Used to be you could count on the opening bands at a Seraphim Shock show to be pretty awful. But in the last several years, this trend has been bucked. For evidence, you need look no further than the Siren Project, who opened this show. For the last few years, since the Project has shed members and gained others, it seems to have struggled a bit with its musical identity. But for this show, it seems as though the new line-up has solidified considerably with Malgorzata Wacht and Alex Seminara working in better concert with Noel Johannes on synth and a full rhythm section.
This time around, Wacht displayed a confidence and finesse in her performance and singing, more so than ever, and it wasn't so much in her range as it was in her unique phrasing. This, coupled with her strong presence and understated charisma, is her real hook as a singer. During "Justify," you could hear how the band has expertly filtered in stirring synth tones to fill out the guitar samples to a far greater degree.
With a live bassist, the band's sound has thickened considerably, and everything seemed sensuously dynamic. And while the band's covers of "Carolyn's Fingers" by Cocteau Twins and "Every Day Is Exactly the Same" by Nine Inch Nails were impressive, it shined most on its own material which seemed to have whole a new life breathed into it.
Lola Black might seem like any other band walking the tightrope between punk and melodic hard rock were it not for the fact that the sextet actually works well together to put on a true performance. Former Skivies bassist, Matthew Hale, helped hold the rhythm down with James Rock in order for everyone else to fly free with spirited performances.
During "Stuck On You," with its driving beat and catchy riff, the band sounded a bit like Blondie gone metal. Lola Black herself, meanwhile, sounded a lot like Gwen Stefani with a lot more guts and soul. While not for everyone, Lola Black, at the very least, put in a high energy performance that probably won over some doubters by the end of the set.
While Seraphim Shock's crew set up, the curtains were closed, obscuring all except some flickering lights and a bit of fog that snuck out. When the curtains finally opened, we saw none other than Sid Pink on stage with an empty rocking chair behind him. In typical fashion, Pink laid out some jokes and had fun at the expense of the audience and the band, only no "Think Pink!" game shows this time around or hilariously mean digs at the Goth community. After Sid announced the band, an old man bearing a shotgun sat down in the rocking chair and the band came on stage around him. Opening with what sounded like "Rebel Dirty Rebel," Charles Edward and his bandmates sounded great. Edward, shirtless and cut, looked like a vampire superhero turned pop star, as he led this version of Seraphim Shock, which seems less dark and more bombastic than spooky and intense.
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After "Kiss the Dead" and "Devil's Point," Seraphim played the title track to Halloween Sex N' Vegas, prompting members of the crowd to sing along, as they also did with "White Trash Satan" and "Sin City." But the unexpected treats came when the band dug over a decade into its past to play "Little Gothic" from Nightmares for the Banished, folllowed by a truly unexpected performance of its Red Silk Vow classic, "After Dark."
Edward knew people were loving these old songs, and he seemed happy to make all of us glad to hear some of the old music along with the new. The set ended with "Down Home," and it was obvious Seraphim Shock was back in top form. The guys came back for an encore of "Goddamn Sinner," "Prey" and what is arguably the strongest track off the new album, "Torn."
For anyone who has been going to see the band since the '90s, it's not the same thing, but Edward has evolved as a performer and songwriter, while keeping his ability to command a crowd and his sinister charm intact.
CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK Personal Bias: Long time fan of Seraphim Shock. Random Detail: Some woman next to me said she didn't want to crowd me out when the show started and apologized in advance if it seemed like it later. Manners -- it's a rarity. By the Way: Seraphim's new album, Black Heart Revival, is at least as good as anything else the band has put out if not better.