Apoptygma Berzerk / VNV Nation

Vynyl, Los Angeles, USA - 22 September, 2000

"No-one could resist - the crowd were completely won over"

[Apoptygma/VNV Nation ticket]The reasons behind why I flew from London to Los Angeles to see a concert are probably outwith the scope of this review, but suffice it to say that more than a day after rising in Tulse Hill, London, I was entering a club between Sunset and Hollywood Boulevards, to see the penultimate date on Apoptygma Berzerk and VNV Nation's American tour (VNV were heading on for a few more separately, on their way home). It was not an uneventful tour, with two dates having to be cancelled - having travelled more than the average fan, I was keeping my fingers crossed this wouldn't be the third strike. As time wore on, I grew steadily more nervous: the doors had opened at 8pm, and by 10:30, there had been no sign, even of a support act. Perhaps this may be standard practice in Los Angeles? Speaking of such differences, the ticket price seemed steep by British standards at around sixteen pounds, but going by the healthy crowd present, had obviously not dissuaded people. Eventually, five minutes of loud beeping seemed to signify something, but no-one seemed to know what - the meaning would later become clear.

VNV Nation

Finally, at 10:45, VNV hit the stage. If you've seen Ronan and Co. in action before, you'll know they have the ability to outclass many a headlining act - their performance supporting Mesh was a sublime piece of energy and enthusiasm. Here, they were perhaps even better, despite Ronan's voice being, in his own words, "totally fucked", unsurprising after a punishing schedule of dates across America. Facing a initially laid-back audience, he responded to the challenge by simply refusing to let them relax, dragging them into involvement both during and between the songs. He even hijacked a beeping pager from a spectator and read the message out - I imagine Bunty in New York got a few unscheduled calls that night...

No-one could resist, and the crowd were completely won over, and VNV were even forced to return after their traditional concert-ender of Solitary for a second set of encores. Musically, it was a combination of tracks from Praise the Fallen and Empires, with some Burning Empires extended versions thrown in as bonuses. While Solitary remains their most perfect creation, Forsaken stood out among the older material, with Kingdom and Dark Angel also outstanding.

Apoptygma Berzerk

The break between VNV and Apoptygma was, to my weary body's delight, mercifully brief. Vague rumours had been circulating that earlier concerts had been cancelled because the venues were technically incapable of dealing with Apoptygma's backing tracks, causing one commentator to sardonically describe them as "the Goth Milli Vanilli". And lo, three songs into their set, the stage went dark and the sound died, replaced by the same beeping heard earlier. Had some acoustic folk-singer pulled the plug? No, it seemed that the fire alarms had gone off - it was rather hot in the club - and the power had been cut. The absence of any actual inferno meant the crowd just stood around patiently - though a significant minority of malcontents started to chant "VNV! VNV!"...

The band returned, and delivered a perfectly competent but strangely cold set, though I confess to being distracted by looking to see whether the guitarist was actually playing his instrument (I wasn't convinced). The lead singer could learn from Ronan about crowd interaction, mouthing the usual "It's good to be in [INSERT PLACE HERE]", though songs like Eclipse and Love Never Dies stood up well regardless. I was also impressed by their cover of Metallica's Nothing Else Matters - which can be found on The Blackest Album 2, an entire LP of such things, out on Cleopatra. It was heading on for 2am by the time they finished - just the one set of encores for them - and I staggered out onto Sunset Boulevard, some 29 hours after getting up that morning. I was hot, sweaty and very, very tired; but I would do it again, no question. Just perhaps not for a while...

Jim McLennan