MICHAEL GIRA UNPLUGGED LIVE IN LIVERPOOL – WHAT HAPPENED?
A Sunday afternoon jaunt over to Liverpool to see a rare and intimate solo performance from Swan’s legend Michael Gira made quite the end to a hectic gig-heavy weekend. The venue was Liverpool’s beautiful Ullet Road Church which dates back to the 17th century. The church describes itself as ‘a space of faith and reason, not constrained by dogma or creed, the divine makes itself known by various means and our community allows for intellectual exploration.’
Intellectual exploration was certainly followed by a blinding evening of live music in a packed-out church which I am still digesting three days later. The building was the perfect setting for the evening ahead, atmospheric, the dark rainy night providing Poe worthy pathetic fallacy a-plenty, and indicator of what was to come. Before Gira took to the stage to deliver some of his experimental noise, support came from long-time Swans member Kristog Hahn who kicked off the evening with his very own ‘Ode to Liverpool’ a hauntingly beautiful multi-instrumental piece. Hahn recently worked on the latest Swan’s album with Gira which is due to be released later next year, and hotly anticipated by many.
Gira took to the stage after casually completing his own soundcheck. There was no bravado or ego this evening, with a very understated coolness from both performers. What followed was a journey of raw, and often hard to digest lyrics, a deep baritone voice and a passion that filled the churches impressively high ceiling and tore right through the silent crowd. The set was intense and at times felt like being hypnotised by the droning, angry vocals, only being released when Gira stopped to berate a sound engineer or an audience member for using their phone mid-set.
Gira performed three Swans tracks of his eight song set list, ‘When Will I Return’, ‘New Mind’ and ‘Blind’. In the first track, ‘The Memorious’ one could draw similarities to Nick Cave, and it is no coincidence that Cave has cited Gira as a huge influence in his career with Cave once describing Gira’s work as ‘brilliant and repulsive’. Swans are famous for their on-stage antics and very fucking loud (the loudest band in the world by all accounts) sound that penetrates through the audience, and in the past reports of audience members fainting and vomiting due to the decibels. Nothing like that happened on this occasion, however, it was certainly the most angst-ridden, passionate acoustic set I have ever witnessed.
At times it was hard to watch but for some reason, I could not turn away, completely mesmerised by the presence before me, the voice and the passion and the angst, my ears are still ringing. It had been a while since I visited a church but as sermons go, this one was certainly a powerful transcendent delivery of mixed emotions.