Legendary Pink Dots/Dead Voices on Air - Columbus OH, Little Brothers, 6/16/00
From Aural Innovations #11 (July 2000)
Perhaps it was a crazy idea, but I put off hitting the road for the NEARFest prog/geek festival in Bethlehem, PA (an eight-hour trip, each way) until after I'd hung around in Columbus long enough to catch the Dots on their latest go-around. The up-side was that by driving all night, both my car and I stayed cool and in relatively good spirits. And it was certainly worth itů the Dots didn't disappoint. The show opened with a varied 45-minute performance by Dead Voices on Air, a Vancouver act fronted by Mark Spyby (who I'm familiar with only from his appearance on the recent Neu! tribute album), and assisted by several of the Dots. It's hard to tell exactly what Spyby himself is doing with that sizeable electronic rig he's got, and furthermore determine precisely how much of what DVoA offers is truly live vs. 'sampled,' but I gather that there is a certain artistry involved in what he does to say that his was at least a 'performance.' The addition of LPD's Niels van Hoornblower (sax/flute) on virtually every number, and late in the show drummer Ryan Moore, filled out the sound and definitely boosted my level of enjoyment.
Early in the set, acoustic guitarist/singer-songwriter Aimee Lane came on to offer a couple folksy numbers, including one praising the efforts of soundman Frankie, who seems to be as much a member of the band as anyone else via manipulating echo controls and playback units during the performance. Most of the tracks were underscored by a pulsating electronic beat, often funky or hip-hoppish but a fair amount of experimentation kept things more interesting than say, rave music. "Geong G'una" had Hoornblower unveiling something I hadn't seen before, a device he called a Steiner that came across like an electronic glissando-sax. It looked rather more like he was holding a bong with wires attaching it to a separate black box that he slung from his shoulder. For "Zeehond," one final member joined the group on Theremin, adding one more voice to the weird electronic soup. Dressed in a white jumpsuit and socks covering both hands and head (he used the tip of his nose as well as his palms to alter the sound), he was the most animated creature on stage. DVoA came to an energetic conclusion with the lengthy "Sidewinder," a slower funky jam with Spyby's chant-like vocals and Hoornblower's tenor sax trading 'licks.' An appropriately peculiar set for opening a LPD show, but I didn't know what to make of some of it. Including the obligatory cowboy hats.
Just after 11 PM, the five-piece Legendary Pink Dots arrived on stage and launched into a faithful rendition of the excellent opening track "Lent" from the new album ('A Perfect Mystery'). Guitarist Martijn de Kleer effectively switched between his e-bow and standard slides, and Hoornblower kicked into one of his more animated solos of the night. Ryan Moore then came out to play bass as the band pulled out "Disturbance" from 'The Maria Dimension,' and we saw the Silverman start to get his synths and oscillators warmed up. This was the start of vocalist/keyboardist/bandleader Edward Ka-Spel's 'dreary poetic mode,' continued on then for another couple tracks - to be honest not my favorite part of the show. I was used to this show programming from last tour, and was expecting then a dynamic turnaround sometime soon. And that dutifully began with a couple tunes from 'A Perfect Mystery,' first the dark and imagery-laden "When I'm With You" and then an extended "When Lenny Meets Lorca." This one took off splendidly into space-rock territory with a touch of techno-ish flavor and also de Kleer's echoey light guitar licks. But the show's true highlight was the fabulous "Pain Bubbles," a stunning space-rock jam that saw de Kleer cranking on his Telecaster and Hoornblower taking a stroll through the audience with a lightbulb in his bell that lit up whenever he blew. After another sonic jam attached to "Evolution" closed out the show, the Dots returned for a two-track encore. De Kleer and Ka-Spel offered a subdued acoustic number, and then the rest of the band rejoined them for a smoking rendition of "Citadel," Ka-Spel contributing the synth melody and de Kleer now playing both bass and violin. Late in the number, the always sullen and black-clad Ka-Spel picked a fair maiden in the audience to address personally, asking her the obvious question on everybody's mind, "Have you meditated long enough?"
After 90 minutes, the audience of perhaps 200 (surprisingly diverse) Dotheads saw the band leave the stage and the oscillators go silent, and then headed out into the rainy night to get a cup of coffee. I, on the other hand, tried to settle down for two hours of sleep, but it wasn't working and so got up to take a shower and pack the car for my exhausting trip east to see unknown prog legends (how else to put it?) Happy the Man. This Dots' show was a perfect primer, and an excellent reminder that the best musicians don't always make the best music. It's all a matter of how you apply the talent you have.
Reviewed by Keith Henderson