MICHAEL GIRA (SWANS) | 20.02.18 – Newcastle Boiler Shop

MICHAEL GIRA (SWANS) | 20.02.18 – Newcastle Boiler Shop

Michael Gira – Boiler Shop Newcastle – 20th February 2018 – Review and photos

Swans are one of the finest bands I’ve ever seen and I was ecstatic at the prospect of hearing the material as a solo act, over the moon that such an act should even contemplate playing Newcastle. Gira is playing only two shows in the UK, London and surprisingly Newcastle. We rarely get treats such as this. I feel honoured to be able to witness this show.

Okkyung Lee is the guest opening act on both shows. I was unsure what to expect from her solo cello performance but was confident it would be something challenging to fit the Swans universe.  Her performance was overwhelming and confusing in equal portions.

Okkyung Lee - Boiler Shop Newcastle - Feb 2018
Okkyung Lee – Boiler Shop Newcastle – Feb 2018

Her super fast hummingbird finger technique is mesmerising to watch. The tones extracted from the instrument are remarkable. I’m not sure I like it, but equally, I can’t help but be impressed. Those hummingbirds change from a pleasant flight into an anxiety-filled stabbing swarm in the blink of an eye. All a bit too much for me.

But at what point does making a beautiful sound become too much? 15 mins seemed to be the point where I lost interest. That said Okkyung left the stage to thunderous applause, the audience captivated by the drone or politely enduring? I’m not too sure. I remain impressed and yet stubbornly baffled. Gira later comments that she “Strangled those sounds out of that instrument”. Perfect summation and I finally get it.

Michael Gira - Boiler Shop Newcastle - Feb 2018
Michael Gira – Boiler Shop Newcastle – Feb 2018

More applause greets Michael Gira as he enters the stage. The audience is seated tonight and it feels strangely subdued. Gira providing the ultimate control and attention of the audience. Seeming like a calm but venomous blues man preacher, he is captivating.

Tonight Gira is performing acoustically, albeit highly amplified acoustics. The volume is essential and ensures they stark bare performance is heard above all, even a few streets away!

The songs are magnificent in their stripped back form. Launching into Jim, the slow paced and dramatic phrasing sucks you in, whilst still allowing you to imagine the other sounds that are not present. ‘Ride your mechanical beast to heaven’ is a line I truly adore. That is one thing I notice tonight, the lyrics have more space to tell their tale.

Gira used the opportunity to test out some new material. Gira promises “Several new songs, only begun to be performed on this tour. Leading to a Swans record sometime next year. I thought I’d play it. Why the fuck not!”

Oxygen works surprisingly well as a solo performance. Proving that he is one of the all-time greats. That voice is remarkable. Tar-like strength cuts through the venue like a knife. The evening was an amazing experience.

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SWANS – October 2016 – Northumbria Institute – PHOTO FEATURE

SWANS – October 2016 – Northumbria Institute – PHOTO FEATURE

Swans – 12th October 2016 – Northumbria Institute

Swans return! No photopit at this show so I had to make the best of it 🙂 Turned out quite good fun roaming around the venue.

Swans - October 2016 - Northumbria Students Union
Swans – October 2016 – Northumbria Students Union

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SWANS – Newcastle May 2014 – PHOTOS and REVIEW

SWANS – Newcastle May 2014 – PHOTOS and REVIEW

Swans – Newcastle – Warehouse 34 – May 2014

Amazing show and a band that have been on my bucket list for some time.

Swans - Newcastle 14
Swans – Newcastle 2014

Here’s what I had to say at the time…

“There is a buzz tonight in Warehouse 34, my first time here and it’s a very basic but nicely executed setup, good lighting and great sound. Oh and a good selection of beers which is always welcome! The venue is a little out of the way, but it has an atmosphere, which seemed to fit Swans perfectly. I wasn’t sure what to expect crowd wise, turned out to be very busy, clearly we have a lot of people in Newcastle with good taste. Looking around I saw a lot of familiar faces, pretty much the who is who of the Newcastle alt scene.

Watching Michael Gira work the band was mesmerising, I’ve never seen a band controlled like this before, all eyes on him waiting instructions as if he is conducting an orchestra. The set has been pretty much the same for the whole tour, a nice mix of old and new, personally I’d have loved to hear some from My Father Will Guide Me… as it is my personal favourite, but hey you can’t complain at this little selection. 7 songs clocking in at around 1 hour and 45 minutes. We didn’t get many songs, which is not surprising when most of their songs are 20 minutes plus.

I’d not heard the new material yet, but talking to audience members before hand they were raving about the new material. Oxygen really blew me away, it has a Grinderman style swagger unlike anything else they’ve done. Very fresh and creative with a powerful groove. Swans are certainly a band at the peak of their game.

Swans - Newcastle 14

Setlist;

  • Frankie M
  • A Little God In My Hands
  • Oxygen
  • Don’t Go
  • Just a Little Boy
  • The Apostate
  • Bring the Sun / Black Hole Man

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