Thursday 24 May 2012

Delain At HMV Institute Birmingham

I got back home in the early hours of that Sunday morning utterly exhausted. My neck was tender - and promising to feel much, much worse in the morning - my hands were sore and my feet hurt, my voice was giving up and my ears were ringing: it had been a fantastic evening!

Delain were headlining at the HMV Institute in Birmingham, supported by Trillium and Halcyon Way, back on the 12th May. It was supposed to be three of us going, but my wife had a badly injured knee so it was just my daughter and myself making the long trek up the M40 - it would have been nice to have gone by train, but there was no way of getting back after ten pm so car it had to be.

After a lot of messing about finding a car park that stayed open late enough, and a long queue, we finally got in about half way through Halcyon Way's set. This was very loud thrashy metal. Their singer, Steve Braun, had a really good voice, but I felt the band as a whole simply didn't rock. Maybe they were just having a bad night, but they didn't seem to be together that Saturday. Vocalist and drummer were mostly together most of the time, but the bass and guitar players just seemed to be thrashing away in their own individual time zones. Disappointing.

Trillium were up next. I hadn't heard of them before, and didn't really have great expectations, so they were a very happy surprise. Amanda Somerville is a classic operatic metal soprano with an amazing voice, and the band behind her were very together, and very heavy, but with plenty of colour and dynamics. For a supporting band they also had a tremendous stage presence, and their energy filled the room (although, to be fair, the HMV Institute isn't actually that big). I would imagine that 'back home', in the US, Somerville/Trillium headline their own tours.

Trillium were great, but Delain were utterly unbelievable. Trillium's energy filled the room; Delain radiated presence and energy to fill a far larger venue and it was picked up and reflected back by the crowd, which inspired the band, who generated more energy, and so on. It was like being inside a kind of acoustic laser cavity, overwhelmed with such coherent energy and power.

They played songs from their two released albums, as well as from We Are The Others which is due out in early June. One of the new songs is Get The Devil Out of Me, which is a good illustration of their style that you can hear by clicking the YouTube thingie above.

On their records Delain tend to be quite song-focussed: majoring on words and tune ... still quite heavy and quite rocky, but that side is a little less to the fore. Live, they are solid, high-energy metal.

The songs are still very strong, so there's no tendency to become 'samey', as can happen at heavy rock concerts; also Charlotte Wessels has such a strong voice that the vocals don't get drowned out. The result is that songs on the album where I'd thought, "I bet that would be amazing live" absolutely are amazing live, but so are other songs where I'd just thought, "That's a nice song". Quiet songs were played with quiet power, loud heavy songs with explosive power, all interweaved with the colour and melodic interest which makes symphonic metal such a worthwhile artform.

The UK leg of Delain's 2012 tour is over now, but if you should get an opportunity to see them in the future I highly recommend them. With musical energy, intensity and authenticity they put on an amazing show: brilliant!

Saturday 5 May 2012

Boris: Bucking The Trend?

Muggers beware!
So, Boris Johnson narrowly wins the London mayoral elections, supposedly offering a ray of light to conservative politicians worried about local election losses. To be frank, this is total nonsense.

Firstly, the local election losses for the Tories weren't that bad for mid-term. They had some really good results when these seats were last fought over, now those gains have been partially restored. The results were encouraging for Labour but only to be expected for the Tories, especially since they have just had a run of gaffes and bad publicity.

The party for whom the results genuinely were bad was the Lib-Dems, who - I hope - will continue to get wiped out electorally until they ditch the leadership that led them into betraying their personal pledges after the last general election. A lot of results I looked at didn't just have Lib-Dem candidates beaten, but had them thrashed into fourth place. Here in Reading, if the same sort of thing happens next year, we could find ourselves with more Green councillors than Lib-Dems.

But the other reason that the Boris victory doesn't say anything significant about national politics is Boris Johnson himself. He is a charismatic, controversial, lively, highly-intelligent character who says what he thinks and genuinely seems to try to live out his beliefs. The exact opposite of the political clones in leadership at Westminster. In many ways like the 'Red Ken' of yesteryear.

London seems to like larger than life figures for its mayors; maybe Ken Livingstone could have won again this year if he had been a bit younger and sparkier - he seems more 'Grey Ken' than 'Red Ken' these days, and rather more inclined to toe his party's line.

In summary, I don't think Boris won because he is more 'authentically conservative' than his party's leadership; I think he won because he is seen as being simply more 'authentic'. Maybe London's voters value authenticity rather more than voters across the nation; or maybe national party managers just don't want to give us that option.