Thursday, 3 November 2011

831 THROWING MUSES, The Spectrals, Special Benny, London Shepherd’s Bush Empire, Wednesday 2 November 2011

Yup, they’re back too… in one of the considerably more welcome reunions of recent times, Throwing Muses, the barbed Boston lot who rendered me, “as excited as a kid at an airport,” on my first sighting, some 22½ years ago (yipe!), have joined the reunion gravy train. This burst of activity coincides with the 25th Anniversary (double yipe!) of their debut album, a real game-changing and worthily “Classic” record which saw vocalist/ inspiration Kristen Hersh and her band arrive, teenaged yet fully formed, without any recognisable antecedents, sounding other-worldly in their melange of melody and malevolence. It takes a special band to drag me up to London on a wild Autumn Wednesday night, a band exactly like Throwing Muses!

And I wasn’t alone; long-time fellow fans Beef and Ady (Ady taking a very late call on this one, with me booking his ticket this afternoon!) joined me for this one. Picked the boys up smartly at 5.15, then had a nasty traffic, breakdown (not me!) and weather-delayed journey to the Smoke, parking up opposite Bush Hall at ¼ to 8 and wandering in just as first act Special Benny rounded off their set. Chatted at the back bar and bought merch (signed copies of Kristen’s book! Result!) during main support The Spectrals’ inauspicious tom-tom drum dominated 60’s set, and then took a good viewing spot stage right on a rapidly-filling and anticipatory floor for the entrance of the Muses at the witching hour, 9.20.

This Muses trio of Kristin, still tiny and waif-like, libidinous and dextrous bassist Bernard Georges, and long-time drummer David Narcizo, dynamic as ever, wandered casually onstage and eased into opener “Soul Soldier” to devotional applause. A splendid opening salvo included a rollercoaster ride of snarling menace through “Garoux Des Larmes” and the undulating caterpillar crawl bassline of 2003’s “Speed And Sleep”, Kristen challenging a punter’s cheer during the intro with, “you do NOT own that record!” Then “Bright Yellow Gun” saw Kristen, static yet mesmerizingly intense throughout, head bobbing in her usual infinity pattern, roar, lioness-like, through a surprisingly strident and savage version of what I’d previously considered a light, almost throwaway “pop” Muses song. Wrong, boy…

A bit of banter with a punter shouting for “Fish” saw Kristen reply, “If I had a fish I’d give it to you! Someone gave me some homemade sushi though – how do you do that? I can barely make toast!” She then snarled the lyric of a subsequent titanic “Hate My Way” as if thoroughly disgusted by what she was being forced to sing. For me, thereafter, the set lost a little momentum, as the sound wavered and too many mid-paced little monsters seemed to be subsumed in the Empire’s echoing expanse, the sound suffering accordingly. However the set roared back with a vengeance, with a fabulously strident and seething “Vicky’s Box”, by which point I was down the front in a mini moshpit, screaming along for all I was worth. “Bea” completed a stunning recovery for the set, leaving us hungry for more.

And the "Fish” guy got his reward, as Kristen delivered a shimmering acoustic solo “Fish”, before a magnificent “Mania”, preceded by a lengthy and quirky tale of Marie, a blind college contemporary of Kristen’s. “Mania” itself was stunning in its’ beautiful ferocity, and prompted a second encore (“it’s totally not fucking Wednesday anymore!” being Kristen’s response to this!) of “Devil’s Roof”, climaxing another remarkable 2011 resurrection. I got my reward as well, grabbing “official” set-list No. 500 (!) after a brilliant evening in the company of one of the most unique, pioneering talents in rock, now thankfully fully restored. Kristen Hersh, thank you.

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