Live Review: Blues Pills + Kadaver + Support: Stray Train – VoxHall – 04.10.2016
Photo by Øjvind Fritjof Arnfred
Tuesday night at Voxhall was like the United Nations of Rock and Roll. It brought us three hard rocking acts from three different countries: Stray Train hails from Slovenia, Kadavar is German, and The Blues Pills has Swedish roots.
Doors were at 19:00 and Stray Train came on around 19:30. The aesthetic of their backdrop was clearly drawing on bands like The Grateful Dead and Quicksilver Messenger Service, and along with the sh** ton of amps that was piled up behind them because of the two acts to follow, it made the venue seem like it could’ve been in the shadiest part of Disneyland.
Now, while the backdrop might have been inspired by the San Fransisco hippie-scene, the music was much more of L.A. origins. Thundering away from the first chord, the band launched in to what, unfortunately, sounded like another day at the office for them. Or rather, another day in the rehearsal bunker. Adjectives like groovy, melodic, riff-driven are pretty descriptive for this band, but I bet you’ve heard those a gazillion times when those four friends of yours in high school were talking about the music their band played.
Stray Train did what they could with what they had. Especially the rhythm guitarist, that looked like Gimli’s evil twin, had some interesting ventures going on in his sparse solos. The rest seemed much too rehearsed, and the band’s general fanboy-ness was much too much in the foreground. It would be nice to see them again at a later time, when they have grown a bit musically and are resting more in themselves on stage.
Next up was the German stoners Kadavar. They were co-headlining with Blues Pills, and a lot of people (a good deal of which were clearly Black Sabbath nostalgics) had bought their ticket just to see them. Although “see” might be a strong word in this connection, when one is talking about a band that looked like it was made by the three cousins of Cousin Itt. Sounded like it a bit too – in the sense that they might as well have sung in German since their lyrics were completely inaudible.
Before their set began the room resonated with a long droning bassy tone rattling the walls of the venue, like there was a helicopter circling above. Then the three thin wizardmen took the stage, with bass, drums and guitar/vox on one straight frontline, and set off in to the most powerful, self confident rock and roll I’ve heard in a long time! Their only ‘gimmick’ were two windmachines on the drummer – we’ll call him Odin for now – who was bashing away with an everlasting energy throughout. And it worked.
They did have a gear-issue with a stagehand that had tuned a guitar wrongly for “Last Living Dinosaur,” and then with the bass amp, but they handled all of it well, and I actually think it gave them a bit more personality and created a good relation to the audience. Sometimes a fuckup is a gift, and these definitely were: They gave the show personality, and made it clear that these guys enjoyed doing what they did, as they were smiling away under all the hair, chatting to the audience.
Beacuse of the technical problems, they changed the setlist and launched in to “Living In Your Head” before they had everything ready to tackle “Last Living Dinosaur” – which they then did magnificently, driving it home like ice road truckers!
They ended their show with covering The Beatles’ Helter Skelter, all the way down to Ringo’s exclamation of: “I got blisters on my fingers!” at the end. Thus revealing themselves as fanboys, but at the same time paying an unexpected tribute, which is A-OK in my book. Besides, they probably did have blisters by then.
Coming last is always a bit of an issue for rock bands. It’s normally the slot that everybody wants, because then people will have been drinking and getting in the mood for a bit beforehand. But this was a Tuesday night, and two high-octane bands had already been going at it for quite a while.
Having said that, the band kicked it off awesomely with the first two tracks from their new album, Lady in Gold, Little Boy Preacher and the title track, sporting the powerful vocals of Elin Larsson. Larsson completely stole the show with her energic performance and proved that 46 years after the death of Janis Joplin women are still strong in Rock.
Behind her was a tight band that unfortunately didn’t come off as energic as their albums had suggested to me beforehand. They all kept mostly to themselves, and although they were tight as a camel’s ass in a sandstorm, the fact that everybody seemed in his own zone made Larsson’s performance even more of an achievement. A bit of interaction between the guys would’ve done wonders for the general impression.
They had constructed their show with many tracks of the new album, and proved that they’ve grown in their genre since the first album. A song like “You Gotta Try” had a strong shuffle in it, putting the drums in the foreground for a bit, which was nice amidst all the guitar. However, ‘constructed’ is not always a positive thing. Especially not with a rock band whose music is so closely connected to the free spirited 60’s both in tonality and lyrics.
A new round of technical issues with the bass, wasn’t handled quite as laid back as Kadavar, and this break took a bit away from their ongoing cavalcade of acid fueled, riff driven songs. The band then proceeded with Devil Man, the lyrics of which were declared by Larsson as if she was preaching in a deep southern baptist church. Strong stuff that demonstrated how they had the audience with them still, in spite of the akward pause.
When they left the stage, to create anticipation for the obligatory encore, audience members also started leaving – maybe because of work in the morning, maybe because of the tech issues. This didn’t stop the band from coming back and delivering two encores – bit much on a Tuesday with half the audience gone.
Again, the rehearsedness of it all was slightly annoying. I also hope to get a chance to see these guys again in the future, when they’ve developed a stronger feel for the room and freed themselves a bit from the rehearsed structures.
True, Rock and Roll has it’s conventions and rules, but that should only make breaking them more fun (and needed!). Otherwise, the once rebellious genre gets stuck as the most conservative of them all.
A Tuesday night were a few technical problems, and the fact that it was a Tuesday night, made it difficult for the three bands to deliver their best. Especially Kadaver did a really good job, though!