It’s almost impossible to write this review objectively and without too much emotion. What happened on this Sunday 30 April was memorable for everyone present. Despite my very high expectations I wasn’t the least disappointed!
I arrived to the venue rather early because of the meeting scheduled with Kanga Duchamp and Matthew Setzer; I had the opportunity to spend some time with these two exceptional artists who had flown all the way from USA for their first two shows in Europe. They came to play at O2 Academy Islington in London after Glasgow and I was excited to see them live. I was hoping to catch them somewhere in Europe ever since the release of Kanga’s debut album in November 2016. However, before I would see them on stage, I was to listen to the other two bands which I didn’t know much about.
First to appear were Cease2Xsit. Despite the fact that the show started around 5:30 PM, which was quite early, there were already a lot of people who came to see the opening act. The performance of Cease2Xsit was a good indication of how the evening would go. I have never heard them before, but that made their performance even more intriguing since I am always interested in discovering new artists. Even at such an early hour, when the crowd usually seems rather sleepy, they managed to make us move and the temperature suddenly rose. This fairly new project, which appeals to the fans of electro-industrial genre, gave quite an energetic performance sound-wise. Their physical performance was well paired with the music. I believe Germany is a more fertile ground for acts like this one, but it’s always a nice surprise to discover a band from UK that plays electronic-industrial music. The guys were energetic, relentless and fierce, and although this band wasn’t on my radar until this evening, they gave me a good insight into what they were about; the raw power sound and beats that can make you sweat. That is exactly what the audience expected and came for. Being the first band on the stage isn’t easy, but Cease2Xsit made us dance.
The second band to appear on the stage were Je$us Loves Amerika. I was familiar with the band to some extent, so I had an overall idea of what I should expect on the stage. However, this was the first time that I would see them live. Where Cease2Xsit left off, JLA took from. I love the remix they did this year for Mortiis, so I really wanted to see them. They continued in the electronic-industrial manner, as anyone who knew their work would have expected. I haven’t made notes with the songs that they played, so I can only remember “FYA” and “Breathe”. However, according to someone’s setlist on www.setlist.fm they played “Cifer”, “FYA”, “Behind”, “Exit”, “BTP” and “Breathe”. They continued with the merciless rhythm and transmitted a lot of energy to the audience. Patrick pulled a very spontaneous prank on my colleague Adam by stealing his camera from the photo pit and shooting the crowd from the stage. Maybe Patrick has photography aspirations, but being a musician and singer suits him just fine. He mastered the stage and, apparently, Adam’s camera.
Although the shows started a bit later than it was originally announced, the changes on the stage were carried out swiftly and we eagerly waited for Kanga to appear. Kanga appeared on the dim stage and I thought it would be impossible to take any pics. However, with the first sounds of “Something Dangerous”, I didn’t even care about the pictures as much as I cared to see them perform. This awesome duo chose the sound over the elaborate light show so that you could really immerse into the sound and the mystical atmosphere they created on the stage. I could feel the great anticipation of the crowd and the audience welcomed them with cheers and applauses. Until this show I wasn’t aware how really popular Kanga was in UK. I remember writing the review for Kanga’s debut album and all the positive thoughts that I had about this release became even stronger during their performance. I didn’t have to wait too long for my favourite song, “Honey”, which was on the third place on their setlist. During the song I was still in the photo pit and I really had to give up on the pictures for the moment because the song was so seductive that I just wanted to sing along and move. And Kanga moved expressively. The band needed only the strobe light hitting from the floor and a video projection behind them. They left the rest to their musical and physical performance. It was clear that we saw two exceptional artists who really enjoyed their performance and who wanted us to enjoy it in the same measure. After the sensual and seductive “Honey”, they played the more poppy “Viciousness”. It was amazing to see that the crowd was already familiar with their repertoire. What came as a thrilling surprise was their interpretation of Gary Numan’s “Metal”. It sounded like a modern, more danceable version of that 80s hit and they really did a great job covering this anthem, not an easy task no matter what. After a couple more songs, they closed the show with “Vital Signs” which combines Kanga’s seductive pop and industrial. A lot of friends and acquaintances expressed a great interest in this USA debutant. I really hope there is a bright future in front of this band, not only in USA, but in Europe as well. If there are any promoters reading this, they really should pay attention to this new project and invite them over here ASAP.
If there is one thing that I knew about Empirion, it was their remix of “Firestarter” which had been played regularly in a legendary underground club in the capital of Croatia, my country of residence until 2014. So it was great to see Empirion live. I didn’t exactly know what to expect from their set, only that it would be a pure techno experience. I was curious to hear how that sound would fit into the Sunday’s line up. The response from the crowd was amazing. The venue turned into a dance floor, people were ecstatic. No wonder, since techno can’t leave you indifferent if you have any feeling for the rhythm and if you like electronic music. Their set reminded me of the 90s when I used to attend a lot of techno parties. I usually don’t move so easily, but the guys got even me shaking my body and my feet sliding on the floor. However, if that has been any competition, the more passionate dancers won.
Although the four bands had already warmed up the venue and the hearts of the audience, the crowd eagerly waited for Cubanate. The long expected London show started with “Lord Of The Flies”. Those who saw Cubanate during the 90s could recall their live shows, but I was not one of those lucky people; this was my first opportunity to see this legendary band on stage. I soon realised that the word Brutalism was a logical choice since their performance was “brutal” from the start. And I mean brutal in the most awesome way. Nothing can prevent true artists and performers from being who they are, not even time. All of a sudden, it didn’t really matter that I hadn’t seen them in the 90s. I just got my chance to see them and now was not too late as far as Cubanate’s performance was concerned. Marc connected with the audience immediately. I could feel from the start the loop of energy that was created. Marc animated each and every one of us. I didn’t know what to expect and I must admit I didn’t see this coming. The pure energy, adrenalin, intense and raw power came my way, I felt smitten. Marc, whom I just met an hour or so ago, an extremely polite and almost quiet guy, turned into a real beast who unleashed all his angels and demons at the same time on the stage. It was something to wonder about. There was a man in front of us who was carried away by the power of the sound and he merged with it to create a perfect whole. The live versions of the songs sounded even rawer and rougher than the recordings. But there was nothing about this performance that was left to chance, the band demonstrated how real professionals look on the stage. While rather static Phil was adding fuel to the fire with his guitar riffs, Marc was making it clear that he had no intention of standing still. He was all over the place and the dynamic he created added to the overall feel of all hell breaking loose. As a photographer who is aesthetically oriented, I always pay attention to the body language of each performer. Marc’s was inviting, very open and the energy he was transmitting to the audience bounced right back at him, giving him even more power to produce such an energetic show. His moves were smooth, his hands were flowing, the crowd was getting wilder with each song. People and the band formed a unity. And that is what brilliant bands do! There is no us and them, we were one, and the whole venue was Cubanate for the entire show. The second song they played was “Barbarossa”, and from my favourites they played “Junky”, “Body Burn”, “Joy”, “Kill Or Cure” and, of course, “Oxyacetylene” as the last song. By that time, looking from the balcony, while I was trying to catch the last moments of that collective ecstasy on camera, I could clearly see the crowd reaching for Marc on stage. The band was not allowed to leave so easily and soon they had to return for one more song, which was “Ordinary Joe”. I couldn’t imagine a better come back of this iconic and revolutionary band or for the warmer welcome than the one that this audience had given them. Their legacy speaks volumes and they proved it once again with this successful and memorable show in London. I can only be grateful that I was a part of it and that I have finally seen them perform in 2017. However, I presume one can never be too late for good things in life, and that’s exactly how I felt about the Cubanate show.
The last, but not the least, I would like to use this opportunity to thank all the bands and the organizing crew who did an amazing job to make all this happen for us.