Damo Suzuki's Network at The Raven, Hamilton Ontario Live Review (May 17, 2002)

From Aural Innovations #20 (July 2002)

About a hundred people were packed into the small club on Friday night to catch Damo Suzuki with American instrumental rockers Cul de Sac. There was a certain electricity in the air, as we all anticipated a performance from one of the legends of Krautrock.

Cul de Sac took to the stage first, setting a nice mood for the evening to come. Despite guitarist Glenn Jones having some apparent sound problems (it seemed he was the only one who noticed, because I could hear his melodic and creative guitar leads fine), they put on a terrific show, laying down the chops on a few older numbers, and showing off some new material as well.

The band seemed a little awkward at the start, as they ran through Nico's Dream from their debut album (this was probably mostly due to the perceived sound problems). But they grew in confidence as they set out on stirring versions of Hagstrom and Sands of Iwo Jima, both from Crashes to Light, Minutes to It's Fall.

The most astonishing track of the Cul de Sac set though, was Dust of Butterflies, from their forthcoming album Death of the Sun. It was a deliciously moody journey through a rural American landscape of windblown fields, old fences, decaying barns, and crows, and showed off the two new band members' contributions much better than the earlier pieces. Jonathon LaMaster's evocative violin playing and Jake Trussell's melodica and effects helped to make this the highlight of the Cul de Sac set.

But that was only the beginning. The evening truly caught fire when Damo, with all the energy of that same 20 year old who jumped to the stage with Can for the first time in Munich all those years ago, hit the stage this time and joined Cul de Sac. I have to say I was blown away, not just by Damo, but by Cul de Sac as well. In a live, improvisational setting, they truly smoked. It seemed to be a perfect match, Damo and Cul de Sac; you would have thought they'd been playing together for years.

Damo improvised all his vocals, in a wild stream of consciousness full of passion and vigour. From the searing funk of the first unnamed piece, with its sequences of bell peels and flippy electronics courtesy of Robin Amos to the wonky but blazing third piece, with its amazing chaotic rhythms and slow, moody finish, to the final freaked out psychedelic rocker, the band was completely on that night. At the end of the five number set, Damo leaped gleefully off the stage. In love with his enthusiastic audience, the diminutive singer ran around the club, hugging every single person there!

After that, he bolted back up onto the stage, and the band did an encore, this one an upbeat, trancey number. Jon Proudman's drumming was particularly amazing on this piece, and he honestly seemed to be in a trance himself, one with his drums throughout. One of the things I really liked was the break in conventional structure that the band displayed on many of the pieces they performed, in which they would start out fast and furious, and "build" to a slow, almost meditative conclusion. This last piece was no exception, finishing off with a languid, flowing rhythms and Jonathon LaMaster's beautiful violin playing.

Throughout the concert, Steve Lindsay and Eric Seigerman of General Chaos provided an excellent psychedelic light show, with whirling liquid colors and shimmering effects that added a lot to the wonderful feel of the evening.

All in all, and I mean it when I say this, it was one of the best damn live shows I've ever seen! And the audience's enthusiasm for the performance told me I was not alone in that feeling.

Reviewed by Jeff Fitzgerald

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