Swans Live Review @ Academy 2, Manchester | Silent Radio


In a recent interview with The Quietus, Swans frontman Michael Gira confirmed an urban myth that his response to a sound engineer asking how the gig should sound was to punch him in the stomach and say “like that”. The engineer in question might feel fortunate to have only been struck once, as this evening’s 100 minute set offers a more violent assault than a single dig to the breadbox.

Since reforming in 2010 Swans have gained mass critical acclaim for their marvellous and inimitable apocalyptic noise. This month saw the release of To Be Kind, the band’s thirteenth and best studio album. Such is the prolific writing form Gira finds himself in, they begin tonight with a brand new song not featured on the album. After a creeping and explorative start, ‘Frankie M’ gathers pace before thundering through your bones like an onrushing train.

Twenty minutes later, Swans embark on the second song of the night. Unlike the opener, ‘A Little God In My Hands’ is familiar to fans and roars through the room causing staff to cower below the bar at the back of Academy 2. A slowed down ‘Oxygen’ is gloriously cinematic, suitable for the darkest of David Lynch’s work, proving Swans don’t have to be frantic to be fantastic.

While few bands come close to this phenomenal live experience, there are some intriguingly familiar sounds tonight. The entrancing drum beats occasionally verge into krautrock while Kirk Hammett would be proud of the sporadic riffs on show. Throughout this evening the band demonstrates an incredible knack to incorporate an array of influences into their inexorably loud style.

‘Bring The Sun’ is the highlight, a sonic behemoth which grows from crashing drums into a post-rock apocalypse showcasing all that is wonderful about watching Swans. Every instrument is imposing and impressive, all the while Gira spiritually chants, leaving me fearful Beelzebub could be summoned at any point.

The evening closes with a fantastic moment of humanity so rare in rock’n’roll, following a gracious bow Gira heads straight to the merch stand to chat to his adoring fans. Whether it was driven by the guilt of inducing tinnitus is irrelevant, Michael Gira stands alone as a gentleman and vanguard of unrelenting volume.

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