Tuesday, 19 June 2007

Sunn @ Southbank Centre, London, 18th June 2007

We saw Sunn in concert again yesterday, at a venue right on the waterfront of the River Thames no less, about 400 yards from the London Eye ferris wheel and in view of Big Ben and the Houses Of Parliament. The venue they played at was the Southbank Centre which is located in on the Thames riverside between Golden Jubilee and Waterloo Bridges, in Central London. The venue has lots of concert halls inside it, the gig was held in somewhere called The Queen Elizabeth Hall - very posh sounding - it usually gets used for chamber orchestra recitals, I don't know if it's ever been used for anything like Sunn before (or if it will again).

This was part of an event called "Jarvis Cocker's Meltdown". Jarvis Cocker, in case you aren't sure, is a musician from Sheffield who used to be in an indie band called Pulp. My sister liked Pulp, never really my thing though. Cocker's best moment was when he ran on stage at the Brit Awards show and disrupted Michael Jackson on a stage full of young children. For that one stunt, Jarvis Cocker is forever infamous and awesome. Oh lets not forget that he wrote some good tunes too, I guess.

The Sunn show was great, different than the previous Sunn gigs that I've been to (5 now) but it reminded me of the time I saw them in a venue over in Dublin that's called The Crawdaddy. I say that mainly because we were seated for the performance in Dublin and we were again here in London. The mood of the gig was similar to Dublin as well, not the same, but similar. I don't think Sunn ever play the same set twice. By the nature of their music I don't think it's possible to.

Every time this band performs it seems to have a different amount of players on stage. The core of the band is just 2 guys - Greg Anderson and Stephen O'Malley. Then they will usually add a vocalist, this time it was Attila Csihar (a Hungarian bloke who we met for the first time earlier this year in Norway and in Holland, the second time we met him he was much more relaxed and spent half an hour talking with us after their gig). When they played in Liverpool last year they had a different guy (Wrest) doing vocals. Sometimes a keyboard player will join them on stage - other times they employ synthesizers instead of keyboards. During this gig they used both. In other shows they've used a third guitarist, they even had a trombone when they played in Norway. In Dublin they had 7 guys in the band. Really, it's seems that they never quite have the same line up for any two tours in succession.

Fot this show in London they performed as a 5-piece; I think it was 3 guitars, 1 keyboard and Attila's vocals. Attila's performance this time round was very striking, sometimes chanting like a Gregorian monk, other time using his mouth and throat to make sinister sounding breathing, grunting and even squeaking noises. During the initial vocals all of the lights in the concert hall were off apart from two green spotlights shining up onto Attila, who was stood alone at the front of the stage. He was dressed in the now familiar Sunn robes (the band always dress in full-length robes with Cowls covering their faces). The set began with acapella for 5 or 10 minutes, then keyboards joined him, then the droning guitars joined in for the full-on Sunn performance.

Sunn are not going to appeal to everyone who sees them live, they are loud (very loud), slow (VERY slow) and to an untrained ear there's no apparent rhythm to their songs, there's no drum keeping a beat. Lots of people in the hall got up and left about half an hour into the performance - not their cup of tea. Also I noticed a lot of people sat in my vicinity were falling asleep in their seats during the performance. This might be out of boredom, but I have seen this before at gigs being attended by full-on Sunn listeners and I figure that drone must have some kind of hypnotic effect when played loud enough in a venue with the right kind of acoustics. You can feel the vibrations from the speakers shaking your clothes and, if you are sat down, you can feel your chair rattling underneath you. Sound you can feel - sonic art!

Towards the end of the performance Attila left the stage and came back on dressed in a strange potato sack outfit and blonde wig - he uses this on stage with another band, Burial Chamber Trio. The show ended after about 90 minutes, it finished with more Attila acapella and then all of the lights went out - when they came back on all of the band where lying about on the floor by their equipment, like something from a murder mystery play, as though they were all dead on the stage. A very theatrical end to another unique display from a very unique set of performers.

We never did see Jarvis Cocker though.

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