If the term “iconic” is ever really appropriate for a band, then it’s a label that can certainly be attached to Carl McCoy and Fields of the Nephilim. Untroubled, and untouched, by changing musical trends and fashions they have been at the very top of the goth-rock genre for the past 25+ years, and recent evidence indicates that’s not a position they’re going to be giving up any time soon.
FotN are not a band who gig extensively, their live appearances are carefully selected, as Carl put it “It is well known that Fields of the Nephilim are very selective about where and when we perform live. There is always a greater significance underlying our shows“.
The Nephilim were one of the very first bands I ever saw live, and no one else ever had quite the same impact. There’s certainly not many other bands I’d travel all the way to Leipzig for. You can read my review of their headline set at Wave Gotik Treffen here.
“a greater significance underlying our shows” or not, Nephilim gigs in London are in danger of becoming a regular event. They last played there in October of last year with fellow veterans Gene Loves Jezebel and The Mission and now, a few days over 12 months later, they are back.
I missed the last one, no way on earth I was going to miss this one though, especially as the lovely people at management company Transcend had sorted me out with a photo pass. As it was the gig almost didn’t go ahead. At the soundcheck it was clear that Carl had no voice for a huge part of his register. A doctor visited him backstage an hour before the band were due to go on and ordered him not to perform….
It was weird walking from the tube station to the venue. As it was Halloween there were lots of people dressed up as vampires and such like, and for once the folk on their way to the gig were among the more normal looking ones 🙂
I headed into the photo pit to get set up for what would hopefully be the highlight of my nascent career as a photographer. Now the Nephilim are traditionally a difficult band to shoot as the nocturnal nature of goths usually means that the lights are low and there is enough dry ice to obscure a battleship. Well surprisingly it wasn’t like that at all tonight, you could actually see the whole stage, even Lee Newell behind his drum kit 🙂
The strains of Shroud rang out across the sold out Shepherds Bush Empire as I checked the camera settings for about the thousandth time. It’s a cliche to say the atmosphere was electric, but there is certainly something special about the whole occasion of a Nephilim gig. The rest of the band built the atmosphere before Carl came onstage to a rapturous response, and we were off with Straight To The Light.
Carl’s whole stage persona, the look, the hat, the flour have hardly altered in the 20-odd years since I first saw the Nephilim play a roller disco in Edinburgh. Still distant and with almost no interaction with either the crowd or his bandmates, and yet still absolutely captivating, holding your attention completely. His voice too has lost nothing over the years. It’s a package that various folk have tried to emulate, but still no one manages to come close.
Every single aspect of, well, everything is exactly in accordance with Carl’s vision for the band, and I don’t think there’s anyone else from this era who have stayed this true to their roots. Maybe it’s because they simply don’t release many albums or play many gigs, but they still have the same distant, slightly etherial, aura that has always set Fields Of The Nephilim apart from their peers. You can get a taste of it from the Ceromonies live DVD (recorded in this very venue in 2008) but it’s just not the same.
You HAVE to see the this band live.
One More Nightmare led into From The Fire, everything was on an upward trajectory as the atmosphere and the emotion were ramped up. Looking at the fans against the barrier some of them seemed to be almost in a trance like state, transported there by the waves of emotionally charged sound coming from the speakers.
Oh, and as I left the photo pit I broke my own self-imposed rule and took a look at the setlist…
The audience reaction, already pretty damn special, ratcheted up a notch as the intro to Love Under Will rang out, cue mobile phones being held aloft as quite a few people (rather than actually watching the show) videoed it to watch later.
<Begin grumpy old bastard> Seriously, this is getting out of hand. I want to see the band, not watch the gig on the mobile phone screen that someone is holding up in front of me.<End grumpy old bastard>
As I mentioned earlier, I had had a sneaky look at the setlist, so I knew what was coming up after Watchman. The first Nephilim track I ever heard, Harmonica Man, set the scene for the best 15 minutes of live music I have seen for… well.. AGES.
Dawnrazor remains one of my favourite albums, and judging by the sight of many a middle aged Goth losing their shit to the frankly awesome Preacher Man, I’m not alone in that. The whole place was going everso slightly mental as Fields of the Nephilim gave a masterclass in getting a whole room bouncing. Follow that up with Psychonaut and Moonchild and the place was rapidly descending into a hot, sweaty mess. It’s easy to see why the band are still so revered….. No one else does this better.
And a special bonus mention to the guy who watched this whole part of the set while standing on his mate’s shoulders. Only at a Neffs gig 🙂
The set finished with Mourning Sun, but of course an encore was demanded. Well all I can say is that as ways to finish things off go, Last Exit For The Lost isn’t a bad way to end the best gig I’ve been to in absolutely ages. Great music should be able to elicit an emotional response, and here tonight Fields Of The Nephilim did exactly that.