Photos by Jef With One F
It’s always amazing and refreshing to see an audience as fervent for its minstrels as Houston is for the Legendary Pink Dots. There are no hangers-back – as soon as the band quietly makes its way onto the stage, there is a Jonestown-like lemming march to the front, every set of eyes are turned up in rapture.
Sadly, the audience has steadily dwindled over the years, and seems only half of what it was five years ago. It would be a damn shame if Houston were to be marked off of the itinerary of one of the truly independent and original groups of musicians in the world.
The Dots’ stage presence alone is stirring, woodwind guru Niels Van Hoornblower in his stylish diamond suit, guitarist Martijn DeKleer in his hitchhiking-through-Europe uniform, keyboardist Silverman looking like an aging professional wrestler with his Pebbles Flintstone haircut and, of course, singer Edward Ka-Spel barefoot in his robe, scarf and sunglasses.
The band never asks if you’re ready to rock. You’re not ready, anyway. From the first moment Ka-Spel’s sinister pseudo-tenor waltzes out of the speakers, it becomes apparent just how unprepared an audience is for the forthcoming willing rape of the mind.
The four Dots’ interplay is highly enjoyable, reminiscent of live Doors footage and the shamanistic tradition of shared experience and rhythm. They are very careful, though, not to take it too seriously. Niels, the ultimate multi-instrumentalist playing flute, clarinet, and an electronic wind instrument that looks like God’s bong, shows his playfully attacked each member of the band and audience with his flashlight saxophone during “No Matter What You Do.”
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That song, by the by, explores how Jesus loves the little woodland creatures and the children who occasionally set fire to them. After the song, Ka-Spel leans casually over the mike and wonders aloud whether the subject of the song will come up at Judgement Day. Well, Jesus may have walked on water, but I’ve seen Ka-Spel walk barefoot across a dirty street strewn with broken glass and discarded needles on the way to a Chinese buffet. Obviously, he’s some kind of prophet (or a lunatic, probably both).
One of the evening’s true pleasures was Martijn DeKleer. I’ve never really focused on him before, but I’ve never seen “The Grain Kings” played live before, either. One of the most awesome tracks from one of the Dots’ most awesome albums (The Maria Dimension), the eight-minute song found DeKleer thoroughly thrashing his guitar in a way you just don’t seem to see at a Dots show very often.
Usually the most understated and laid-back band member onstage, he really comes alive when it’s his turn, and even the other three members of the band stared at him as he made the sound system beg for mercy. All of this without a single change of expression.
The evening drew to a close with the Dots’ encore, “Princess Coldheart,” and the band left the stage to the sounds of the audience picking up the song’s choir vocals at the end. If there is anything to be said about a Dots show, it’s that the people involved, both band and audience, are firm believers in the Legendary Pink Premise: Sing while we may. - Jef With One F