As part of the Barbican's Only Connect series of shows Coil were invited to take part in the final show devoted to computer games and electronic music.
Tonight represented Coil's third major London appearance, and marked the final date of their European tour. Tonight Coil were missing Thighpaulsandra who was absent due to Spiritualized commitments. The nucleus of John Balance and Peter Christopherson were as ever aided by Cyclobe's Simon Norris on keyboards.
Coil arrived on stage in white druidic costumes shaking horse bells and carrying incense. It appeared like a purification ritual as Balance and Norris treaded the stage hooded, lead by the black clad, bearded and pipe playing Mike York in some form of pagan procession. Cliff Stapleton, the hurdy gurdy man, remained seated at the back.
The set opened with 'Amethyst Deceivers', backed by tapes, Balance invited the audience to pay respect to the vultures for they are your future. Coil's slabs of electronic sound were augmented by Breton Pipes and hurdy gurdy.
Their stage set was sparse tonight. Christopherson stood behind a laptop, controlling the DVD visuals while Simon Norris concentrated on keyboards. If it wasn't for John Balance's spirited performance the show may have seemed somewhat limp and static compared to their previous London shows. 'Slur' was dedicated to Marc Almond and Nicola Bowery, wife of the late performance artist Leigh Bowery. The wailing bagpipes and constant drone of the hurdy gurdy blended surprisingly well with the Coil's dark electronica of Horse Rotorvator.
What I believe to have been 'Wounded Galaxies Tap at the Window' followed. This as-of-yet unreleased track is inspired by a quote lifted from their friend William S. Burroughs. Balance continued to bounce, and clap outstretching his arms to the flanks of the stage and skyward. His animated performance at times appeared to resemble some twisted industrial fitness regime was fuelled by "too much amphetamines." With the stark visuals of 'A Cold Cell' Balance's restlessness proved something of a distraction. The brutal scenes of a youth prison in the former Soviet Union effectively reflected the lyrics. The sight of skinny white kids, abused and dejected, caused a wave of silence throughout the auditorium. Were Coil trying to make a political point? The scenes could have been lifted from an Amnesty International video, although I do feel there was definitely an air of Larry Clark about these visuals. A Cold Cell definitely rated as the highpoint of the night.
Balance appeared in good spirits and even delivered some humorous poetry concerning Cher's hair. With typical perversity Coil's prelude to their final track paraphrased William Burrough's Captain Clark would like to welcome you aboard. The lights dimmed and immediately flight simulator visuals appeared on the screen. Game Boy, Space Boy, Mushroom Boys went the lyrics as above on the screen a passenger aircraft flew. And crashed. Over countryside over sea and over cities with skyscrapers. Planes took-off and crashed. The obvious was never made explicit. There was no need.
Thankfully this was Coil's only concession to the theme of the evening. On reflection this was an infuriating and confused affair cut short by the Barbican. Balance himself apologised and claimed they would have played far longer.
Over the past two years I've witnessed Coil live three times and although the Barbican show failed to reach the dizzying heights of previous London shows Coil's ability to fuse the mystical past with current technology ensures all Coil performances are remarkable events.
Threshold House - www.thresholdhouse.com
Coil - www.brainwashed.com/coil
Other Compulsion online Coil reviews:
Coil Presents Time Machines at the Royal Festival Hall, London.
Coil and Foetus at the Royal Festival Hall, London.