At one point or another during Velvet Acid Christ's set, Bryan Erickson became winded, and he joked about how it was the altitude. He then said it was probably that he was out of shape because of too much eating, and then noted how at this age, he would have to eat less and less in order to lose weight. All joking aside, Erickson proved to be a lively performer whose sense of humor did nothing to distract one from the visceral power of this music live.
See also: - For the first time in more than a decade, Velvet Acid Christ performs live - Bryan Erickson of Velvet Acid Christ on keeping friendships to a minimum make time for music - Review + photos: The Photo Atlas at the hi-dive, 2/8/13
If, like most people, you'd only heard this music in its studio form for years, experiencing the music live really brought it to life in a way that only that size of sound system to bolster the performances and Erickson's jovial, but intense, presence possibly could.
Beyond just the power of the sound, there really was something larger than life about this show. Erickson's humor and charisma were undeniable and the musicianship was flawless, but it was also the first show of a tour after a thirteen year live performance hiatus, so you can only imagine how things will be three or four shows into the tour when all kinks worked out -- not that any were obvious beyond some manual adjustments Erickson had to make between songs. But even that didn't really hold up what was a sonically and musically captivating set that stirred the imagination.
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For this extremely rare live set from Velvet Acid Christ, the songs were culled from a broad spectrum of the band's career. Fittingly enough, there seemed to be fans from all periods of Erickson's long running project. One of the strongest reactions from the crowd came for the Church of Acid track, "Futile," which began with an extended sample from a movie in which a narrator said, "Death is irrelevant," as in it's not the ultimate end of all things. For his part, Erickson spent the entire show striding back and forth across the stage, striking dramatic poses and seeming to stagger from the weight of emotion.
"Fun With Drugs" took on a menacing feel not as obvious from the recording. The Calling Ov the Dead track "Malfunction" seemed to embody a dystopian future like the musical equivalent of a Philip K. Dick story. With a bit of footage from the end of The Quiet Earth as a projection, a planet like Saturn rising on the horizon like a moon. "Crushed," meanwhile, began with an ethereal synth swell that gave way to a heavy, echoing, atmospheric, yet driving, bass line that guided the song from the otherworldly to the hyper real and visceral.
In the last third of the show, Velvet Acid Christ did a cover of Edward Ka-Spel's "Even Now" and Erickson modified his usual whispered near scream to something more conventionally musical in the manner of the spooky Ka-Spel. The set ended with the instrumental song "Ghost in the Circuit," with just Todd Loomis and the other musician performing the music at their respective bank of gear. Erickson came back on for what sounded like "Icon" followed by "Phucked Up Phreak" and "The Calling."
Earlier in the night, the show opened with Dead Hand Projekt. Also a trio, the Projekt's sound hearkened back to a time when industrial rock was coming into its own and was become something of a popular aesthetic in the mid-to-late '90s. Unlike some of the bands toward the end of that period that seemed cartoonish and cookie cutter, these guys have clearly fully worked out the sonic details, so they sounded like a cohesive unit rather than a rock band dabbling in electronics or an electronic band dabbling in rock instrumentation. It seemed like these guys saw how corny some of those other bands mining similar musical territory could be and didn't go that route but instead came up with something much better.
The Twilight Garden followed, and the ethereal beauty of the synth work of Todd Loomis combined with drummer Kutz's accented tempos recalled the Cure circa Disintegration, Pornography and Bloodflowers. Yet there was less of the sheer darkness of Pornography and a little brighter than the magic hour hued lushness of Disintegration. Like Robert Smith, Loomis has that ability to convey a sense of peaceful acceptance that can escalate to a desperate but melodic wail evoking a palpable psychic anguish.
Partway through the set, Bryan Erickson came on stage and played electronics for the rest of the show, which apparently he will do for the tour ahead, while, Loomis obviously will do the same for him. "Trail of Tears, Part 1," from the band's recently released Hope, was a denouncement of greed and the sociopathic behavior of what political commentator Thom Hartmann often calls the "banksters" and a kind of aggressive, industrial song.
But mostly this set was filled with breathtakingly gorgeous soundscaping centered on Loomis's emotionally vibrant vocals. The set closed with what someone in the audience predicted: a "cover" of "Machine" by Velvet Acid Christ from the Lust for Blood album, on which Loomis was a collaborator. This set from the Twilight Garden was not only superb, but it helped make this one of those shows where you ask yourself where has this band been hiding? Luckily many people will see this band and Velvet Acid Christ bring their colorful, richly atmospheric, moody music to town.
Personal Bias: I've been wanting to see Velvet Acid Christ for years and was hoping for a great show. I wasn't disappointed.
Random Detail: Between sets, I heard "Smothered Hope" by Skinny Puppy (no surprise there, I suppose), as well as a song by an excellent newer, moody electronic band, Trust, along with some Death In June, among others. Nice choices tonight, DJ.
By the Way: Ran into Malgorzata Wacht of The Siren Project and Jesse Sola of Numina at the show.
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