The tube strike rages through London but apparently does little to deter the line snaking around Camden's KOKO for modern rock duo Blackfield, returning to the capital after three years. Despite now wholly being a project of Israeli singer Aviv Geffen after co-founder Stephen Wilson relinquished his position due to a lack of time, Wilson will be at this performance although this is likely to be his last tour with Blackfield.
Formed in 2000 and with two albums and a gaggle of EPs to their name, opening act The Red Paintings certainly make an impression. Although usually a four-piece, the line up is stripped down to just two members for a special acoustic performance, their only show supporting Blackfield before headlining dates around Europe. Dressed in a motley array of varying clothing styles, violinist Alix Kol and guitarist Trash McSweeny proceed to play music that avoids committing to any precise genre. The violin hints at folk and orchestral sounds while the acoustic guitar bounces unusually under McSweeny's unconventional vocals. Another curiosity is the presence of an alien who takes the stage after the second song and spends the rest of the set painting a picture of a polar bear holding a tiny glacier while crying a tear presumably made of blood.
The audience reaction is encouraging for such an unusual band. Despite the eccentric nature of the music and outfits, McSweeny's stage banter hints at a sense of nervousness, possibly due to being corrected after stating "We're from a far away planet called Pluto," before a punter exclaims "Pluto isn't a planet!" Nonetheless weaving between art, theatre and music is handled intriguingly and with a sound unlike any other band, The Red Paintings certainly deserve investigation for their curious creativity.
Opening with the lovesick 'Miss U', Blackfield grace the stage with mainmen Aviv Geffen and Steven Wilson clutching their guitars at the front. The sound of the KOKO is uncharacteristically clear with each note and word enunciated perfectly. Dancing between a mix of genres including pop, progressive rock, indie, post rock and alternative rock and classical, the English-Israeli collaboration soothe the audience with their multi-textured music.
Unusually, last year's album 'Blackfield IV' is the release from which the least number of songs come from, with just 'Faking', 'Jupiter' and 'Pills' making the cut. Presumably, this is due to Wilson's reduced role on the release. The focus of the evening is on the first two Blackfield albums. These earlier songs such as the uplifting 'Some Day', the miserable 'Pain' and the lonely 'Summer' attain the strongest audience reactions with noticeable portions of the audience singing every word. 'Welcome to My DNA' is represented with 'Dissolving with the Night', 'DNA', 'Go To Hell' and 'Oxygen'. The musicians are clearly emotionally invested in the music and this shows in their passionate performance.
With each of Blackfield's songs being fairly short, it feels like the set passes too quickly. Jokingly, Wilson quips "We've played seventeen songs so far. If this was with my other band, we'd only be starting the second one right now." After 'Hello', the band vacates the stage and returns for their three song encore: 'Glow', 'End of the World' and well-suited closer 'Cloudy Now'. The applause is deservedly dramatic as the band leaves an outstanding performance that was incredibly close to perfection. Blackfield without Stephen Wilson live will undeniably be different but the quality of their music remains formidable on the last album and it is very possible that live shows without him will have the potential to remain be awe-inspiring