(Planet Me)
Wednesday, December 25, 2013
THE FIELDS OF THE NEPHILIM / THE MISSION London Brixton Academy 18 December 2013

2 years since the triumphant co-headliner and The Mission, and the ever changing Fields Of The Nephilim, return to Brixton to close their short tour. 25 years since either band were at their commercial and creative peak, and nothing has changed – yet everything has. The Mission, returning with their umpteenth album, are back on tour – co-headlining with The Fields Of The Nephilim. The Mission, the returning trio of Hussey, Hinkler, and Adams, aided by 'new' drummer Mike Kelly, play to a half-empty room, but whip up a storm with a 95 minute set that is no mere support but an 'early' headline, with a set of greatest hits and largely anonymous new material : I'm all for bands doing new stuff and advocate any day that I'd rather have an OK new album of good songs than no new material at all, but on the other hand, if the new stuff isn't that good, maybe it shouldn't bump out of the evening some of the older, brilliant songs. So, with a set that is very similar to the last time they played here, The Mission are a better band than last time, with two extra years under their belt, and whilst they have the same drummer, Mike Kelly seems to now have gelled with the band now, and there's no longer that slight collision in styles. The rest of the band are a slick and powerful song factory, with Hinkler and Adams seemingly effortlessly back in place. Hussey – like the last time he headlined Brixton he's seemingly a little drunk and a little angry – swears never to play here again. Inbetween, the band rampage through a set made of largely old greatest hits and the odd token new song as the venue fills up, and by the end of the gloriously derivative “Deliverance” and “Tower Of Strength” - well, they sound like the greatest Led Zeppelin songs they never recorded ; if you must steal you might as well steal from the best. There's no sense of the band as support, more as simply being on first, and unfailingly aware of their obligations : play lots of hits and keep the crowd happy, and it's a compact assault of old material, with plenty of hits from a long time ago and a smattering of the newer stuff.


The Mission :
Black Cat Bone,
Beyond The Pale,
Hands Across The Ocean,
Naked And Savage,
The Girl In The Fur Skin Rug,
Garden Of Delight,
Everything But The Squeal,
Butterfly On A Wheel,
The Crystal Ocean,
Swan Song,
Like A Hurricance,
Blood Brothers,
Tower Of Strength.


The Nephilim meanwhile, headline Brixton for the first time in 22 years, and they are glorious. As is always the way, they have a different guitarist and bass player every time I see them : this time Tony Petit is back on bass after 12 years away, and it is right. Since he co-wrote these songs, his presence on stage is fitting. For the first time since ever, The Nephilim, whomever they are these days (Carl McCoy and Tony Petit from their historical incarnation, Gavin King and Lee Newell who joined the band about 10 years ago, and Andy James of Cradle Of Filth on guitar), perform their second album “The Nephilim”, in full (and mostly in order) for the first time ever, anywhere. It's designed as a record, not a live experience, and yet seeing these songs, the band eschew the easy option of playing the big hits (which means no sign of “Sumerland”, “For Her Light”, “Penetration”, “Straight To The Light”, “Blue Water”, “Preacher Man”, “From The Fire”), in a chronological exploration of their work. It's 75 minutes in before they play a song less than 22 years old. But this? For me, they are – well, the nearest equivalent I can find is a band like The Grateful Dead or Pink Floyd – long, luxurious songs of many parts which are mood pieces designed to evoke an atmosphere, a fluid lineup of players, a small but devoted following, and a a distinct vision of the world, mixing the arcane spiritualism with a dirty glamour of old mythology. The sound, as ever, is muddy, and the audience is undersold – about half the venue is sparse – but the band are still successful at weaving a musical spell, an air, using light and shade, speed and patience, to evoke something, even if – for their biggest British headline show in 23 years – they present a perversely atmospheric set.

After the first 40 minutes of “The Nephilim” - which sees an uncharacteristically lively Carl McCoy prompting the crowd to raise their hands into the skies during “Last Exit For The Lost”, a short intermission is then replaced by a hesitatnt, then assured “Psychonaut.” where rolling basslines, and huge slabs of guitar become transcendent. With barely a pause, it's straight to the lengthy “At The Gates Of Silent Memory/Paradise Regained”. It's a chronological journey through their work, where the evening ends on a 20 minutes slab of spellweaving from the last album with “New Gold Dawn” and “Mourning Sun.” But again, what do people expect from the band? They will never give you what you want, but what they want to give you. No band should be your jukebox. It may not have been an evening of air-punching celebration, or a solid torrent of ancient hits from a future that never happened, but tonight was the best Nephilim show I have seen, an assured statement, that a band that may be old, but since they existed outside of the time they were born in, they exist outside of the time now, and thus, forever, their own bizarre universe.


The Fields Of The Nephilim :
The Watchman,
Chord Of Souls,
Love Under Will,
Last Exit,
At The Gates Of Silent Memory,
Paradise Regained,
New Gold Dawn,
Mourning Sun.

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