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David J
Joe Black
Partly Faithful
Red Sun RevivalSebastian Bartz
Red Sun Revival

Electrowerkz, London
Saturday November 3 2012 

 

 

The pre-gig publicity plays heavily on the past. David J was, of course, the bassist with Bauhaus and Love And Rockets, and those two bands, almost inevitably, provide the promotional pegs upon which this gig is hung.

But David J has also made eight solo albums along the way - the latest, Not Long For This World - is just out. So, as a solo artist, he's well established. Even if it's still the names of his former bands that haul the punters in.

Perhaps that's also the reason we've got four - count 'em, four - support bands tonight: as an insurance policy just in case the Bauhaus Barmy Army doesn't show.

Red Sun Revival are a fairly new outfit, but they seem to have pulled in a useful early-doors audience. That may be because the band is fronted by Rob Leydon, former guitarist with London goth scene heroes Voices Of Masada. It could also be because the band play an entirely straightforward take on Nephilimesque gothic rock, all portentous vocals and billowing smoke, every song a glowering mid-tempo anthem.

Just to dispel any doubts about their provenance, the band even have a song called 'My Child', in which the title crops up as a dramatic chorus growl - "My Child!" The resemblance to the Neph's 'Moonchild' is not, I suspect, accidental.

Sebastian BartzThere's always been an audience in goth scene circles for this kind of familiar style. All a band has to do is hit all the essential cues, make sure the key influences are referenced with reverence, and remember not to do anything that might frighten the horses. Red Sun Revival do it all well, but they're ploughing a furrow that's already been so heavily tilled we're surely down to the bedrock by now.

But outside the goth scene itself, there's a whole other world of goth. A certain after-dark aesthetic is considered kinda kewl in certain areas of the left-field and the underground these days, and a new crop of bands has sprung up with a nose for all things noir but none of the baggage.

Sebastian Bartz is, I suppose, one such artist. At any rate, he's got the look: waif-like in flapping black, he's an archly disarming art-punk, fronting a band who look a little bit Devo, a little bit Zola Jesus. Not a bad sandwich.

It would be even better if the band sounded like Devo and Zola Jesus, but as a matter of fact the Sebastian Bartz sound is surprisingly straight-up noo-wavey pop. Which isn't a bad thing, of course. But the accessible, upbeat songs and Sebastian's own suburban-bedroom vocal sit rather oddly with the self-consciously none-more-cool image.

He dresses like he's just escaped from the witch house by climbing out of the bathroom window, but his band sounds like a garage version of Nik Kershaw. What's all that about?

It's time for a slightly more robust rough-and-tumble, I think. Here's the Partly Faithful to turn it up and punk it up. They're all white-knuckled dramatics and jagged edges, guitar like sheet lightning, and a bass sound that grumbles like it's been pestered at a bus stop by the Gang Of Four.

And here's Ed Banshee, looming Steerpike-like over the front rows as if surveying the towers of Gormenghast. It might be a little tactless to mention the B-word here, at a gig headlined by a member of the B-band, but there's certainly a touch of Bauhaus style here, in the Partly Faithful's stark melodrama and skidding guitar.

Or maybe it's more simple than that. Perhaps it's just that post-punk spikiness works as well now as it ever did.

Partly Faithful / Joe Black

And now another tangent. Cheery and affable, sometimes seated at his keyboard, sometimes strolling the stage wih accordian and ukelele, Joe Black carries off his camp cabaret with a winning smile and a relish for wrongness. I haven't clapped eyes on Joe Black for a good long while, and it seems in that time he's worked up a show that has much more substance - and much more of his own style - than in his earlier days, when he was essentially chanelling an evil clown version of Amanda Palmer.

Practically the only element from back then that still remains in the show is his habit of going off-mic to let out a shout, which he does once in a while presumably to demonstrate that he's got an authentic pre-amplification vintage vaudeville voice. But his songs are witty things, scooped from the gutter but sprinkled with glitter, and he treads the boards with the verve of an old-time trouper. Knock 'em in the one and nines, Joe.

David J"Hello, my darlings," says David J, like a slightly shy great-uncle who's popped round for tea.

David J was always the reserved, self-effacing one in Bauhaus and Love And Rockets, and he hasn't got any more in-yer-face since he's been a solo artist.

He's downbeat, matter-of-fact, toting an acoustic guitar and fronting a band who remain half-hidden in the shadows. He takes us on a twilit stroll through his songbook - and it must be said that David J's songs do rather conjure up the atmosphere of a reflective walk in the gathering evening, thoughts turning to past times.

So let's go strolling with Dave. 'Dagger In The Well', all restrained keyboard and meticulous vocal, has an air somewhere between valedictory and melancholy that sets the tone for the evening. Even 'Shelf Life' - an old Love And Rockets tune second song in, suitable reassurance for anyone who might have been wondering if we would get any hallowed Old Stuff - sounds rather affecting. Its annoyingly in-joke lyric ("How many A&R men does it take to change a light bulb?") sounds whimsically humourous in this stripped-back, almost folkie version.

The bleak 'Candy on The Cross' is introduced by a little story of its inception one night in King's Cross, just down the road from where we are now. At this gig, if on no others on his tour, David J can be sure that we understand the line "There's no guardian angel on the Caledonian Road."

David JAnd yes, even the B-band gets a look-in. 'Who Killed Mr Moonlight' pops up, a song - as David J reminds us - that Bauhaus never played live. 'All We Ever Wanted', a song Bauhaus did play live, and quite extensively too, if my memory serves, makes a bashful appearance in a version stripped of Peter Murphy's melodrama and soaked instead in the cerebral wistfulness that seems to characterise all David J's work.

Yes, we're a long way from Bauhaus, and a long way from Love And Rockets, too. Those bands might be the reason most people are here tonight - and the inclusion of the old songs in the set suggests that David J knows it. But his present incarnation as a sagacious troubadour has its own understated appeal, too.

 


David J: Website | Facebook

Joe Black: Website | Facebook

Partly Faithful: Website | Facebook

Sebastian Bartz: Website | Facebook

Red Sun Revival: Website | Facebook



For more photos from this gig, find the bands by name here.

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