SWANS: THE PHOENIX, 02/20/2015

Swans are loud! Not those swans…I mean SWANS! The veteran New York City noise rockers laid waste to a mesmerized and probably hearing damaged audience Friday night at The Phoenix. Since founder Michael Gira brought Swans back to life five years ago with a new and old cast of characters by his side, the band have been on a creative hot streak. Their two post-reunion studio albums (2012’s The Seer and last year’s To Be Kind) have been met with much critical acclaim and their live shows have taken on a legend all their own.

Just as they did at Yonge and Dundas Square back in June of last year, the show opened with the sprawling new song “Frankie M.” This epic number began with a good ten minutes of nothing but rolling cymbal crashes courtesy of the equally epic looking Viking percussionist Thor Harris and drummer Phil Puleo. One by one, each member came on stage until only Gira was left to enter and once he did we were taken on an over thirty minute ride with “Frankie M” and his tales of opium, heroin and methadrine.
After the final notes of the opener faded and we all came to terms with our on-set PTSD, what followed was the groovy bassline of “A Little God in My Hands,” which allowed Thor a chance to break out his trombone for some added cacophony while Gira flailed his arms and began slapping himself in the face; as if he was in a state of lunacy. This track allowed the rhythm section of bass player Christopher Pravdica and drummer Puleo to lock in and stretch their muscles while a helpless Sherbourne Avenue ran for cover!

New material was offered up as well and it certainly whet the appetite for a new record. Two new songs were played, the first of these being the slow burn of “The Cloud of Unknowing” with Gira taking the role of a Buddhist monk and chanting rather than singing. “I Forget” was a more low-key affair with its moody guitar whines fashioned by Norman Westberg and Christoph Hahn’s lap steel.

As has been the case for the last years worth of touring, Swans capped off a memorable evening with the menacing finale of Bring The Sun / Black Hole Man, after which the room had nothing left to give. 

The concert calendar is a crowded one and there are numerous artists vying for your attention and dollar…but only one band will give you this live experience!

- Johnny Hooper