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Live Review: Swans, Warehouse 34, Newcastle | The Shields Gazette

ATTRACTING acclaim and interest like never before, Michael Gira and Swans’ reformation surely ranks among the most spectacular musical successes of recent times.

 

That rejuvenation was on full display before both old heads and new converts on Friday at Warehouse 34, on a night when classic material was generally overlooked in favour of new opuses - particularly from phenomenal new album To Be Kind.

Challenging, uncompromising and notoriously loud, the past three decades have seen the New Yorkers’ live shows become a thing of legend, and indeed their sensory assault can leave you feeling like you’ve been smashed head-on by a double-decker bus.

It is, however, a controlled battering, harnessed by a group of terrifically proficient and creative musicians who performed their roles spot-on throughout, even amid some of the most chaotic, rip-roaring pieces imaginable.

That much was apparent before Gira even entered the fray, as the six-piece - led by hairy, bare-chested percussionist Thor Harris - emerged one-by-one in a devastating, droning build-up which lasted the best part of 10 minutes.

This was very much a sign of things to come, with the subsequent two-hour set yielding a grand total of seven songs, each characterised by overwhelming sonic waves and punishing, borderline hypnotic repetition.

Everything came to a head with Bring The Sun, the centerpiece of To Be Kind and the night’s ultimate high point.

Fifteen minutes of swell and unbridled density, its recorded version is one of the most staggering, mind-bogglingly intense propositions of recent times - but that was light compared to this live rendition, which left you feeling like you’d been blasted in a wind tunnel.

A warm, personable character, Gira lingered long afterwards to sign items for fans - the last thing you’d expect based on his onstage persona.

 

by ALISTAIR WELFORD

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