Was it a moment of weakness or a moment of madness that caused D.E.F. to attend this gig? With little more than a week to go the compulsion to be there became too much and attendance was paid for and hotel booked. After all we were already in London for Acthung! Achtung! the night before this event so it’s not so terribly much further to go to Southampton from London right? Well it was 2h30m on the train going which was actually longer than it takes to get from Doncaster to London but never mind. The journey back proved problematic in booking as various different prices were being spewed out by online ticket sales which when clicked through to rarely appeared. Ultimately a day return had to be purchased from Southampton to London rather than a single, which saved £25 on the fare. Daft.
But anyway buried deep within the concrete metropolis that is Southampton was a rather unassuming little venue that looked little more than a house from the outside – Talking Heads and just next door was our hotel. Which was handly but that’s by the by. Who would have known it would house such glorious electronic music. Due to our immense fame and celebrity status we were allowed in a little early just as John Costello was finishing his soundcheck and Jane of Vile Electrodes (wearing a rather fetching Jan Doyle Band t-shirt) was putting out merchandise. Vile Electrodes do have some decidedly pretty T-shirts you know, you should buy one. Anway on with stuff about the gig though anyway.
The venue was a largely square shaped place, stage ahead of you as you enter the door but with a fair bit of space to either side, particularly the left. Raised seating and tables around the sides except the left where a bar stocked with a decent variety of drinks was placed. A clean, modern and presentable place. Rather than the decaying victoriana of the Aces and Eights bar in London the night before. Frankly it could have done with a bit more personality but never mind, fairly irrelevant. Shall we get on to the performance though eh?
John Costello was up first and frankly nothing could have prepared us for this experience. We’d seen him setting up in soundcheck and doing a little bit of a performance but the full blown live performance was nothing short of wonderful. First the band all came on in matching black button up jackets, adding cohesion to the whole ‘band’ idea. John’s music really connected live and sounded brilliant but most of all the manner in which he put over the was the vital aspect – he looked and felt like he really meant business. Excitement built throughout a brilliant set John often left the stage to connect with the audience more, enervate and excite seemed the M.O. here. The rousing rendition of Lock, Load, Aim, Fire! at the end of the set just blew the roof off. Really it’s pretty hard to fully describe how incredibly exciting the show was, unexpectedly so really. John was looking lean and mean and clearly out to take no prisoners this evening. Sadly this he announced would be his last John Costello gig. Would there be other projects under different names in future? If there are will they be as exciting as this? Who knows only time will tell. We hope so that’s for sure. We are gutted though that we didn’t catch on earlier…
Vile Electrodes delivered a brave performance of almost entirely new material but thankfully Vile Electrodes being what they are means that it’s all excellent. We particularly enjoyed the track we later found out was ‘New Shoots In The Snow’ and ‘Half Life’. The former displays Martin’s ridiculous talent for more than just synths as he displays brilliant drumming with a particularly effective repeated roll throughout the song. Half Life is a mesmerising sparse subtle ballad that brings everything down into stillness and slow motion in a way that only Vile Electrodes can do. The new material seems to be heading toward a more dance oriented direction but is as compulsive as anything they have ever done in the past. It really starts to feel like there is more cohesion and connection between the tracks in this material, presumably with it having been written over a shorter period of time. Simply from a technical standpoint the show is stunning with the wrangling of so many many many synths… a dream to witness for any synthesiser nerd. There is such precision and professionalism here that is incomparable to any other artist around.
Tenek finished off the evening with their usual confident showmanship. The audience were clearly there for this and just as much for the new album tracks as the classics like Blinded By You (our favourite we have to say). Both Geoff and Pete always put everything into their shows and the vibe you experience at them is wonderful – that connection between fans and band is such a swirl of happiness and excitement. There’s little wonder the likes of Republica and Toyah ask them to join them on their tours, great people with a sound that clearly resounds in people – not a single person in the venue was not on their feet. Of the new material played we’d probably pick Imitation of Life as our favourite, it’s quite often it’s found its way to being an earworm with its irresistible chorus. Sadly we didn’t get any video of their performance as our phone ran out of power. Ooops. Anyway it’s worth noting how seamless it is that the new tracks fit in with the old in their set.