Covenant / And One / The Strand

Nile Theatre, Mesa, USA - 23 April, 2001

"A damn fine concert"

Let's start off with the complaint. It isn't nice to make your audience hang around outside the venue for two hours without explanation, yet this is what happened here. The doors didn't open until gone 10pm, and in five more minutes, we'd have given up - rock bands might have been able to have a nice lie-in, but some of us have proper jobs. Though at one point, someone did poke their head round the door and said, "Sorry 'bout the delay, blame the Germans". My opinion of And One declined a notch.

We got in to find Phoenix's finest, The Strand, recently returned from their first tour around the Southwest, and frantically still setting-up, with lead man Dave chatting to the audience in between times. Though they only got to play a short set, his enthusiasm and good humour helped restore our own somewhat, despite nightmares with the sound which saw co-singer Kim's voice only audible for a song and a half. Time to start a write-in campaign, for a support slot with Depeche Mode in August.

Even putting aside my bad feelings towards And One after two hours outside, I was not that impressed with them. Instrumentally, they weren't bad, with lots of meaty back-beats - however, their lead vocalist seemed extremely full of himself. Stick a bunch of gladioli in his back pocket and call him Morrissey. And if you come to Arizona and say, "This is a song about fucking Nazis", then sing in German, your audience will be confused as to whether or not you actually like to have sex with fascists. When their instrumentalist joined him up front, things improved, even if the uninterrupted music did make me wonder whether his keyboarding was, in fact, entirely superfluous. Still, they got a good response, so maybe it was just us.

Covenant. Ah, yes. I've remained largely immune to their charms, despite Mr. Dyer's generous attempts to interest me, up to and including a compilation tape. Somehow, they and I just didn't click, but after this performance, I think I'm beginning to thaw. Their latest CD, United States of Mind, from which a good part of this set was taken, has a more trance-oriented feel, which I find highly effective - ideal driving music for the wide-open highways in this part of the world!

I was also impressed with their live show, with all the members resplendent in their suits - a group you wouldn't be ashamed to take home to mother. Lead singer Eskil Simmonson has a very solid stage presence, reminiscent of David Bowie, capturing the audience through force of will and intensity. Tour de Force has certainly the potential to become an anthem for them, but even older songs like Theremin stood up well, with the crowd turning into a sea of waving arms. By the end (nearer 2am than 1!), even I had grudgingly to admit that it had been worth the wait, and all the cups of coffee downed the following day couldn't erase the memory of a damn fine concert.

Jim McLennan