|Coil and Foetus
Royal Festival Hall, London
As incense smoke wafted over the crowd from a pot centre stage, Coil, to the taped strains of 'Something', took to the Royal Festival Hall stage for the second time this year. In complete contrast to their earlier performance as Time Machines where they transformed the huge auditorium into a giant pulsating and throbbing mass. "Persistence Is All", the name given to this performance, was no less awe-inspiring but was more concerned with displaying Coil in a more song-based format. It was conversely more musickal but perhaps more extreme.
Coil consisted of the nucleus of John Balance, Peter Christopherson, new recruits Thighpaulsandra and Simon Norris together with a mysterious marimba player who stood set apart from the others. Dressed in black, he remained in the wings distant from the others. With their shaven heads, bruised make-up, and white boiler suits they looked like apocalyptic rent boys; refugees fashioned by Vivienne Westwood. Hung from the ceilings and draped across the stage were seven light bulbs which Balance and others would regularly toy with. At the rear of stage a neon red sign proclaimed Persistence Is All. Also on the ceiling, and directly above a sheet of metal, was a huge screen where visuals, including Elph symbols, and sleeve designs, appeared warped and transformed - often into mandala like shapes. Phrases were projected at the audience, in almost subliminal fashion. Balance, on the night, appeared almost reticent, staying close to the huddle of musicians centre stage, rarely straying to the stage flanks, and, if so, only to spin the light bulbs. The stage set, itself, seemed less cluttered and more intimate in design than their Time Machines show. With the stage cast in fluctuating shades of red, green, blue, and clear light, the electronics blasted as Balance, poised in front of his music stand, sung 'Amethyst Deceivers', from the Equinox series of CDs. A demonic elemental painting by Austin Osman Spare followed by the words "Zos Kia Cultus" appeared on the screen as they launched into 'Titan Arch' to which Thighpaulsandra managed to add some guitar based feedback. I've no idea if Marc Almond was in attendance but it was especially exciting to hear Balance sing this song. It's funny, he commented later, to be singing some songs that are as old as 17 years.
Stevo from Coil's former record label, Some Bizarre, was criticised (and cursed) by Balance for 'stealing' both Scatology and Horse Rotorvator before Coil launched into 'Blood From the Air'. I can't imagine there have been many occasions when the Festival Hall staff have been subjected to the accusations of God is a Sadist echoing round the vast expanse of the hall. It appeared the hex was still good as right on cue one of the lightbulbs exploded.
New tracks appeared with one being dedicated to friends (like David Tibet) who had either crossed over and came back, hadn't come back or nearly went.
This was a show to be treasured which just got more intense as they seeped into tracks taken from their specially recorded CD, Constant Shallowness Leads To Evil. Smoke billowed from behind the stage set as the flash of the strobes began to flicker. At first, as the sounds built up, the flickers were random and intermittent. Then as the visuals started flashing, the strobes got rhythmic. And then it got intense and disorientating. This was Coil at their most visceral, most aggressive and most brutal. Balance crouched on the floor, while the other musicians arched over their keyboards. If they're hadn't have been seats maintaining one's balance may have proved difficult for the audience. The sounds got more ferocious, the strobes now in rotation across the stage flickered faster, and the decibel level increased to an ear-splitting volume. And then it got more intense and more disorientating. "Colour Sound Oblivion", "God Please Fuck My Mind For Good" flashed from the screen in quick succession. It was relentless.
And then it was over. The crowd was left reeling and completely disoriented. With the bombardment of sound and light it was as if the auditorium had been transformed into one huge Dream Machine. The five members bowed to rapturous applause leaving the Festival Hall crowd enthralled once again.
If it seemed everyone was here for Coil, its fair to say that the Festival Hall was even more rammed for Foetus. It was obvious from the moment Jim Thirlwell aka Foetus swaggered onto the stage that he is still in his anti-rock God persona.
With his shock of orange hair, his skinny frame, psychedelic shirt and tight seventies slacks hiding his cowboy boots Jim Thirlwell is, as he once described himself, a white nigger. He's a New York honky straight out of a seventies movie. But, oh boy, he rocked. And shook that pelvis. With his empty posturing, tonight this was dumb-ass rock'n'roll. And Foetus delivered the hits - 'Throne of Agony', 'Take It Outside Godboy', 'Mighty Whitey', 'Clothes Hoist', 'Butterfly Potion' - touching base with most of the Jim Thirlwell archive. He even gave a rare airing of the apt 'English Faggot' from Thaw.
With a band, drawn from the likes of Cop Shoot Cop, Family of God, Swans and Morning Glories, dressed all in black they look like hired hands. The backbone of taut bass, powerhouse drumming and riffing guitars occasionally gets caught up in some sub-NIN industrial rock. If only they'd ditch this rock as parody thing and deliver some keyboard stuff, some orchestral washes, some Steroid Maximus, something more jazzy - everything that makes a Foetus record compelling. Let's hear some of the other shades of Foetus and not just the noir rock.
Still you can't help smiling, when for an encore Jim Thirlwell appears in an Elvis styled gold lamé suit with the finest pair of platform boots to grace the Festival Hall stage since Julian Cope.
Threshold House - www.thresholdhouse.com
Coil - www.brainwashed.com/coil
Foetus - www.foetus.org
Other Compulsion online Coil reviews:
Coil Presents Time Machines at the Royal Festival Hall, London.
Coil at the Barbican, London.
Photography by alexcar.