Swans - Leeds University Stylus - Gigs - Reviews - Soundblab

Swans - Leeds University Stylus

by Andy Brown Rating: Release Date:

"I am free, I will begin again." Swans: Eden Prison

It's no exaggeration to say that my whole year had been building up to seeing Swans live- a newly invigorated and reformed band playing Leeds as part of their first tour in well over a decade (well, more like 14 years). The bonus being that new album My Father Will Guide Me Up a Rope to the Sky stands as one of the most impressively huge, devastatingly effective and ambitious albums I've heard all year. "Swans are not dead... and they're going on tour!" shouted the long deprived fan-base from every windy hilltop and pub corner.

First up, however, we were treated to recent Young God signing James Blackshaw. A lone figure on stage with just his 12-string guitar with which to win us over, Blackshaw played a short yet mesmerising set. Reminiscent of Nick Drake in his darker moods, Blackshaw left jaws agape with his intricate and stunning instrumentals. I find it hard to believe some people actually talked through his set as for the rest of us it was impossible not to be lulled into a kind of awed silence.

An almighty wall of drone heralded Swans imminent arrival. It was so loud my clothes bristled like someone had opened a window. The sound reverberated around the room for about 10 minutes before band member Christoph Hahn came on stage, set another noise going, took a bow and walked off again. Eventually percussionist Thor Harris walked onstage and began to play the bells that start off new track 'No Words/No Thoughts'. Another 10 minutes passed until the full band came on and dived into a suitably huge version of the aforementioned tune.

Swans proceeded to play a selection of old and new pieces with a reassuring sense of malevolent intensity. The whole set built and crashed around our grateful ears with little (actually none) of the softer side of Gira's songwriting on display. They even played the brutal 'I Crawled' from the Young God EP and as Gira howled "I want you to be my FATHER…I OBEY you" it became unmistakably clear that this was 100 per cent Swans and not a mere extension of Gira's newer outfit Angels of Light. It was early into the set when I heard someone in the crowd whimper, "It's so good, I've already had a little cry ".

Songs from the new album, like the wonderful Bad Seeds-esque 'Jim' and the soaring 'Eden Prison', were rearranged and slid effortlessly inbetween more established tracks. They encored with 'Little Mouth' - changed from a beautiful waltz into a frantic explosion of guitars and noise followed by a faultless a capella finish from Gira. My friend commented later that it was only during 'Sex, God, Sex' as Gira bellowed, "Praise the Lord… JESUS! Praise him!" that he really noticed the absence of founder member Jarboe. 'Sex, God, Sex' remained wonderfully terrifying though.

The line-up was hardly lacking, however. The whole band was on untouchable form; Thor Harris hurled himself into every song with reckless abandon while Norman Westberg stared intently into the crowd with a kind of cool detachment. Mr Gira led his band through a ridiculously impressive set that should prove once and for all that Swans are far from dead.

Comments (1)

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Thanks for this excellent review. Now I am much more looking forward to see them live soon. Read all this I am for sure it will be the best concert I would have seen for years!!
Thanks again...

btw: Jarboe wasn't a founder. She became a band...

Thanks for this excellent review. Now I am much more looking forward to see them live soon. Read all this I am for sure it will be the best concert I would have seen for years!!
Thanks again...

btw: Jarboe wasn't a founder. She became a band member since 1984 (after/during the COP album)

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