The Garage is an all standing venue, holding about 700 when full, and I'd hazard a guess that tonight's crowd was somewhere between 350 and 400, so everyone had ample room to nod vigorously and jig from foot to foot, or in the case of the girl next to me, drink a lot and occasionally flail her arms about like a dysfunctional windmill.
At 8pm, Mikael and Thomas enter from stage right as we look, Mikael taking up his position over on the far side of the compact but not restrictive stage and Thomas installing himself behind his keyboards. They gently glide into Monument and are joined by the rest of the band bar Jan-Henrik and we are off into what will be a musical journey of over two hours, collectively celebrating splendid isolation, if such a thing is possible. As Monument ends singer Jan-Henrik enters to rousing cheers and the band launch into the anthemic Hell Freezes Over, here presented as one piece of music, as it was originally recorded.
March Of Ghosts album Jan-Henrik told us with a smile and more than once that it was on sale at the merch stall just in case we hadn't already got it, which judging by the kind of audience that goes to these kind of gigs would be somewhat unlikely.
As a late-comer to this splendid band, anything prior to the Missa Atropos album is unknown territory to me, and I can safely say that all the earlier songs are well worth a listen and show the group's stately progress to the vast cinematic vistas of March Of Ghosts. After a selection from Missa Atropos and The Walk Parts I & II, we go back to March Of Ghosts for a trio of songs culminating in what for me is the album highlight, the atramentous mirror that is Black Lily, the kind of song that could only be written in a land that spends a fair proportion of the year in a state of permanent night.
Thomas on his keyboards, the trailing leg of the "R" of Roland painted out to reveal a Poland piano (arf) and Jon-Arne on guitar create the deep soundscapes for Mikael to embellish on violin, mandolin, and occasional second guitar. Holding this down is the rock solid rhythm section of Lars on the drums and Viking warrior Kristian on his mighty bass, a thing that could anchor a deep sea trawler such was its strength.
The set ends with a triumphant Winter Is Never from Tick Tock but you know there's more to come and the encore serves up Splendid Isolation and, no doubt a surprise for the long time fans, the title track from their first album Bravo, which reveals a far more more rootsy sound that intrigues this newbie no end, Mikael's violin to the fore.
An uplifting and truly wonderful gig, which no doubt will be in my Best Of for 2012 along with March Of Ghosts. Come back soon guys!
"So go on, on your way now, but know you're not alone"
Hell Freezes Over I to IV
The Walk, Parts I & II
The Walk, Parts I & II
Mass for Atropos II
What Did I Do?
Dream of Stone
Chequered Light Buildings
Winter Is Never