Support Acts: Anneke van Giersbergen, Arstidir
Review and photos by Yiannis (John) Stefanis
At my age, venturing out on a Monday night to a gig can only be prompted by some pretty special events, among which I count the fact the Swedish music pioneers Pain Of Salvation are in town. This time, it was to perform an acoustic set in London with support from no other than Anneke van Giersbergen – the former vocalist of The Gathering whose angelic voice has been the soundtrack of many great memories.
Having arrived with friends at the entrance of the venue, we saw a substantial queue – something that made me both happy (for the band) and sad (for myself) as I began to worry whether we would find a good spot to enjoy this quite promising show.
Fate smiled on us and, moments after we were finally settled, Daniel Gildenlow came on stage to introduce the ‘theme’ for the night – specifically, dementia, which revolved around a personal story which he explained in more detail as the night wore on. All of this, while sitting in an armchair on the mock 70s living room set/stage (you really needed to have been there to believe it), from which he also introduced the first band of the show – namely, Arstidir.
With only one studio album under their collective belts, the Icelandic indie-folk sextet performed a solid and technically outstanding set that bands with ten times their experience would struggle to compete with, winning over many friends during the process. I have always been a great fan of the sound of the acoustic guitar, and though this beautiful instrument played a integral role in the band’s set, it was the emotionally charged polyphonic performances supported by outstanding work on the violin and the cello which elevated these Icelanders in my eyes.
Sadly, much of the crowd in the back rows was chatting away during this performance, bottles were being smashed round the bar area and the doors of the toilets being banged due to their annoying location close to the stage.
These interruptions aside, it was still possible to enjoy the show, purely due to the band’s skills on stage! Though I loved every minute of the set, I believe the band’s cover of Anathema’s “Everwake” with Anneke on vocals, was the highlight. Sadly, time was limited and the band had to leave the stage much earlier than I would have liked. Hopefully, the crowd’s reaction was enough to convince the organisers to bring the lads back to London soon – a show I would gladly attend.
Anneke van Giersbergen is a woman needing no introductions, of course. Following an eleven year spell that saw her fronting the Dutch atmospheric legends The Gathering, and creating many classics in the process, the tattooed red head (these days, anyway) with the angelic voice continues to charm people around the world with a blend of Pop and Rock anthems, performed under different monikers. In many ways, her show came across as pretty much a celebration of that very same long and illustrious career.
The first thing she did moments after coming on stage, acoustic guitar firmly strapped in place, was to praise Arstidirs’ talents – talents which she called on throughout her set. Starting with a killer rendition of The Gathering’s “My Electricity”, one which won her a great reaction from the majority of the crowd, she continued her stripped down and emotional set with the Agua De Annique composition “4 Years”. It was with the help of the string section from Arstidir, however, that she produced one of the highlights of her set, a killer version of Cindy Lauper’s classic “Time After Time” – an artist whose work has been a great influence on Anneke’s most recent work.
In between two gorgeous songs, namely “Beautiful One” & “Circles”, she performed an amazing version of the classic opus “Locked Away” (The Gathering) and her short but impressive set ended with a beautiful cover of U2’s “All I Want Is You”.
It only took fifteen or so minutes for the roadies to clear some space in the self-styled “living room” for Daniel and company, after which in strode the charismatic Swede once more, to reprise the theme of Dementia and his philosophical musings on the subject, into which he wove the songs from the set list.
Suddenly, and much to the crowd’s amusement, a door bell rang and Ragnar Zolberg showed up, to perform a new composition with Daniel, entitled “Falling Home” – due to be featured on the band’s upcoming acoustic album. If you know one thing about Pain Of Salvation, then it is that they do nothing conventionally and this show was certainly no exception. From the moment the rest of the band entered the stage and a dynamic rendition of “Diffidentia” was performed, it was clear that the rest of the show would be about the band presenting interesting variations of their much loved songs, leaving their loyal and expressive fans trying to figure out what exactly they were listening to.
“Linoleum” is perhaps one of the performances that was close to the original, while “Mrs. Modern Mother Mary” was performed with a charming multi-layered vocal session. “Ashes” became a classic from the moment it was first recorded so it was bound to receive a warm reaction, but it was Daniel and Anneke’s duet of Kris Krostofferson’s “Help Me Make It Through The Night” that really brought the house down. By that stage, the band was truly on fire and a bombastic rendition of “To The Shoreline” was followed by a Jazz-fusion cover of…Ronnie James Dio’s “Holy Diver” – truly a cover to end all covers! More crazy improvisations characterized the fittingly-titled “Stress”, while a killer version of “Disco Queen” got the whole of the dance floor moving.
It was at this point in the show that Daniel provided us with two back to back classics: “Second Love” is one of the best love songs ever written (one I enjoyed while holding my wife’s hand), while “Spitfall” is a magnificent ‘call to arms’ that only a band of Pain Of Salvation’s quality and inventiveness is capable of creating. The older fans seemed quite pleased with the duet “Iter Impius”/”The Perfect Element”, following which the band left the stage for the first time – soon to return to the roars and screams of a highly-energised audience.
The encore began with a very emotional dedication of Kansas’ all-time classic “Dust In The Wind” to all people suffering from dementia, followed by “Chain Sling” and “1979” – the latter performed with the assistance of members from the remaining two bands. When, at ten minutes to eleven, Pain Of Salvation decided to finally call it a day, it was fair to say that the audience’s enraptured smiles mirrored those of Daniel Gildenlow – both testaments to the amazing experience shared by band and fans alike moments earlier.
If you ask me to name my favourite bands, whose albums I cannot live without, the entries would be endless, but one thing’s for sure: Pain Of Salvation will always be among the very top of the list. The Relentless Garage may not have been the best of venues for the show and parts of the crowd may not have given the bands the respect that they truly deserved, but I am sure that one day, when I am hopefully old and grey and with children by my side, I can tell them with much pride, pointing at the flyer of tonight’s show: “I was there!”.
Arstidir Set List:
“Road Salt” (Pain of Salvation cover with Daniel Gildenlow on vocals)/“A Medan Jordin Sefur”/“Heidin”/“Ljod I Sand”/“Everwake” (Anathema cover with Anneke Van Giersbergen)/“Til Hennar”/“Shades”/“Tarin”
Anneke Van Giersbergen Set List:
1. “My Electricity” (The Gathering song)/2. “4 Years” (Agua De Annique song)/3. “Time After Time” (Cyndi Lauper cover)/
4. “Beautiful One” (Agua De Annique song)/5. “Locked Away” (The Gathering song)/6.“Circles”/7. “All I Want Is You” (U2 cover)
Pain Of Salvation Set List:
“Falling Home” (new song)/“Diffidentia”/“Linoleum”/“Mrs. Modern Mother Mary”/“Ashes”/“Help Me Make It Through The Night” (Kris Krostofferson cover sung with Anneke Van Giersbergen)/“To The Shoreline”/“Holy Diver” (DIO cover)/“Stress”/“Disco Queen”/“Second Love”/“Spitfall”/“Iter Impius”/“The Perfect Element
Encore: “Dust In The Wind” (Kansas cover)/“Chain Sling”/“1979″
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