Clan of Xymox, Provision Numbers May 7, 2011
Rocks Off would like to thank Erica O'Brien for saving our tushies and providing these pics when ye old camera when kaput.
Is it really possible that we've been hanging around Numbers for almost a decade and somehow never seen Provision live? It must be, because we're pretty sure we'd have remembered a show like the one that they provided in opening for Clan of Xymox on Saturday.
One of the things we know about Breye 7x and his crew is that they hold their equipment to very high standards, and pride themselves on being a completely self-contained unit that can unleash an electronic show pretty much anywhere at any time. When the stellar work they are putting out in the studio is backed by the classical-goth ambiance of Numbers and their towering sound system, you really get a chance to see what the band can do.
From the moment they took the stage, Breye commanded attention, blending the mannerisms of Simon Le Bon with the endless EBM energy of Ronan Harris.
The performance was certainly helped by the return of bassist Carlos Covarubbias for a guest appearance. As the only other member of Provision not chained to a synth and a lap top, the brotherly dynamic between he and Breye's antics bring the warmth of improvisation that is sometimes the victim of an electronica concert.
It was also exciting to see Jen Kiser take a turn on vocals with Breye. Though still not up to the practiced frontmanship of her husband, she shows a great deal of promise as a singer with a clear, ethereal voice that lends a high depth to the songs. Matt Willis also ventured from his beepity station to duet with Breye on "Paradox" in an adrenaline-packed buddy flick of a disco bloodbath.
Truth be told, they set the bar pretty high even for a band like Xymox that's been a revolutionary pillar of darkwave for as long as your humble narrator has been alive. However, if there is one thing Ronny Moorings, Morjca, and Mario de Ray can be said to have in common with their younger, Houston counterparts it is definitely the sheer unholy yet somehow childlike innocent love of what they do.
We were expecting somber after a week perusing bootleg live performances on YouTube. We expected to see Moorings' pale face breaking through a colored fog as he droned his angst to the assembled below.
Don't get us wrong, the songs that Clan of Xymox unleash upon the world are dark and depressing as all get-out, and get moreso with each album. But that darkness is delivered through grins of pure enjoyment as they perform, and the result is... not unique at all, now that we think about it.
It was watching Moorings' boyish face and snappy black outfit that we realized for the first time exactly the impact that Xymox has managed to have over the years.
Of course, modern goth acts like Birthday Massacre wouldn't exist without their example, but lesser-felt connections stood out as well. My Chemical Romance owes a great deal of their image to Xymox's pathmaking, for example. In fact, we're going to postulate that the entire emo movement is pretty much a history of bands that wanted to be Clan of Xymox and got it wrong.
The difference is that Xymox's music thunders and rolls. Moorings is comfortable in many vocal registers, whether he explores the tenors of heavens or the baritones of hell. The thick guitars and dancelike movements manage to weave an impenetrable spell the like of which we haven't seen since the Cure's Trilogy concert in Berlin.
The band did take a chance to remind Houston that they were getting ready to release a new album and return to us on a full-on world tour. They used their last incredible single "Emily" to drive home the point that as songwriters the have lost none of their step.
For the meantime, though, it is truly enjoyable to catch these one-off performances that Numbers has specialized in lately. It seems to give each of the acts that drop in a chance to loosen up and enjoy the space free of the rituals of the road that make up the modern tour.
For our money, the highlight of the concert came early with "Hail Mary," a track from 2009's In Love We Trust. The whole experience was a nonstop pleasure-dome tour, but nothing else seems to sum up the marriage between dark introspection and Xymox's ability to raise an audience's arms high in supplication so perfectly.
As the low, sinister bass notes rolled from the stage back into the darkness it more than anything seem to invigorate the masses into a perfect synthesis of enjoyment and damnation. Even as we reveled in the youthful exuberance that the band still manages to shine from every orifice, you are always and eternally reminded that with childhood comes fear of the dark.
Nightmares and the best of dreams... that was the credo of Clan of Xymox on Saturday.
Personal Bias: We're the resident goth music guy. Rocks Off doesn't assign this kind of thing to us, we beg for it. No objectivity sullied this review.
The Crowd: Varied. Really, really, varied. We saw the usual crowd of gothic scenesters, but also a lot of braided pigtails and bushy beards. An older gay crowd was also out in force, which surprised us because we never knew Xymox held that demographic. Got to say it was a better quality crowd than Peter Murphy, if not necessarily bigger. More real, sincere, and a lot more easygoing. There was a lot of dancing during the sets.
Overheard In the Crowd: "Yeah, I don't really know anything about this music, but fuck it. You may be crippled tomorrow. Might as well be here first."
Random Notebook Dump: A melodica! Ronny Moorings and I both half-heartedly play the same crap instrument.