Aviv Geffen at Oslo, London - live review

Steven Wilson and Blackfield collaborator goes solo in Hackney

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(Image: © Katja Ogrin)

At one time, Blackfield appeared to be an equal collaboration between Aviv Geffen and Steven Wilson, but it’s evolved into something more akin to a Geffen solo project, with Wilson’s name shoehorned in wherever possible to lend a commercial, credible weight to proceedings. Last year’s Blackfield V was sold as a joint venture, but while Wilson’s sonic signature was very much in evidence, his input elsewhere was minimal.

Tonight he’s nowhere to be seen, and this is reflected in the audience, which seems to be composed of fans of Geffen’s solo work – even though the set is entirely made up of Blackfield songs.

It’s a perplexing gig. Occasionally it seems like the band’s ambition isn’t quite matched by their ability, as the backing vocals on Open Mind fall flat and the solo acoustic intros to Summer and Epidemic suffer from the shakes. But sometimes it’s sublime. On The Jackal, pristine harmonies compete with a near-rhapsodic solo from guitarist Omri Agmon, who also lights up Blackfield and the closing Hello with his Gilmour-esque playing.

October is undeniably dramatic, although it does suffer from being forced to compete with a couple of shrieking dimwits at the bar. This hateful duo appear determined to engage in the world’s loudest conversation, and return for an unwelcome encore during Glow, their blathering finally drowned out as the song reaches its towering climax.

Distractions aside, it’s a solid show. The musicians are clearly capable, and Geffen’s an engaging though somewhat earnest character. When the band really hit their stride – as they do on Jupiter, where the harmonies are worthy of ELO at their most spotless, and during the aforementioned Blackfield and The Jackal, where the sound envelops the audience in warmth – it’s thrilling stuff. But it all feels more constrained than it ought to, as if Geffen’s experience as a pop star makes him fearful of truly letting loose.

We get two dozen songs in two hours, and you wonder whether he’d be better off halving the setlist, removing the shackles and letting the musicians really explore the music. Only once, as Geffen steps forward during Where Is My Love? and leans into his Rickenbacker with some degree of menace, do you feel like anything could happen.