Assemblage 23/Cybercide/Das Flff/Analog Angel

O2 Academy, Islington, London – 14 July 2012

"I think it fair to say Tom Shear still delivers the goods live"

[Live photo]

Analog Angel were one of those upcoming acts whose name I was familiar with, seemed to get mentioned on a regular basis, but I had not heard. Seeing that they had been given the pleasure of beginning tonight's event I thought I should give them a listen online beforehand – partly to decide if I really did need to be at the venue by 6:30pm for the start of their set. One of their songs, Why Do You Do, is a superb impression of Depeche Mode circa Some Great Reward. The few other tracks of theirs I heard were far less impacting. Still, I hadn't spent much time doing my research and I'm always up for hearing new bands so figured I'd get over early. 

Unfortunately for AA they had to battle with some technical issues that interfered with their live sound, so they were unable to present their case as strongly or as confidently as they would have liked. Nevertheless, most of the already reasonable crowd of early arrivals seemed to like the general idea. Which is to say synthpop with a dark side. Sadly none of the material stood up to Why Do You Do and they didn't perform that song either. I fully expected to quickly tune in and be partial to Analog Angel but found I was struggling to hear what was distinctive about their approach. Happy to keep an eye on them though and see how they develop from here. If this all sounds intriguing then their new album is available via Glory & Honor - the label currently home to Global Citizen

Das Flff's fondness for electro rocking offers plenty of cross-over audience potential. They could appear on electronic, alt.rock, rock, pop, post-punk or industrial bills and pretty much settle in equally among any of them. The exact sub genre (which they themselves describe as a dirty dancey sound) is fairly fringe so they'll often come across as a bit different from those around them. With the rest of the acts on tonight's bill weighted predominantly towards the purely electronic side of things, it took them a little while to get the growing audience warmed up. However, once they did, they began to earn the sort of response they deserve. A three-piece live, they comprise guitarist (Steve May), keyboards (Christian) and lead vocalist Dawn Lintern [Photo: right]. With the two guys at the back solidly doing their thing, it falls to Lintern to run the show. 

Sensing the fans among the crowd tonight were few and far between, in-between songs, Lintern sought to engage and build a rapport. By now the crowd had automatically created a semi-circle in front of the stage – leaving just the sort of space for dancing that Das Flff like to be filled at their gigs. Dawn pointed this out, encouraged folk forward, and a couple of young girls broke ranks, taking up the challenge. From that point on the relationship built. Dawn giving a running commentary on progress: “I feel we are entering the kissing stage” she says. Come the end of their thirty minute set, whilst its fair to say there were no immediate signs of wedding bells, it did feel like some long-term relationships between stage and dance floor may have started here tonight.

Das Flff setlist: Plaything, 100%, Drop Break Slip Crash, Rage, Clean Up Start Again, Clouds Shaped Like Spaceships, Hey You, Happy People

London outfit Cybercide do the electro-industrial thing to a 'T'. And they like to rock their tunes out. The fact that they cover Billy Idol's Rebel Yell, probably tells you everything you need to know about the direction they are coming from and, though that particular songs was unpleasant to my ears, proved popular with their fans, of which there were clearly many now gathered. Singer Eddie Martin is an engaging front man. If there were any in the audience who were borderline as the whether they liked Cybercide or not, then I suspect the majority were won over as much by Martin's energy, enthusiasm and appreciation of the great reception they received, as by the music itself. Gothic band Pretentious, Moi?'s Tim Chandler guested on one track, whilst Searchlight's trancey opening bars, pounding drums and 'melodramatic' vocals was a fine example of what they do best. 

[Live photo]I've decided that attending Assemblage 23 gigs should form part of a balanced annual gig-going diet – one which will ensure health, vitality and positivity. In place of the doom-mongering and aggressive delivery of many of his contemporaries, Tom Shear's A23 project continues to put positive energy into his audiences every time he appears on stage. Time and again, as the front man to the current live three-piece (this the first tour featuring new drummer Mike Jenney), he is the focus of their passionate live performances. The energy he generates, pushing out into the open arms (and hearts) of his fans, song after song, is absorbed, amplified and pulses back at him on stage – creating a mutually-supportive feedback loop. The moment he senses the crowd might be flagging, he throws out another “Are you still with me London!?”, which prompts precisely the response every singer wants to hear (and feel), as the energy level spikes again and another unseen (but heard and felt) wave returns to Shear and co on stage; and we continue with our evening of making merry. 
[Live photo]

With his two partners behind him steadfastly performing their duties without fail, Shear was free to concentrate on his performance and audience. Like the best of his peers, as the front man and focus for his followers, Shear manages to make the unique gathering of individuals present tonight feel as though he has saved all his energy, and passion especially for this evening's performance. Of course, he probably manages to pull that off probably every night on what was a short European tour. Midway through (new album) opener Crosstalk Shear shouts out: "Good evening London. We are Assemblage 23... and we came to make you dance!". It took no more than the four minutes of the first track to know they'd already succeeded.

The set took in all phases of A23's two decade tenure to date, working like a selected 'hits n highlights' that the audience, now jumping in unison, were loving. It was also the first chance they'd had to hear new songs from the latest album Bruise - released only the month before. Spending much of my time to one side of the stage rather than directly in front of it, I avoided the worst of the heat that was steadily being generated. On stage, under the lights, and with his usual full commitment to delivering a terrific night for his fans, Shear was quickly shedding as much water as was being consumed in bottles by those below him. After the gig, Shear posted a photo on his Facebook page of a packet of Galaxy Counters (a bag of mini chocolate balls) which were in his rucksack back stage. Under the heat of the venue these had coalesced into one large and disfigured clump of chocky. 

 Another two weeks of dates across mainland Europe (taking in Germany, Spain and Switzerland) followed before the band returned home to Seattle. Judging by the online feedback that rapidly populated the social media after each night of the tour, I think it fair to say Tom Shear still delivers the goods live and there are plenty out there who are pleased he does. So, it would appear I'm not the only one to have discovered the invigorating qualities of Assemblage 23 live. 8/10 

Assemblage 23 setlist: Crosstalk, Opened, Impermanence, Drive, Binary, Damaged, The Last Mistake, Naked, The Other Side of the Wall, Over & Out, Document, Let the Wind Erase Me, The Noise Inside My Head, Alive, Ground, Spark, Let Me Be Your Armor, Disappoint, The Cruelest Year

Rob Dyer