitar I have ever seen, personalised for Anneke herself and only used for one song, the much slower and achingly lovely Beautiful One. With the pop leanings, it was no surprise to see Anneke giving it all on stage, dancing throughout the set while, amusingly, the audience were much more restrained, with some vague head nodding being as much as some members were willing to partake in. Equally at home with quieter, more melodic songs such as Circles, which opened with just vocals and guitar, giving the rhythm section a breather and eventually utilising a strings backing track, as she was with the more powerful songs such as Saturnine, Anneke’s performance was only hampered by something completely out of her control – early on I mentioned to Andy that the sound seemed to be fading between the two banks of speakers and, eventually, the vocals at least were only coming from one set, giving the gig a slightly one-sided feel. (I have since been told that the pre-amp had gone on one set of speakers.) It’s a shame as this marred the gig a bit, making it a good one, rather than the excellent one I think it could have been if the sound had been right.
Kudos to Anneke, however, she not only battled one – perhaps not actually realising what was happening but definitely seeing the sound engineers frantically working away behind the speakers trying to fix the problem – but she also came straight off stage to “man” her own merchandise desk after the gig. There was no hint of precociousness as she made her way through the crowd (without a “minder” unlike at least one female artist I can think off) and happily chatted to each person as they got to the the table. I just have one slight complaint… £15 for a CD, when it’s less than a tenner on Play.com??? Of course, I still bought one. And got it signed.