Swans live review Concorde 2 Brighton 2nd April 2013
Words and photos by Antony Roberts
Swans took to the stage whilst country music was still blaring out of the PA system. 4 unassuming middle age gentlemen stepped forward and picked up their stringed instruments as 2 younger drummers took their seats hidden behind a wall of kit. Tubular bells, mounted raised floor toms, giant gongs, they had it all. Following a quick tune up they started playing whilst the PA was still going, but it was quickly turned off and “To Be Kind” gave Brighton it’s first glimpse of Gira and co. This new song is yet to be put down and released as a studio version, and starts with a minimal feedback loop with Gira singing repeated lyrics for about 10 minutes. Gira stepped back from the mike swung his foot up and stomped down as he hit a full chord on the guitar in unison with the rest of the band and BOOM!!! A wall of sound physically hit everyone down front, the sheer volume pushing the air from the speakers, it just smacked you. People gasped, people moved back, others moved forward grinning ear to ear, I just stood their in awe feeling a little sick as my rib cage shook inside me, and my eyeballs started to rattle in my skull. I’ve been to loud gigs before, SunnO))), Corrupted, and Manowar spring to mind but this was something else, there was an intensity like no other. As I scanned the stage I saw heads and cabs create a wall of backline from Sunn, Orange, Ampeg, Fender, Mesa Boogie, Gallien-krueger and Marshall, christ so this is what you can do with that many amps!!
Gira throughout the set acted as part frontman, part conductor. When he wasn’t mumbling between songs asking for the house lights to be put up (“no, not that much they’re not that good looking, hell!”), or singing into the mic, he had his back to the audience waving hands at the drummers or guitarists to encourage them to build up and go faster, or slow down, at his command. Songs followed the same basic route as their album counterparts but went off down different paths as Gira guided the rest of the band changing songs like the offbeat “Mother Of The World” into a hybrid that midway through sent a shockwave through the crowd as bass, drums and guitars pounded deep into your brain routing you to the floor. Every single beat and note seemed orchestrated by Gira his arms plucking at invisible strings attached to the rest of the band, every member stared intently at his motions following every move. New song “Your Name is Fuck” had multi instrumentalist percussionist Thor Harris switching between drums, trumpet and chimes, as Gira moved up and down the gears orating like a preacher before intense schizo screaming “fuck, fuck, fuck, fun, fun, fun, hallelujah, fuck fuck fuck”. Live “The Seer” is even more crushing than on record, over half an hour of twisting moods. From it’s initial cacophony it built up through fear and despondency into sheer terror, before subsiding to it’s slower section and giving relief to the audience who at this point had had their breath completely sucked out of their very lungs from the sheer intensity of the performance on stage backed by the crushing volume. I thought 2 and 3/4 hours would be a long set but it passed so fast I didn’t want the night to end. If you haven’t already done so, all I can say is go and see Swans live. Despite covering multiple shows a week for multiple years I have never seen anything as intense as a Swans live show, 2 days later I’m still in shock, absolutely AMAZING.