Review and photos by Stephen McGill
Recently reformed New York no wave band Swans brought their loud, visceral, explosive show to the Phoenix Concert Theatre on Friday night. The six-piece band, widely known as one of the loudest bands on the planet, began slow with multi-instrumentalist Thor Harris taking the stage alone and methodically launching in to new track ‘Frankie M’. He was joined incrementally by the other members of the band. The song itself lasted for 18 minutes and set the tone for the night. The entire set list was only 6 songs in length, but it’s telling that the band was on stage for more than 2 hours.
Front man Michael Gira dominated the stage, lit starkly from the side and captivating all attention. The wall of enormous sound produced by the band was made evident very quickly – anyone foolish enough to be caught without ear plugs was immediately regretting it. Starting softly and building to massive crescendos, the rhythm of the show was awe inspiring. Gira was an immense presence on stage, his understated performance occasionally exploding into violence as he started hitting himself in time with the music.
While most of the band is new to the reformed line-up of 2010, they played together as if they’d been doing so all along. As the show hit its climax it felt as if the room was ready to explode, and no one left the venue feeling unsatisfied.
Seeing Swans perform at Yonge & Dundas Square last year was one thing, but in a room where they had complete sonic control was another experience entirely.