The Garage in Highbury & Islington, both before and after its closure and subsequent refit has played host to dozens of fantastic gigs by all manner of artists over the years and expectations were high that Pelican, who are seen as one of the leaders of the post-metal genre, would be adding their name to the list of bands. Anticipation over Pelican’s first UK tour in several years was high, and the amount of people inside The Garage swelled rapidly shortly after the doors opened, only stopping when the place was almost full to bursting in time for Pelican’s headline set.
Before the main event, there were two support acts. Opening band Tacoma Narrows Bridge Disaster are clearly one who draw heavily on tonight’s headliners for inspiration as they pound their way through a half hour long set. Whilst they lack the polish and intensity of Pelican, they are a very capable band who fit nicely into the post-metal genre and it will be interesting to track their progress. This reviewer only learned from reading another review of the show that they used to have a vocalist who’s recently left, but they certainly didn’t seem any the worse for wear for not having one at this show and it will be interesting to see if they recruit a replacement or not.
It’s hard to find words to describe this evening’s second band Bo Ningen. A four piece Japanese band, at least two of whom are wearing dresses as part of their on stage get up provide a sonic assault something like the noise of an out of control onrushing freight train. If Tacoma Narrows Bridge Disaster were heavily influenced by Pelican than Bo Ningen were the total opposite, sounding like they could have been influenced by anything from Japanese horror movies to the likes of Khanate, Fantomas and The Melvins (or a hybrid mix of all of the above). Although it was quite strange, it was an incredibly compelling live experience and one that words do poor justification for. Bo Ningen literally have to be seen to be believed.
Pelican are greeted with a roar worthy of long lost old friends, but this is the only light moment as they begin their set with Lathe Biosas from their brand new E.P Ataraxia/Taraxis (available on the night for the very first time anywhere). Pelican have always been masters of creating an atmosphere at their shows and it grows with each passing song as the assembled masses nod and headbang along and lose themselves to such prime choices as Ephermeral and An Inch Above Sand from the band’s last full length release What We All Come To Need.
Dead Between The Walls from 2007’s City Of Echoes album is a particular highlight as all the band, particularly bassist Bryan Herwig are on top form. The absence of guitarist Laurent Schroeder-Lebec is not felt as stand in Dallas Thomas (also of the band Swan Kings) merges seamlessly into the Pelican unit. As the end of the main part of the set approaches Pelican take their fans on something of a trip down memory lane with some older material, particularly Far From Fields before finishing up the main part of the set with a softly fading Last Day Of Winter. It is not long before the crowd’s demands for a Pelican encore are rewarded as the band launch into the slow droning chuggy riff of Mammoth from the band’s debut E.P. Unfortunately Mammoth is cut slightly short as the power of Pelican manages to blow the PA, much to the smiles and amusement of the four band members on stage.
The full Pelican Setlist was:
Ataraxia (PR Intro)
Dead Between The Walls
Strung Up From The Sky
Far From Fields
An Inch Above Sand
Last Day Of Winter
It was a great performance by some of Chicago’s finest, who built an atmosphere throughout the show as only they and very few other bands of their nature can (Red Sparowes being another). The only complaint being that the set was a tad on the short side (clocking in at around 1 hour and 10 minutes including the encore). Pelican are a band who always done things completely their own way, and it’s far better to leave the crowd hungry and wanting more than to not have seen them at all; Hopefully they will return again soon, perhaps with a new full length album under their belts.
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