Clan of Xymox/Partly Faithful/Sebastian Bartz

Electrowerkz, London – 1 March 2014

"Quality that commands respect and delivers rewards"

I got here shortly after the doors opened as I was keen to hear Sebastian Bartz who I'd heard lots of good things about since last year. Aside from a few YouTube clips, I was pretty much in the dark as to what I'd hear. But knowing he comes from the same management stable as the fantastic Heretics was reassuring enough. First thing that strikes you is this young guy has a superbly theatrical look, set off with a blonde version of Phil Oakey's famous 80s haircut.

The stage set-up this evening comprised Bartz on lead vocals, and switching between guitar and bass, another guitarist up front, and a third bloke at the back handling the lap technology. Feels like there is a proper natural talent at work here. Bartz just needs to keep any ego in check, make sure he channels his energy into the writing and performing and, who knows, maybe, just maybe he could become a name. He has all the right attributes to make a name for himself in Japan – where they are partial to good music presented in flamboyant fashion. Bartz, get yourself out there ASAP and enjoy all those cute girls and boys falling at your feet!

Setlist: Love Blood War, Untitled, She's Gone, Suicide Girlfriend, Body Away, Get Down On Your Knees, Imprisoned 

Despite the description on their Facebook page as being a 'post-punk/art-rock band', Partly Faithful were very firmly rooted in the traditional Gothic genre and as such would struggle to fully engage me. And so it turned out. Nothing particularly wrong with what they did, and the lead vocalist put on a decent show, but I didn't hear anything new that compelled me to listen to them after this evening.

[Clan of Xymox]   [Clan of Xymox]    [Clan of Xymox]
Photos: Clan of Xymox

Clan of Xymox, though understandably and reasonably classified as Gothic, were always, to me at least, more than 'just' goth. It's true, I still reserve a special place inside for their first two 4AD albums and nothing they've released since that I've heard has matched them. Still, let's be clear, I think they are two of the finest albums I own, so that's a rare and difficult club to join. The latest LP (their fifteenth studio album) Matters Of Mind, Body & Soul sees CoX on great form. It's more diverse them some recent albums, taking in a more film soundtrack styling (with a few moody instrumentals) and where the beats and vocals come in I thought of Depeche Mode more than once. So, hardly traditional and predictable Gothic; and knowing they include a good number of songs straddling back to the very start of their extensive catalogue, this promised to be another quality night in the company of Clan of Xymox.

Founder (and only remaining original member) Ronny Moorings explained that the first three songs of this evening's set (billed in typical Flag Promotions' manner as the band's '30th Anniversary gig') would all be new ones (I Close My Eyes, The Climate Changed and Love's on Diet). They were decent enough but Moorings knows well that his fans want and expect a decent journey into the past and they were good enough to accede. A few of their really old tracks, Muscoviet Musquito, Back Door and A Day still sound as fantastic live today as they ever did and I've no complaints. However, one dimension that was noticeably missing tonight were the female vocals.

In fact, I think this may have been the first time I've seen them live and they've not had at least one female on stage. Don't know if this was a reflection of a permanent change... had Ronny's partner Mojca Zugna left?, a temporary human logistical touring issue, or what? But those female tones were sorely missing on a couple of key tracks. So this wasn't quite what I had envisaged in my mind's eye. But then I'd never been to a Clan of Xymox gig before that had failed to delight throughout. Nevertheless, even though this did come up a little short, it won't stop me coming out the next time they're in the neighbourhood, as the general quality of their songwriting across their career to date still commands respect and delivers rich rewards. 8/10

Setlist: Intro, I Close My Eyes, The Climate Changed, Love's on Diet, Love Got Lost, In Love We Trust, Hail Mary, Emily, Muscoviet Musquito, Louise, Jasmine and Rose, Farewell, A Day Encore: This World, Venus (Shocking Blue cover), Heroes, (David Bowie cover), Encore 2: She Did Not Answer, Back Door, Obsession

Review: Rob Dyer
Photos: Mark Smith