Reeling The Liars In
I hated Swans up until two years ago, but recently I have been captivated by a live version of their song “A Screw (Holy Money)” from a 1985 concert that I found on YouTube. Those eyes. Those serious, focused, confident eyes of frontman Michael Gira were just as menacing at the Rickshaw as they were in that video. My friend John summed Swans up for me with one word: patience. No shit. The show began with ten minutes of bell sounds played by one percussionist, and one by one, with five minutes between each entrance, the remaining five members proceeded to their instruments. The sound got more overwhelming with each musician taking to the stage. When Gira came out, the anticipation was almost unbearable. He gestured to the people in the front to manoeuvre past the barricade to get closer. And then he let us have it for over two hours.
I was surprised by a couple of things. This is a SWANS crowd? I always figured there would be more weird, cloak-wearing dudes at their shows. The kind who never blink, and who stare at you like they want to eat your spleen. None of them came, however. I was also surprised by how many ladies were here slowly bobbing their heads with the blokes. And how polite were we? I thought opener Wooden Wand was going to get skewered because of his simple, silent folk tunes, but we were all respectful. Although there was this one guy who kept coming up to me saying, “The Fall? Mark E. Smith?” I have no idea why we was saying that to me. Someone should have told that drunk lady who was screaming all through the quiet parts to shut up, but we as an audience were so polite that no one ever did.
I loved the show. I knew who I came to see, but I was still a little shocked by the performance. Swans last album, My Father Will Guide Me Up a Rope to the Sky is so good. And those songs, especially the moody sea shanty “Jim,” sounded so good in the Rickshaw, even though Mr. Gira had a fight going with the sound guy all night. The craziest part for me was when the band stopped and he started screaming “JESUS! JESUS! JESUS CHRIST! COME DOWN! NOW!!!!!” I don’t know if he does that at every show, but I was blown away. Even the drunk lady stopped talking.