Eyeless In Gaza – A Brilliant Evening
Bush Hall, London July 29th
Bush Hall proved a suitable venue with a nice interior and good enough acoustics.
A splendid start by Tynan as the support (guitar and bass, and Tynan herself singing) and they did two Eyeless covers. The one that stayed in my mind was a very nice take on See Red from Caught in Flux. When Eyeless In Gaza took to the stage they started off full speed with Dear Light from the 1995 Bitter Apples album. It is a demandingly dense song mastered perfectly by Martyn & Pete onstage. Then they played one of my own many favourites – Ever Present from the b side of the 1982 Others 7” (now on Photographs as Memories Cd). – Typical fiery song of their early days, full of atmosphere. Then a slower guitar based piece from the Bitter Apples, called Returning Over – very good, but I am not sure it came across quite as remarkable as on the album. Thereafter the classic Still Air from the 12” originally with the 1981 Caught in Flux album (now also on the Cd with the same name). This piece is a showcase of Martyn’s singing from the early period and also features Pete on toy melodica. The even more classic Transience Blues opening the 1982 album Drumming the Beating Heart that cemented Eyeless In Gaza’s success in the early 80’s. Transience Blues is a very intense organ based song which again was performed with perfection. The audience was apparently very happy about the freshness and dedication of Eyeless in Gaza playing old classics – delivered almost as if it was the first time they ever had played them and now was really eager to get the audience to hear them.
I was still waiting to hear some new songs from the forthcoming Summer Salt/Subway Sun album, but it turned out that they chickened out at the last moment due to scarcity of time rehearsing those new songs (I later heard). However, as it was so long ago Eyeless had played their old songs and as they also played some songs that have never been performed live at all, it was very much as if they presented much new material anyway. Next was No Noise – another true classic from their first album, Photographs as Memories. This is my favourite to whistle on and it shows just how deep a sense of musicality that Eyeless are blessed with – only the greatest artists can ever deliver such an experience of the essence of what music is. I’m thinking that they are the Miles Davies of post-punk. Next up was Pearl and Pale – a happy and popular song from their 1983 Rust Red September album. Then one of the highlights of the evening – Lullay My Liking from Song of the Beautiful Wanton (2000). It was a very different version from the one of the album – it was longer and featured improvised organ-playing in the vein of the Three Ships piece from All Under the Leaves, the Leaves of Life album (1996). This more improvised music of Eyeless is very essential to what Eyeless is all about and few can create such captivating improvisations (which are also very original in most ways). It’s like a blend of Terry Riley and Current 93, but with more of a pop sensibility and topped off with some folk, psychedelia and hymnal “would be” church-music … .
The 1982 Picture the Day followed which is an intense little song. ‘Two’ is a good song that also has been played a lot live in the 80ies – very good delivery again. They then played Rose Petal Knot, the favourite song of the guy I was standing next to while they played it, much to his joy and it is indeed a track that stands out more than most on the wonderful Caught in Flux album. Corner of Dusk is a quiet and atmostpheric song from Rust Red September that rings of sincerity and reflection. Next was one of the best songs ever made – Light Sliding from the amazing and much improvisational Pale Hands I Loved So Well album (1982). Very, very good delivery and I was clearly not the only one very happy to hear this one! It is difficult to relate such a song to whatever else music one has ever heard – one risks not caring for other music any longer.
Then more classics – Others (I still like it better every time I hear it); Leaves are Dancing (a song they arguably do better today than back in 1983) and Bitter Apples from the 1995 album of the same name. This last is very catchy – I can’t help relating it to a modern day The Beatles song in terms of pop sensibility and directness, but it is more intelligent and expressive. The set ended with a breathtaking Glow of Sight, which is actually from Martyn Bates solo album Stars Come Trembling (1991) – this was the first song Pete and Martyn recorded in the 90’s and has a special meaning in that it was what led to the renewed burst of Eyeless activities in the 90’s and onwards. It is very improvisational in spirit, organ-based (with some crazy mouth-organ) and very intense and lovely.
They of course had to come back and play more. They started with Martyn’s solo song The Mountain Tomb from Imagination Feels Like Poison (1997) where Pete and Elizabeth S. supported superbly. This is a very slow and introspective piece to the W.B. Yeats poem. In stark contrast they then pulled off the fiery and half-hysterical The Decoration from Caught in Flux, where Martyn got his voice capacity tested … . ‘Taking Steps’ was often performed in the early days, but even though a nice song, it has failed to impressed me particularly.
The last two songs where both from the ostensibly most poppy Eyeless album – Back from the Rains (1986). However, Evening Music was one of the most reflective songs on the album and the title track that finished the performance is now performed so much better it feels like coming from a much less poppy album. The tears were close on this one. Very great performance overall! What a celebration of their 25th Anniversery! The future for Eyeless In Gaza looks as exciting as ever.
Jerry (EIG webmaster)