Swans at the Gothic Theatre, with Xiu Xiu, 9/24/12

Categories: Concert Reviews

Tom Murphy
Swans at Gothic Theatre.


"I know it's a Monday night. Can you tolerate one more?" Michael Gira asked the crowd more than two hours into the show. It wasn't really even a question because Gira already knew the answer. Swans then played its final song: the sprawling, apocalypse-eclipsing "The Apostate." Starting out with a slow pace and pedal-steel shimmer, the song took ominous and decisive steps up a teetering mountain of sound.

See also:
- Jamie Stewart of Xiu Xiu on non-Western sounds and his affinity for Suicide (the band)
- Michael Gira of Swans on the new album and his time as a bassist

Tom Murphy
Swans at Gothic Theatre.
Norman Westberg, as he did for much of the show, sat patiently waiting as the build escalated, like an elite warrior waiting for his time to enter the fray and bring about a decisive and victorious conclusion. After the first build, Phil Puleo and Thor Harris blew through whistles as though they were herding in an army of children after a school recess. Was this some kind of sonic conceptual joke?

Maybe so, but it was also odd and disorienting -- in a completely original way, considering the instrumentation this band usually employs. When the whistles ended, the entire band hit a great note together and flooded the room with caustic, cleansing vibrations with a series of strikes of instrumentation as though repeating the sound that caused the universe to begin in ancient Indian mythology.

At some point, Gira put down his guitar and danced around wildly, gesturing like some kind of shaman-cum-hip jazz conductor. He did that dance between shouting, singing, chanting and wailing into the microphone the band's soul-searing lyrics, words that each time he uttered them sounded like he was cauterizing a wound in his mind. His catharsis and that of the band transferred to the audience. When all the sounds finally died down, everyone came forward to the enthusiastic cheers of the audience and Gira said, "We want to live forever inside your bellies."

Tom Murphy
Swans at Gothic Theatre.
Things kicked off with "To Be Kind," a disorienting and discomforting song that seemed like it came out of the hidden soundtrack of Beyond the Black Rainbow. Like these guys were reaching directly into mythical archetypes and giving them musical expression. Was it the extreme volume and shifting dynamics that affect their audience on a subconscious level? Maybe so, but that's how it felt to be at this show in general.

Continue reading for more from the show.

Location Info


Gothic Theatre

3263 S. Broadway, Englewood, CO

Category: Music

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