The Wands

support The Love Coffin
author BV date 19/12/14 venue Loppen, Copenhagen, DEN

The last gig of the year – a bittersweet mixture of relief, excitement and, well, perhaps a bit of anxiety depending on how accustomed one is to going to gigs. For me, at least, this is the same process I go through every year as I am probably burned out on gigs and could use some of my nights on something a tad different to once again find that unstoppable enthusiasm it requires to constantly challenge oneself with new musical experiences. This last gig of the year, however, was one I had looked forward to for quite a while. Having grown quite fond of The Wands – so much so that I have named their debut album “The Dawn” one of the best albums of the year - it was only natural for me to once more find myself in the cozy confines of Loppen to witness the band end their massive European tour with this final stop.

All photos courtesy of Philip B. Hansen & Jacob Hansen

The Love Coffin

My enthusiasm did falter a bit to begin with however, as the support act, The Love Coffin, took the stage roughly 20 minutes later than what had been announced – frustrating both myself and others, it would seem. As their set took off, the sound quite quickly identified itself with the other bands from which the various members are derived. As such, the band was quite reminiscent of the excellent-but-defunct The Road to Suicide as well as other bands like Balloon Magic and Frontal Ghosts. The sound was drenched in enormous cascades of reverb and made frequent use of feedback squeals to complement the tortured and shrill screams of the vocalist. It was quite a peculiar juxtaposition of musical trends as the instrumental soundscape carried itself in a particularly grandiose manner, often sounding distinctly massive while the vocal work brought it all right down to earth again with a particularly lo-fi sound carried mostly by indecipherable howls, screams and moaning. The faster songs of their repertoire seemed to have select portions of the crowd actively engaged in dancing and nods of approval, whilst others merely retreated to less-crowded areas of the venue or the bar. Their set carried itself as a selection of hit and miss songs where some would sound haunting and evocative whilst others would fall plainly to the ground. Their final track of the night started out as the former – utilizing cascades of mildly distorted reverb-guitars and a pounding drumbeat only to then descend into a forgettable, lengthy jam which once more gave plenty of room for the howls and tortured screams that could be so amazing in moderation but were used to such an extent that I found them utterly unnecessary. As such, the end of their set perfectly showcased the duality of their set and the inconsistency that yet haunts them. At some point they will probably be quite the live act if they drive out the weaker points of their set and craft more songs of the evocative manner.

The Wands

Due to the aforementioned delays and further ones introduced during the changeover, it seemed that The Wands would take the stage nearly 45 minutes later than announced; resulting in the loss of my accompanying photographer as he had other places to work as well, thus leaving me to procure photos of The Wands elsewhere. Many of these issues, however frustrating at the time, seemed trivial as The Wands took the stage and opened with a blistering version of “And Full of Colours” which kicked the set off in a high-paced, energy-laced manner. Following up on it immediately with “The Sound of The Machine”, the opening track of their debut album, the crowd seemed highly engaged – signifying that this new album of theirs has perhaps garnered them the following that a live act of their caliber deserves. Having undergone a few changes since I last saw them live, it was a pure pleasure to see the band actively incorporating the organ which is ever-present on their album into the soundscape – something I had wondered how they would go about doing. Depending on the track at hand, the organ would be manned by Christian Skibdal, Mads Gräs or the band’s percussionist, whose name eludes me at this point, showcasing a flair for multi-instrumentalism as well – thus bringing a refreshing energy on to the stage with them by constantly changing roles in between songs.

By introducing “Hello I Know The Blow You Grow Is Magic”, The Wands veered off into psychedelic freak-out territory fuelled by lengthy, echoing guitar solos and strange lyrics like; “Dive into the air to see if you can fly / if you fall to the ground, walk into the light”. This mid-set freak-out proved just right for the dynamics of the show as their inevitable return to shorter tracks like the upbeat “Circles” or the introspective, entrancing “Spell My Name” proved much more effective and, in some sense, seemed needed after such a lengthy, mind-warping jam. As The Wands initiated what is possibly my favorite track of theirs, “The Door”, it was entirely evident that a tour with 30 or so stops on the way will inevitably yield a tight, cohesive band as a result or break them in the process – fortunately resulting in the former as the bluesy guitar-riffs from Mads Gräs rang crisply through the darkened space at Loppen, constantly underlining the characteristic vocals of Christian Skibdal, whilst their rhythm section insistently drove the group forward so as to never lose sight of melody in favor of freak-outs.

Ending the main part of their set with the epic album closer “The Name of the Mountain”, I saw more than a few people drifting off mentally, becoming fully enveloped in the sounds of The Wands whilst others had, quite surprisingly, learned the lyrics to such an extent that they would sing along to this track, as well as many of the previous ones. After leaving the stage for what seemed like seconds, the band enthusiastically returned to the stage for their encore and final track of the night, the ambient and slowly building “No One Around”. It was excellent to see that The Wands live fully up to the grandeur of their debut album in the live setting, resulting in my determination to see them again at the very earliest convenience.

9

Setlist:

  • 1. And Full of Colours
  • 2. The Sound of the Machine
  • 3. Get it Out of Your System (Don’t You Wanna Feel Alright)
  • 4. She’s Electric
  • 5. War
  • 6. Hello I Know the Blow You Grow is Magic
  • 7. Circles
  • 8. Spell My Name
  • 9. The Dawn
  • 10. The Door
  • 11. The Name of the Mountain
  • --Encore--
  • 12. No One Around

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