Swans @ Sonic City, Kortrijk BE – 02 December 2012


When everything goes smoothly by the rule, the “cool” people start running in the opposite direction, until what has been a recipe becomes obsolete. Then, they quickly change direction to go back to the trendy old times revival, before it gets too old and looses the vintage flavour, time when they switch back to what was once known and forgotten. A back and forth in a godforsaken square called culture.

I have never seen anything live like Swans. I saw then in Sonic City Festival 2012 in De Kreun in Kortrijk, Belgium. I went there unprepared as usual, without watching any youtube video, without reading any review, only with the “You must see this” recommendation which I receive from time to time from the few credible sources that I have left.

Five songs in two hours can break not only any expectations, but any expectation of being taken by surprise.

In the context of continuous struggle with the internet which gives everything for free and puts everything at your fingertips, Michael Gira, also non-exempted from financial problems caused by piracy or record labels, makes an offer you can’t refuse: the smartest possible setlist, two new still unrecorded songs, two songs from the last album and an original interpretation of an old one.

What followed right after the very first sound was only a state of extreme intensity, a journey into a world which does not exist but there and then. What come from the stage are bursts of sound, a great angry sea storm on which you can not get upset with because this is her way to make you aware of what is (still) happening to you. A natural raw beauty. The persistence on repetitions is irresistible. Gira not only that orchestrates what is happening on stage, but he’s pushing, even with specific physical gestures, in an indescribable shamanic effort, all the energy towards the public. The perception is dissonant, what comes off the stage invites you to the challenge of seeing, not how much you can resist in there, but to how open you to receive exactly the art of a straightforward sound.

And there is nothing more relieving than seeing Gira after the concert at the merchandise stand, calm but livid after the earlier exorcism, dressed in black, but with his lovely white hat, signing, as he had promised, every purchased CD and listening with a smile every story of his fans. At the same time, there is nothing more disturbing than getting out of there questioning yourself: what would remain if we would unwrap ourselves from all newsprints and supermarket offers in which we had covered ourselves when we were cold or hungry. And whether or not we can still hear our inner voice after all that everyday listening to music in our headphones.

Setlist: To Be Kind / Avatar / She Loves Us / Coward / The Seer / Improvisation


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