March 8, 2011
Twenty four years later
What goes through your head when you're playing music this intense live?
At the best moments, nothing.
-- Michael Gira, interviewed last month.
Swans? Yes it was epic. All that stuff Michael Gira has said for years about rock music’s potential for transcendence, the white-light annihilation of the ego as both pleasurable and terrifying – they got all that out of the way in the first ten minutes and went on from there. You were pulverised, hollowed-out, elated; time among other things was destroyed (Jonathan Lethem). It lasts forever and you don’t want it to stop. When it does stop, you come to in the same room you walked into three hours earlier, but it feels like three days. If the mystical rhetoric sounds pretentious, there’s no other way to talk about what they’re up to: once you’re empty of thought, emotion, even a history, and you are ready to be filled up with something new (“the new mind”), Gira does his mock-preacher routine in “Sex God Sex”, calling loudly for a miraculous intervention – “Jesus Christ, come down now … ” – but nothing ever appears, night after night. What if you could simulate transcendent experiences but they were devoid of their traditional meanings? Would it be a good or a bad thing? Maybe that’s what it’s about. Transcendent nihilism, or something like that.
They also played "I Crawled". They were slow, loud, deep. They had two drummers. One of them was called Thor, a fact I'll forgive in this case.
Some people with better phones than mine have already put some clips on YouTube.
Pictured above: a lousy mobile phone shot of Gira in cowboy hat, drinking a beer in the Power Station’s signing area (like a fanboy, I bought a T-shirt and a ltd ed tour CD -- #133 of however many copies). Moments earlier, there had been an illuminating exchange. After 24 years, I finally had my chance to speak to the great man. In full, it went:
Me: Is there going to be a live album of this material?
Gira: Yes, and a DVD.
Below, Auckland Airport, yesterday: always something there to remind me.