LIVE: Swans

It’s bye-bye slaves, hello Norse biker gang.

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Swans have slowly mutated over the decades, from their Raping A Slave days, when they were the loudest, most remorselessly punitive guitar band out there, through a perverse flirtation with singer-songwriting, as if to hack off their noisenik devotees, to their present-day synthesis of all the dark stuff of form and content.

Gira and co have intensified with time, thrived on the moss they’ve gathered. They have probably never been this good; their career is a continuing culmination, rather than a case of hanging in there for nostalgia’s sake. Tonight, they play for

over two gloriously brutal hours, rolling and grinding on through lengthy, pulverising, crashing, extended pieces like opener Frankie M. Guitar and bass are supplemented with lap steel, hanging percussion and even a trombone. They look like the elders of some fearsome Norse biker gang, with Gira an ancient radical Shaman expounding a rock’n’roll wisdom that belongs to age, not youth. It’s a genuine challenge to some of the younger element, this undistracted immersion and some drift to the outer bars to take solace in the multiple windows of their iPhones.

Those who remain are treated to Bring Back The Sun/Black Hole Man, an anti-jam that’s like the last 10 minutes before the end of the world, working up to a dervish-like climax as if having found something purifying beneath the muddy, petrified, accrued layers of the rock form.

David Stubbs

David Stubbs is a music, film, TV and football journalist. He has written for The Guardian, NME, The Wire and Uncut, and has written books on Jimi Hendrix, Eminem, Electronic Music and the footballer Charlie Nicholas.