Le Fantastique, Botanique, Brussels 3rd October 2009
I’d been looking forward to this since Fred le Fantastique had posted a video on Facebook just after this year’s WGT festival in Leipzig and had second guessed that The Eden House would be coming to Brussels quite soon. It didn’t take much research to start getting very excited indeed, with the prospect of most of The Neph and Julianne Regan in the line up, this was looking (and sounding) very special indeed.
But let’s deal with support act Sophya first.
No drums, but a sort of flashing head thing greet us when they come on stage. One of the Netherlands’ premier goth acts, and booked at fairly short notice due to Drakes Hotel not being able to make an appearance, we were treated to a very good set, with programmed backing, some lovely analogue synths, decent guitar & bass, and an excellent singer. The head thing turns out to be some sort of harmonizer device – a nice touch to Sonja’s already excellent performance.
Despite the drums and some synths coming out of a laptop, it really doesn’t sound out of place at all. It’s very well crafted, and I got the impression that we were being treated to a slightly more up-tempo set than is represented on their MySpace.
While they are very good indeed, I get the impression that most of the audience are anticipating what is to come, so the atmosphere is polite, and they don’t quite get the enthusiasm that they otherwise deserve, including from Yours Truly. It’s a good job that some loud mouthed git decided very vocally that they wanted to see some more when they went off stage, otherwise the applause would have faded out and we would have missed out on Transmission, and that would have been a great shame. Listening to the stuff on MySpace, they’re definitely one of those bands who deserve a decent local following, and I think I really ought to get more familiar with their stuff, so an album might be on order
They deserve a more enthusiastic review, but that just wasn’t the mood of the evening. Next time.
To cut a long story short, this is nothing short of a new gothic supergroup, with a core songwriting line-up of Stephen Carey (guitar) and Tony Pettitt (Bass), both of whom have a fairly illustrious track record, and other musicians (including the entire lineup of Fields of the Nephilim) as required to sort out the rest. I don’t see the point in repeating what others have already put quite eloquently, so if you can’t be arsed to Google for them , here’s a decent review of Smoke & Mirrors on Dutch website Gothtronic for starters.
Tonight, we are treated just to core singers Amandine Ferrari and Evi Vine, Bob Loveday on violin, and a drummer and additional guitarist whose names I missed and can’t work out correctly amongst the many collaborators to the album.
The set starts off with some atrocious sound problems, something crackling, frantic activity by the sound engineers, some strange grimaces and waving from the stage, and an absolute belter of an opener. Right the first few bars, Bob Loveday’s soaring and heavily processed violin charms us with beautiful melodies, as does Evi Vine’s wonderful voice.
Tony’s bass work is just fabulous and omnipresent, but it’s not until the 3rd song that the whole thing starts to transcend into the upper reaches of the sublime when the sound is sorted out and Amandine Ferrari is gently prompted out of hiding for a duet with Evi. The contrast of Evi’s confident platinum blonde and Amandine’s shy and petite figure is quite marked, but once she launches into the upper reaches of her range, Amandine casts an unbreakable spell over entire venue. And so it goes on for a set which I think covered the entire album – alternating between the two singers.
Comments included “I’ve not had my spine tingle like that in a very long time”, “I could just listen to that bass all night” and “The blonde is good, but the other one is just …”.
Here’s me thinking this has got to be one of the best gigs I’ve ever been to, when Evi apologizes for the lack of Julianne Regan. I can’t say I was bothered at all, but evidently, the band seem to hold her in very high esteem, so maybe it could get even better than this. In fact, it most certainly could. The Witloof Bar is a difficult venue, as its large brick pillars and low ceiling make it difficult to get a decent sound. I think that was reflected by the guitars being a little bit subdued, and the sound certainly wasn’t as good and as consistent as it deserved to be. I was towards the back with a pillar obscuring quite a lot of the stage in an attempt to hear the thing better. I’d love to see this again in a better environment, somewhere like the Ancienne Belgique, where the full sensitivity of Evi’s voice and the lower reaches of Amandine’s can be properly appreciated (not to mention the guitars).
The first batch of CDs had run out by the time I got to the merchandising stall via the bar. Fortunately, someone went back to the hotel to get another load. I’m glad they did – the album, Smoke & Mirrors is excellent.
I came tonight with the highest of expectations. They were exceeded.
And on top of that, the company was great, as always, and I don't know who ended up DJ'ing, but we got an absolute treat of a set with early electronic classics that I'd not heard for years.