The longer that I’ve written about music – it has now ticked past twenty-one years, some way more than half my life – the more difficult it seems to be able to comprehend how long listening to some bands has been part of my life.
Into The Pit: 201:
The Birthday Massacre
O2 Academy Islington, N1
TBM on amodelofcontrol.com
One particular case is The Birthday Massacre, who I always seem to have in my head as relative newcomers, still. That’s despite realising recently that I first saw them live eleven years ago, and they’ve been an active band for a good few more years than that. That kinda timescale makes them relative veterans now, I guess.
In that time, this was my fourth time seeing them live, and what’s remarkable to me still is, as I mentioned in Talk Show Host: 041 with the band (conducted the evening of this show), the level of devotion that they have from their fanbase. This was evident before doors, with a long queue stretching around the corner of the Angel Centre, most of said fans being somewhat younger than many of the gigs I attend, and a great many of them clad in black and purple or violet shades as per the colours that the band have used since their inception.
Interviewing members of The Birthday Massacre beforehand meant that I missed most of the support acts with the exception of Lesbian Bed Death. I’ve seen them mentioned by others a great many times, they’ve been on festival bills and whathaveyou, but I wasn’t quite expecting a hard-rock show with the odd nod to goth. I mean, it was slick, it was loud, and they are clearly a competent band with a striking frontwoman, but this isn’t a musical realm I have a great deal of interest in, and so this did little for me.
But as is often the way with bands like The Birthday Massacre, while the support acts are politely (and in some cases vocally) supported, the crowd is really there for the headliner, and this became very clear by the time they took to the stage with the adulation they received.
The Birthday Massacre setlist
Kill the Lights
All Of Nothing
Under Your Spell
Pins And Needles
In the Dark
It was, though, clear from the off that this was a show at the start of the tour. For the first few songs, there were points where the band were uncharacteristically sloppy (particularly on the newer songs), and Chibi seemed mortified enough to apologise within a couple of songs.
They didn’t let any frustration take over, though, with Chibi especially happily greeting fans in the crowd, pointing them out and throwing shapes, and the fact that the core of the band have known each other for so long was clear in their jovial interaction among themselves during and inbetween songs.
As I noted in Talk Show Host: 041 when talking with the band, it’s clear that there is a restrained despair running through the new songs, almost-but-not-quite a defeatist feel, at least on record. Onstage, once the gremlins had been dispelled, these songs bared their teeth much like the old songs often do.
Well, mainly. The title track is bleak, maybe bleaker and sadder than I’ve ever heard the band, a difficult-sounding tale that worryingly sounds like it is a true story of domination and manipulation. One, too, has moments of measured despair and that came across clearly live.
Interestingly the heaviest moments in their catalogue – most of which were aired here – were the most impressive songs on the night. Destroyer in particular, which sounded finally like it had been imbued with all the rage and fury that it should have had in the first place, and the set-closing grind of Pins and Needles was given a vastly heavier kick, too. And, of course, the last song of the night, the bruising Blue, one of their oldest songs and still their heaviest, a song that switches between twinkling light-touch verses and savage metal interludes.
The past, too, was not ignored. It’s been obvious from previous shows just how much love there is for their earlier material – and maybe that provides a useful pointer as to why Imagica was released last year – and the band didn’t disappoint, rolling out a number of the old favourites throughout the set. Lovers End and Video Kid were a joyously received pairing in the middle of the set, and the spiky Red Stars too early on helped to whip the crowd into life.
That said, it was amazing to think what was missing. Any band that can miss out songs as great as Play Dead, Happy Birthday, Goodnight, Looking Glass and Shallow Grave sure as hell have confidence in their material.
And so they should, too. There has been a hefty amount of discussion (again!) recently about what is and isn’t Goth, and too much of that discussion has once again been concentrating on what happened thirty years ago and more. For Goth to survive and prosper – in whatever form, and that may not necessarily be carbon copies of what has come before – new, younger bands and most importantly fans must come through to keep the scene alive. The Birthday Massacre, both in sound and with their younger fanbase, are leading that charge right now as by some distance one of the biggest bands in the scene right now, and ignore or dismiss them at your peril.