Saturday 29 June 2019

Fields of the Nephilim, Rock City, Nottingham

Supported by Red Sun Revival

Support comes from Red Sun Revival, who I didn't know before tonight but they seemed a good choice for the evening as they brought their own brand of Gothic style indie to the table. They aren't new, having been going since 2011 which probably explains why Rob Leydon comes over as a very accomplished front man.

They make good use of Christina Emery's violin which isn't drowned out by the rest of the instruments and gives a certain uniqueness to their sound. It also helps that they are clearly very happy to be here and are given a generous 45 minute set which goes down very well with the crowd.

I’m not sure what the Fields of the Nephilim think to pretty much the entirety of The Mission’s ‘First Chapter’ being played as a prelude to them coming on stage but then I suppose those feuds amongst the various Gothic bands were a long time ago now.

The last time I saw the Nephilim was almost exactly 29 years ago... although after the original band broke up in 1991, I did see Carl McCoy’s short lived variant The Nefilim only 23 years ago ... So, on many levels, as one by one the members of the band emerge out of the haze of dry ice dressed in their trademark Spaghetti Western outrider outfits it is reassuring that not much has changed.

That they emerge to their version of Ennio Morricone’s ‘The Harmonica Man’ from ‘Once Upon A Time In The West’, the track that opened the ‘Dawnrazor’ album back in 1987, it is reassuring that not much has changed.

Yes, the line-up has changed over the years but not McCoy himself, for it seems to have always been his band, as he leans into the mic stand and lets loose with his distinctive voice as we move into the magnificence that is ‘Preacher Man’. A track that over three decades since its release still has the ability to raise the hairs on the back of your neck when they play it live.

From that moment I am totally on board, or back on board if you prefer, as the band deliver an enthralling hour and a half of gothic rock theatre or whatever you want to categorise it as. Whatever you do categorise it as, it's pretty unique.

The lighting is fantastic, the sound is fantastic, the dry ice is irritating for this cameraman.

The only other original member aside from McCoy is Tony Pettitt, who returned to the fold a few years ago, and who stubbornly seems to refuse to adhere to the memo that governs the dress code. So no cowboy hat for him which makes him standout like a sore thumb which is perhaps his intention and perhaps the only way he could steal some attention away from the lead singer.

The setlist pulls on their theatrical masterpieces largely from ‘The Nephilim’ album which means ‘Endemoniada’ becomes ‘Love Under Will’ before we turn to ‘Dawnrazor’ itself, which is epic in so many ways.

At which point I am struck by the thought that not only has McCoy no right to still be able to sing like that after all these years, he also still has hair when none of the rest of us have. In fact he’s got more hair than all the men in the audience put together. Must be a wig. May have always been a wig...

‘Hit single’ ‘Moonchild’ follows and then becomes ‘The Watchman’ before they dip into ‘Elizium’ where the almost poppy ‘For Her Light’ merges, as ever, into the more sorrowful ‘At the Gates of Silent Memory’.

Then there’s ‘newer’ material in 2005’s ‘Mourning Sun’ and 2016’s ‘Prophecy’ before a magnificent ‘Last Exit for the Lost’ closes the show in some style.

The setlist isn’t short on length but is short on songs and it would have been nice to have had some of the shorter punchier songs, mainly from the really old days, thrown in. Maybe one day but for now this is what they do and they are doing it very well.

Fields of the Nephilim Setlist Rock City, Nottingham, England 2019

Saturday 1 June 2019

The Futureheads, Rescue Rooms, Nottingham

Supported by Fatherson

Fatherson are not a new band, having been formed in 2010 and having recorded three albums, but they are new to me. They come from Kilmarnock and seem to have quite a following, many of whom are packed in down the front tonight.

They open impressively, blowing everyone away with their first song but after the simplicity of the opening number they went a bit arty after that and also a touch robotic, losing a lot of the audience in the process. They’d probably grow on me in time but tonight I felt like I’ve overdosed on them a touch by the end of their half hour or perhaps I was just desperate to get on with the main event.

It’s another box ticked tonight as I finally get to see the Futureheads live, who I totally missed out on when they were in the pomp even missing them at Leicester’s Summer Sundae Festival in 2010 despite having a ticket because I went to the football... Shortly afterwards they went all Acapella on us before disappearing completely, seemingly without trace.

I wasn’t confident we'd see the four Mackems back together and on stage again but here they are, bursting into ‘Yes/No’ from the ‘News And Tributes’ album and seemingly with renewed enthusiasm, which is very infectious. Next comes ‘Area’, bizarrely a top 20 hit from 2005 on the back of a famous cover version they once did. Things are rocking now as ‘Struck Dumb’ and ‘Meantime’ furiously tumble forth. 

Then it’s a pause for breath and a new song ‘Good Night Out’ sung by Ross Millard, then it’s back to Barry Hyde for ‘Decent Days and Nights’.

Another new song ‘Listen Little Man’ and then already we seem to be hurtling towards the finale. The other Hyde, Dave on drums, clearly working from a different setlist plays ‘Radio Heart’ but everyone else plays ‘HeartBeat Song’ which is outstanding, then it’s a particular favourite of mine, the gorgeous, ‘Back to the Sea’ before a fast flowing triple whammy of ‘Skip to the End’, ‘The Beginning of the Twist’ and ‘Carnival Kids’ bring things to close.

We’re all exhausted but they’ve only been going 45 minutes. Earlier Hyde seem to know exactly how many days it was since they’d last played Nottingham, although I’ve no idea if he was correct. He promised to make up for it by making this show last three weeks, which Millard pointed out would be a bit difficult give the 10pm curfew. So, on reflection guys, 45 minutes seems.. well... a bit brief?

The encore is perhaps a little odd. Opening, fair enough, with comeback single ‘Jekyll’ but then continues with two cover versions. Firstly the Television Personalities 'A Picture of Dorian Gray' which they covered on their ‘1-2-3-Nul!’ EP back in 2003 and then yes, they do still play Kate Bush's 'Hounds Of Love'. The song which sort of made their name but you have to say they have plenty material of their own that they could have played which far surpasses it.

This stretches out the gig to an hour but they still finish 30 minutes inside the curfew. In their defence they do look drained, having put their all into it and it is so good to have them back.

The Futureheads Setlist Rescue Rooms, Nottingham, England 2019