If any musician sought to add credence to Heraclitus' philosophy that everything changes and nothing remains still, then Michael Gira is one such man. A little over five years after reforming Swans from a 12-year absence, Gira has spearheaded a band that could barely fill half of the Concorde 2 on Brighton's seafront back in late 2010, to one that now all but sold out London's Roundhouse (housing around 1,700 audience members) in their largest ever UK headline show.
For all his past demons and addictions, Gira now uses these very demons and his addictive personality to exert a kind of dictatorial leadership over his band. With it, he channels an almost hypnotic wall of sound that evolves throughout every live performance, where each song's journey is masterminded by the bands' führer; this performance was no exception.
Gira evokes Heraclitus even more dramatically, utilising the belief that "You cannot step twice into the same stream." Not only have Swans removed all of their classic songs from their set, they once again proved that there is room for the likes of the seminal tracks 'I Crawled' and 'The Final Sacrifice' from a two-and-a-half hour set that includes just six songs ('Frankie M'; 'A Little God In My Hands'; 'The Cloud Of Unknowing'; 'Just A Little Boy (For Chester Burnett)'; 'I Forget'; 'Bring the Sun / Black Hole Man'), all from the reformation period and all shaped by Gira.
This is a feat that is rarely accomplished in an era where nostalgia is often deemed king. Swans just don't play by these sets of rules; they create a new standard for themselves, which all reformed acts should be judged by.
Make sure you check out their latest album To Be Kind here.
Words: Dimas Bian
Image source: Benoise.com