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Cold In BerlinCold In Berlin
Riffs Bar, Swindon
Friday March 29 2013

 

 

Tell you what, Toto. We're certainly not in Kansas any more.

As a matter of fact, I'm not even sure if we're in Swindon. Riffs Bar is a country pub turned rock venue, located somewhere in the Wiltshire hinterland, where the sprawling housing estates of Swindon's outer limits finally give way to countryside greenery.

It's an out-of-the-way place for a gig, although it seems the venue does have its crowd of regulars: rock fans who make the trek into the wilds for a few pints and a knees-up to the local good-time bands and the inevitable covers combos.

You can certainly have a top night out at Riffs Bar - let's face it, the neighbours aren't likely to complain about the noise, chiefly because there aren't any neighbours. But as a venue for Cold In Berlin - you know, dark, tense, apocalyptic post-punks-turned-doom-rockers Cold In Berlin - well, it's a bit like booking The Birthday Party to play the Boar's Nest in the Dukes Of Hazzard.

A cheery - but inevitable - covers combo warms things up. And then it's time for Cold In Berlin to cool things down again. The band takes the stage under the curious glances of the crowd. Nobody here looks particularly like a Cold In Berlin fan. Certainly, the black-clad noo wave kids with their pointy boots and pointy hairstyles that we'd expect to see at a London gig are conspicuous by their absence tonight. The Swindon rock massive, it seems, doesn't do pointy.

Pointy or not, here they come. Vocalist My extends her arms out to the audience, as if casting a spell. The band plunge into 'Take Control', rather in the manner of a truck going over a cliff. All of a sudden, it's white knuckes and massive, crashing slabs of rampant guitar. "Fuck you like a laser!" hollers My in a voice fit to be heard across Salisbury Plain, and everyone in the front row suddenly starts looking distinctly uneasy. This ain't no good-time band. This is scary stuff.

Cold In BerlinIt's also heavy stuff. Because, of course, although I mentioned noo-wave above, Cold In Berlin have now sold their souls to The Rock. Their new material has approximately the atomic density of iridium.

The guitar crashes down like the Niagra Falls on an overcast day; the bass 'n' drums pummel like a back alley gang fight. There's no light and shade. Just shade, and lots of it.

It's a bravura performance of tightly- orchestrated night-black noise, choreographed by My's flapping, witchy theatrics.

It can't be easy, generating a force field of heavy-duty darkness in the agreeable surroundings of a country pub, even if it is a country pub with pictures of Jimi Hendrix and Curt Cobain on the back wall of the stage. But under the gaze of dead rock stars, Cold In Berlin succeed in bringing their own brand of blackness. "Brick by brick they wall her in!" roars My, and the audience twitches nervously under the onslaught. The applause at the end of the set has a tinge of relief to it, as if the Riffs Bar crowd can't quite believe the scary people have got through their set without actually turning anyone into frogs.

There's a local good-time band on next. Local heroes, it seems. Everyone in the crowd seems to be a mate, anyway. The audience surges forward, pints and grins much in evidence. Friday night fun times have been restored.

Cold In BerlinI'm not sure how much value there is for Cold In Berlin in playing gigs like this. It's not like they're going to win over many (or any) new fans amid the boozers and boppers. The best possible result, I suppose, is the one we got tonight: the band treated with polite - if rather nervous - tolerance by the locals, as an interruption to the weekend-starts-here good times.

I guess bands have to grab their gigs wherever they can find them as soon as they get out of the major cities. But I don't think anyone's career is going to take a big leap as a result of playing the Boar's Nest.

 

 

Cold In Berlin: Website | Facebook

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