concert review by Ioana Nica
Wovenhand played in Brussels at Ancienne Belgique on 6 June 2014, during the tour for promoting their new album, Refractory Obdurate. Support act, the Belgian band Flying Horseman.
With Joy Division and 16 Horsepower among its inspirational bands, Flying Horseman’s music is a strange mix of post-punk and rock, which usually starts in a low or calm key to develop afterwards into an angry and introverted universe, distinctive from its primary influences. Plus a strong ambiental ingredient represented by two feminine presences at keyboards, with gothic appearance and high tonality voices.
Flying Horseman’s strong point consists in their original way of using the styles of roots Americana as puzzle pieces, which they interconnect into a continuous game of rhythms. A complex construction which requires a full live set for a proper transit through the entire flavor they have to offer.
Even though the Wovenhand concert was not entirely sold-out, there was a good big crowd eager to see it live. Many listeners of 16 Horsepower, a band which is still as alive as possible in the collective memory of David Eugene Edwards fan base. But if there were a spoiler alert for concerts, in this case it would be: beware, this is the heaviest and darkest Wovenhand version you’ve ever heard.
Since the self-titled debut, every Wovenhand album was much intense than the preceding. At the same time, each Wovenhand performance was louder than it sounded on the record. The performance in Ancienne Belgique made no exception. On a stage with no decorations, in a velvety dark troubled only by few spot lights, we assisted to a recital of crashing guitars, fulminous drumming (Ordy Garrison, the drummer who is with the band since its beginnings) and the presence of David Eugene Edwards.
With no doubt, David Eugene Edwards is a charismatic performer, with a mysterious look and an odd way of external expression: slim, light-haired, wearing a silver cross at his neck and a white hat casting shadows over his face, with borderline autistic gestures and dramatic hand movements in the air – an enigmatic persona of a slightly disturbing fascination. And the concert was built on this imagery.
The setlist was a compilation of tracks from The Laughing Stalk, released two years ago and their latest album, which was performed almost entirely. Wovenhand launched their show with the amazing Hiss from the Refractory Obdurate. My favorite track from the album but I regret the choice as opening track, because at that time the sound was still being adjusted to the room and, as a consequence, there was a loss of the richness of rhythms and instrumental textures.
The incantation, an essential feature of the Wovenhand sound, made its place in the setlist with Closer and set up the trend. Masonic Youth sounded definitely much heavier than on the album and ended in much longer devilish fast-paced punkish rhythms. There was also a traditional song he used to perform with 16 Horsepower, Horse Head Fiddle. El-bow sounded almost like an instrumental piece, as Edwards was fighting with his right hand an imaginary enemy, who seemed internal and well-know. The ambiance sweetened a bit only when he took his banjo for Corsicana Clip and The Refractory, but only for these two songs. Afterwards, the firm journey through conflict, faith, and redemption continued, to end with a short encore, Glinstening Black.
It is true that there was no much stage action or talking to the audience. The concert was more shamanic than pastoral, more introverted than external, more of a ritual of auto-exorcism than a show, a rhythmic repetitive attempt of finding peace. His openly declared faith in God transcends into his music. Nevertheless, he’s not a “preach and win souls” character, his music is a continuous religious epiphany of a fretful soul, an extremely personal and unique experience.