Okkyung Lee - Like many Swans tours in the past, we open with something simple and direct, yet unique and somewhat experimental. Ms. Lee is a cellist with a fine musical grounding who has the vision to explore noise concepts with greater care than most. While others may butcher an instrument to create noise, Ms. Lee explores contrasting textures with a fine touch that requires both a solid understanding of the instrument and a creative direction. The audience definitely got into this as the attention and response was strong. You can see why she collaborates with many interesting musicians as she is also capable of holding a large crowd on a big stage all by herself.
Swans - In recent years, the UK has provided some fascinating dramatic police television series from remote locales. 'Vera' was the first of these as they explore the crimes across the barren terrain of northern England. 'Hinterland' is doing the same in Aberystwyth, Wales, while 'Shetland' (along with the novels of Peter May) take you deep into isolated small island living where there is darkness around distant corners and the sense of dread permeates the air of a rugged existence in a strangely beautifully cold environment. Swans could be the soundtrack to many of these scenes and stories as they carefully unveil their sonic majesty over the expansive evening they create. With unsettling events going on everywhere at all times, they remind you of all the darkness lurking far and near. Yet there is such delicately roaring power within their music to remind you of the journey through it all. They may be urban, but their music understands broad landscapes. Their extraordinary vision and execution continues to make them one of the most important bands in existence.
And thankfully, this 'retirement' tour is not quite a full retirement, although they may not work on this scale of touring ever again. Michael Gira will continue in some way and has mentioned that Swans may be back with different musicians, in different projects. Even tonight, there was a subtle effective shift as Thor Harris is off with Amanda Palmer and his position is taken up by Paul Wallfisch who plays more keyboards and less percussion, although since keyboards are a percussive instrument, he manages to add some fascinating sonics, while often playing in a percussive fashion. But it is still the three guitars cutting into fascinating rhythms and drones with Gira's vocals stretching things out even further that come together to overwhelm you. It sounds majestic tonight and I am thankful to be here.
Additional news - And speaking of retirement, I will use this semi-retirement tour to make the first written admission of what I have been telling people for many months now. I will be retiring this blog some time in the next 3 months. I will write up more later, but I am getting old, physically challenged, and even mentally overwhelmed at times. It is scary to think about not having this terrific work to do that I have enjoyed so much, but comes the time.... More later and I only hope that I get a few more shows as good as this one before I go.