Pretty much the only thing I feared I’d be giving up on leaving London was the Big Smoke’s rich & varied live music scene. Sure, I still cast the occasional envious glance at The Luminaire‘s programme of The Young Gods acoustic sets, Jason Molina Christmas parties and Stars Of The Lid supported by Boduf Songs (and reminisce how that great little venue was but a stone’s throw from my former lair), but my time in Holland so far has been packed full of excellent gigs. The beauty of this small country is that distances between cities are such that it is possible to go and see a show in a different city in the same travel time as it would take to get from one side of London to another – so I’ve already seen things in Amsterdam, Den Haag, Utrecht and Haarlem, and that list is only likely to grow (hopefully taking in Groningen’s Vera one of these days, which has a reputation as one of the best places to play anywhere in Europe). And the smaller hall upstairs at Paradiso, located in an old church but a space that can rock hard, has fast become one of my favourite venues.

So in another attempt at getting this site back up to speed, here is a (mainly visual) rundown of some of the great live experiences I’ve had in this country so far…


Six Organs Of Admittance @ Paradiso (bovenzaal), Amsterdam (14-Aug-2007)

I’ve written here about my first proper live experience in my new home, this highly-charged ritual of amplifier worship definitely one of my favourite shows of last year.


Future Of The Left @ Tivoli De Helling, Utrecht (04-Oct-2007)

Future Of The Left @ Tivoli De Helling, Utrecht

The maiden out-of-town gig, to catch Future Of The Left on their first foray to continental Europe. Their energetically vicious stabs of sound and low-end punch quickly won over the crowd, many of whom were presumably encountering the band for the first time (FotL were supporting American punkrockers Against Me!)


Michael Gira @ Paradiso (bovenzaal), Amsterdam (15-Oct-2007)

Michael Gira @ Paradiso, Amsterdam

That this show did not make my top gigs of ’07 list is criminal oversight. Michael Gira is a living legend, and every performance of his that I have witnessed has been a special experience, none more so than this one. He invests his performances with genuine passion, his hollerin’ & boot-stampin’ making it seem as though he’s channeling a sold-his-soul bluesman playing in 1920’s dusty nowheresville. The set opens with Swans-song “I Am The Sun” and follows with a perfect mix of material covering further late-period Swans releases and all of Angels Of Light‘s oeuvre. Gira wrly remarks that he wishes to “write spiritual songs, but I don’t have any”, but don’t worry Michael: as I’m sure the rest of this night’s audience would agree, despite the bleak and sometime hopeless nature of the subject matter, your performances reach right into one’s emotional core and are genuinely life-affirming.

Setlist: Michael Gira @ Paradiso (15 October 2007)
I Am The Sun
Promise Of Water
Nations
Failure
Lena’s Song
My Brother’s Man
She Lives!
Destroyer
My Sister Said
Sometimes I Dream I’m Hurting You
Rose Of Los Angeles
God Damn The Sun

Here is the encore “God Damn The Sun”, recorded live in Lisbon, Portugal in 2002 and taken from the (now out-of-print) “Living ’02” release.

Michael Gira – God Damn The Sun (live in Lisbon)



Liars @ Melkweg, Amsterdam (30-Oct-2007)

Liars @ Melkweg, Amsterdam

My first experience of this legendary venue, and what an experience it was.  Angus Andrew seemed to be enjoying Amsterdam to its mind-altering fullest and was in fine showman form, he and his cohorts putting on a sensory assault of rhythmic noise and lights that overwhelmed some in the audience but delighted most (at their best Liars manage to channel the Cure, Bauhaus, Neubauten, and the Birthday Party, giving it all a post-modern/art-school twist, their live shows somewhere between pagan ritual and post-millennial dance party). The newest songs were blasted out fully-formed, unlike my first exposure to them months previously – and the trancey tribalism of the amazing “We Fenced Our Houses…” and “Let’s Not Wrestle Mt. Heart Attack” had the audience riveted in near-religious awe.


Mono + Future Of The Left @ Patronaat, Haarlem (09-Nov-2007)

Future Of The Left @ Patronaat, Haarlem

Following another blistering bass-heavy set from FotL (albeit with the band themselves not seeming to enjoy themselves, unhappy with the Haarlemmers engagement & their own equipment troubles), I didn’t actually see headliners Mono, instead listening to their bombastic but sterile ‘compositions’ from the merch stand while politely grilling FotL’s Falco for Albini tidbits & the like…


Gravenhurst @ Paradiso (bovenzaal), Amsterdam (20-Nov-2007)

Gravenhurst @ Paradiso, Amsterdam

Nick Talbot’s Nick Drake-isms sometimes sit incongruously with the (post)rockier tack he has taken on Gravenhurst‘s past two albums. The best songs this night (like “Down River”, “The Western Lands” and “Black Holes In The Sand”) are when he pulls back on the earnest and the band collectively let their hair down.



Part II to follow shortly with futher uninformative blatherings on Jason Molina, Qui, Jesu, the State-X / New Forms festival, Aesop Rock and Whip…



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