Thursday, 5 February 2009

Live: The Veils - London

The Veils

The Macbeth, Hoxton, London, UK

Thursday 5 February 2009

Sometimes I’ll be asked why I’m going to see a band play again. Yet one of the joys of seeing a band many times over a period of time is to see how they alter and change. While sometimes they may evolve away from your tastes, other times you get to see them become something on a higher plane than when you first saw them.

Five years ago I saw the first line-up of The Veils launch their debut album; and eight months ago I last saw them, playing the fourth and final week of their Camden residency, road testing possible songs for their next album. Tonight they tell us that the finishing touches were put on Sun Gangs at the start of this week. They marked their return to the live scene by playing small venues over four nights at the four points of the compass around central London. Tonight was east, and found the four-piece in the cramped space of the Macbeth in Hoxton. The bar takes up about a third of the width of the room, and the band has to fight their way through the crowd to get onstage.

But what a difference the intervening months have made. From the opening notes of Three Sisters, it’s clear that they are more focussed and driven than ever. It has a searing urgency, and Finn Andrews’ ever-more insistent refrains of Oh My God build powerfully, with an underlying sense of menace. Whereas before the band were still compensating for the loss of the keyboards, now there’s a sense that a balance has been achieved without them. The sound is bigger, but also breathes - like a Henry Moore sculpture, the gaps are part of the whole, and not a loss. More than once I’m reminded of The Bad Seeds under Mick Harvey. Not so much for their actual sound , but the feeling of determination and single purpose, where the gestalt is much more than the sum of its parts. Henning Dietz’s restraint on the drums makes his flurries all the more powerful, while Sophia Burn is totally transported as she plays. Daniel Raishbrook’s guitar line on The Letter is wonderfully catchy, acting almost as a vocal response to Finn’s words.

And it’s not just the new songs that have been reinvigorated. Advice For Young Mothers To Be no longer canters along merrily – its steel spine is now felt. Jesus For The Jugular sees Finn mangling sounds out of his guitar; this is for real. Yet it’s not without tenderness. Sit Down By The Fire reflects a gentler side, and when broken strings bring things to a stop, Finn fills the time with a solo rendition of The Wild Son. The band rightly ignores the calls for Lavinia, which come like alarm clock on snooze mode, and they’re right to. For they’re not that band anymore, and the newer songs are far superior; I’d have loved to have heard more of them. They finish with a fiery Nux Vomica, and Finn comes back alone for the encore, and plays what he tells us was the first song he wrote upon arriving in London all those years ago. On record The Tide That Left And Never Came Back is a rollicking anthem; here it’s stripped back to its elegiac soul and becomes a beautiful and heartfelt requiem full of loss and regret. The Veils have always been good; they’re becoming magnificent.

© James McGalliard 2009

Three Sisters
The Letter
Advice for Young Mothers to Be
Jesus for the Jugular
Not Yet
Sit Down By The Fire
The Wild Son
Killed By The Boom
Nux Vomica

The Tide That Left and Never Came Back

A version of this review appeared in Inpress # 1058; published in Melbourne, Australia, on 18 February 2009