Thanks to Flag Promotions I was able to fill that horrible void left by not having seen Sheffield's finest In The Nursery outside of their live film score circuit for far too long. Combine that with seeing (for the first time) The Cassandra Complex - whose debut album Grenade had given me much pleasure back in 1986 just as I was beginning to immerse myself in all things industrial. Add to this the chance to see the legendary Lene (Lucky Number) Lovich, and the already supremely entertaining Shanklin Freak Show and you had a bit of a no-brianer for a night out.
It has to be a good sign of the state of all things Goth that for the first time, in its eighth incarnation Gotham was spread over two days. (Either that or Flag's Frankie D just loves to loose money!) It was also a neat bit of programming to split the artists as he did. Not being of the Goth persuasion myself, but nevertheless having an appreciation of at least some things Gothical (?), the first day, labelled 'Alpha', was less trad Goth and more borderline Goth, whereas the second day ('Omega') focused more on the familiar traits of this much-supported genre.
Having spent just a tad too much time in a neighbouring 'All you can eat for £6' Thai place around the corner, Karma Deva were a total right-off and we only just managed to catch the last three songs of The Shanklin Freak Show (despite an already early overrun on the schedule) which, having loved every minute of my initial exposure a few weeks previously, was a shame and not as originally planned. Still, that was at least enough to confirm and consolidate those favourable earlier impressions and to ensure that they remain high on my 'must see' live list and, my dear ladies and gentlemen of the public, I commend them to you with confidence and propitiation.
The Cassandra Complex on the other hand caused me to stop, listen carefully, look again, pause, listen and then dredge my fading memory as much as I could to be sure that this was the same Cassandra Complex that had given me much to get jiggy about on their Datakill EP about 20 years ago. A post-gig double check online confirms they are the one and the same but I didn't recognise anything (maybe they didn't play any of their old-timer stuff) and it was way more Goth than those early days. Which is all fine, it just wasn't what my mind had conjured up beforehand. Will have to rummage through the vinyl again methinks.
I feel no shame in admitting that the extent of my knowledge of Lene Lovich extends to her biggest hit single Lucky Number and... well, that's it. Hey, I can know everything about everything. The point is, I was well up for an education if Ms Lovich could deliver. And there's no question she can and did. With backing from suitably frilly Goth gals MAB, her set was a joy from start to finish. She captivated with her presence, nonstop acting her theatrical, melodramatic role to a T. It's accurate (if potentially insensitive) to say that Lovich's youthful days are but a distant memory, but boy did this woman prove that age is no barrier to energy or reward. Her voice was a squeakily teenager-ish as ever it was and her constant writhing about the stage combined with a seemingly endless series of expressionistic, slightly comical, facial experessions combined with the unexpectedly robust musical dimension proved terrific entertainment on every level.
By now I was well warmed up and champing at the bit to hear In The Nursery. Tonight felt a bit different since I was joined by pal Tim, who had only recently gotten into ITN (following a screening of Hindle Wakes on BBC4 - the soundtrack to which our Sheffield twins so artfully provided) having picked up three albums for a bargain price of £15 from the ITN website (sorry, plug over!). I felt a combination of trepidation - hoping that ITN lived up to his expectations, whatever they were - and guilt, knowing that I can easily loose myself in their performances and instead of being a good mate might rapidly loose myself in their beautiful wash of vibrating air. Thankfully, I got both. Tim reported favorably after the event, whilst I'd spent much of my time either trying to grab a representative photo or two or simply immerse myself in the glory that only In The Nursery know how to deliver. We may have been overrunning by some 45 minutes by the time they came on (some Flag habits are hard to change!) but when they did it was the beginning of another night of ecstasy.
Material and Form and Blueprint from the new album began the set with Silent In Time also cropping up later on. Mystere put in a welcome appearance as did a blinding rendition of (side project) Les Jimeaux's exhilarating Cobalt. It really is a challenge to think of another band that has managed so decisively and effectively to carve out a niche for themselves in a field and exploit it for all it's worth. This was exemplified by the setlist tonight that wove in (seemingly almost ancient) classics like with songs from their latest, Era, and the whole thing effortlessly segued from one decade to another both with gentle ease and invigorating drama.
Klive had the bulk of the physical labour tonight standing at the back thumping away, arms flailing, at the two huge bass drums and three kettle drums, whilst twin Nigel stood calmly at his keyboard and laptop. Delores was charming as ever and her voice carried the essence of In The Nursery on many a song. The incessant (but smile-inducing) calls from one fan at the front of the stage shouting for (the 1988 12" title track) Compulsion were finally met with a terrific rendition at the end of an almighty set. A two song encore of L'Esprit (sublime) and another oldie Deus Ex Machina wrapped up the performance with aplomb and sent everyone off into the dark night with joyous memories and a warm feeling inside. Just a shame it couldn't have gone on for a bit longer. 8/10
See also: Music Reviews | In The Nursery