zoo_music_girl: (Frost)
[personal profile] zoo_music_girl
Any real music fan will know what I mean when I talk about gigs that are so intense that you feel for a long time afterwards like there are two types of people in the world - the ones who've just shared this incredible experience with you, and everyone else. Last night was like that. I could write screeds (and I probably will) but I could never adequately express what it was like. We're well into music as religious experience and writing about it as catharsis/exorcism territory.

I went into last night with an open mind. I've found that all my most precious gigs have started like that (although not every night I've gone into with an open mind has turned out to be mind blowing). I didn't (and still don't) really know much about Current 93 beyond "Lucifer over London", Nick Cave singing "All the Pretty Little Horses" with them, and phrases like "apocalyptic folk", but I knew that they are legendary and I thought it was worth a punt, especially when it turned out [livejournal.com profile] kixie had invested in a RFH membership to obtain front row seats.

The support was from Baby Dee, a transgendered New York performance artist and musician. I must confess when she walked on stage I was already writing the catty livejournal entry in my head, she cut an unusual and ungainly figure in hiking boots, cropped trousers and a checked shirt, with a mop of frizzy red hair in a half-up pineapple do, with a face like Michael Gira in drag ten- twenty years from now. This vision was brought sharply into contrast by the beautiful pixie faced cellist, John Contresa, who joined her.

She sat down at a harp and played and sang. At first I wasn't keen on her vocals, being of the hiccuping, chewing the words style that seems to involve a lot of gurning, but as the performance went on I got really into it and any fears that she might turn out to be some sort of strange comedy act were dispelled. (Although I'm still not 100% sure about the song that sounded like she was singing "I'm a cheese stick".) After the first couple of songs she moved to the piano and was joined by Andrew WK on bass (yes, that Andrew WK, and he was really, really good), Matt Sweeney on guitar and Alex Nielsen on drums, who was tremendous, then another guitarist and a violinist.

It wasn't the sort of stuff I'd buy to listen to at home, but it I really enjoyed it and left all ungenerous thoughts behind and just got into it.

The support act over, the harp was carried offstage and after a bit of tweaking everyone who'd just left the stage came back on again, plus another violinist and a pianist and finally David Tibet. Apparently Current 93 are not so much a band as a loose collective based around a few core members and when the original support had to drop out then Baby Dee (playing organ for Current 93) stepped in to do her thing with back up from the rest of the band. Various other people came and went throughout the night, including full member Michael Cashmore.

How to describe Current 93? I could start with describing David Tibet, who was tiny and full of jittery energy. A review I found today described him as Jarvis Cocker trapped inside the body of Jasper Carrot, I could see the Jasper Carrot bit, but I've never seen that sort of intensity in Jarvis Cocker. He was onstage with up to thirteen other people at times, all playing briliantly, but he commanded attention without trying, prowling and skipping on the stage (and bizarrely even bunny hopping at one point) and into the audience. It was one of those nights when you're not sure you really want to be that close to the stage. Unnerving. He had a messianic quality too. I've always felt I'm particularly cult and religion-resistant, but I then I remember the state I get into on nights like this.

The music built and swelled, up to four guitars, two violins, a cello, a piano and an organ all combining to create an ocean of sound with Tibet's poetry over the top.

After some time they all shuffled off stage and suddenly I realised the woman at the piano had been replaced by a man, who turned out to be Antony Hegarty (of And The Johnstons fame) who sang and played piano solo on a cover of Current 93's "Soft Black Stars", which was heartbreakingly beautiful.

Tibet came back on and introduced two people including one who "needs no introduction", so he only named Michael Cashmore. The other was Marc Almond, who was looking absolutely beautiful and clearly completely recovered from his accident a few years ago. He sang like an angel for three gorgeous songs, just him and Cashmore on guitar.

Marc left after much emotion and embracing of David Tibet and it was back into the Current 93 maelstrom. Eventually it got too much even for David Tibet and he sat by the piano and wept through the final bars of the last song. A whispered "thank you" and they left the stage.

There was several minutes of applause and I was just starting to wonder if that was it and why hadn't the lights come on when an unintroduced man came on and did a song made comical by the huge variations in his range. Then he slipped offstage and Current 93 came back on again, with "an old school friend" of Tibet's, Sebastian Horsley ("he spent thousands of pounds on prostitutes while I was stuck with an old porn mag") who was wearing evening dress and an over-sized top hat and who'd just appeared from the audience. There was some half sung half sung antics and a plug for the friend's book "Dandy in the Underworld" and then the went back into the audience and it was just Current 93 again, for the most intense piece of all, and then it was finally, two and a half hours later, time to go home.

For my own reference:
Craig's write up.
Krys's write up.
If you're on their friends list you'd be better off reading their reviews as they're better informed and just generally better than mine.
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March 2009

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