Photographs by Andreas Babiolakis.
New York’s Swans thirteenth album To Be Kind was my pick for album of the year for 2014. While not for everyone, the noisy Americans have been on a roll since reactivating with a trilogy of solid epic albums that began with 2010’s My Father Will Guide Me Up a Rope To The Sky.
In over 30 years of their existence, I’d never seen the band despite being won over early in their career with their sublime cover of Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart”, so their return to Toronto following a free gig at Yonge Dundas Square last summer as part of NXNE was highly anticipated by me.
Led by Michael Gira, the band pummeled an almost full Phoenix with glorious droning guitars and tribal rhythms. Burrowing not only into the head via ears, the visceral onslaught also rattled bones and shook away any internal cobwebs making for a truly cathartic experience.
Given the length of their songs, the band doesn’t really get to touch on much of their material but about half of the evening was airing out tracks from To Be Kind including epic closer “Bring The Sun”.
Gira was a surprisingly endearing frontman, clearly aware and humbled at finally getting their due after over 30 years in the game. His banter, while very brief was like a soothing balm before continued sonic battering. The Phoenix Concert Theatre sound held up very nicely giving the sprawling songs the room they needed without wilting under the pressure of the immense sounds coming from the stage. He even returned for an episode of our podcast and is genuinely an interesting person.
Truly an awesome night of music, I’m sorry that I waited until last night to finally see the legendary band. While I was keenly aware of the Swans’ legendary live volume levels, I was actually surprised at how un-obnoxious the volume levels were. But then again that might be my worn and battered ears talking.
Thanks to Collective Concerts for media access.