Gold

support Christian Hede
author AP date 29/10/19 venue Ideal Bar, Copenhagen, DEN

I thought it was a masterstroke by the promoter to book Gold for a concert in such intimate confines as VEGA’s Ideal Bar — after all, only a couple of months earlier the band had drawn a queue that stretched around the block at Roadburn, with no room to fit them all into the 700-capacity Het Patronaat venue. But the wave of hype that has washed over the Dutch six-piece during the last couple of years is yet to arrive in Denmark, it would seem; when I arrive half an hour after the doors have opened, there are only two other people in the room, one of whom is the hastily booked support act Christian Hede. He tells me that the promoter is expecting a very quiet evening, which, of course, is always a bit demoralising both for the artists and the people who have seen the light (so to speak), and are here to be amazed.

All photos courtesy of Peter Troest


Christian Hede

Christian Hede was apparently in Århus when he received a call from the promoter, asking if he would be ready to play a handful of songs to warm up the ‘crowd’ tonight. “I was called up this afternoon… but they had called 11 others first. So I guess that makes me the 12th best support band in Copenhagen!”, he jokes, before playing one of his brand new solo tracks. It has that lonesome cowboy feel that actually fits an almost empty venue perfectly — sort of like the entertainment at some forgotten dive bar on the roadside in Texas. It might sound like I am searching with tooth and nail for positive things to write about a performance witnessed by 10 or 15 people at the very most, but the truth is that there is a certain allure about being able to hear every pick stroke and every click on Hede’s pedal board as he unloads his music unto us. What makes the former Pet the Preacher frontman even more charming to watch live is how present he seems even in front of such a poor turnout. He has a lot of dry humour to offer in between the songs, and each one of them is preceded by a short anecdote about the inspiration underlying, such as how one’s birthplace or home affects one’s musical style just before the even newer “Guerillakrig” is aired. Although Hede is here in a solo capacity tonight (and with a new moniker instead of Bellhound Choir), earlier in the evening he told me that he would normally play with a full band, and it is easy to imagine how both of these songs might sound even more evocative with additional instrumental layers. On the other hand, the stripped down format really brings out the poesy of Hede’s lyricism in the likes of “Slow Pain”, with his voice as the sole instrument alongside slide guitar creating an incredibly melancholic atmosphere. No one dares speak until “Vil i alle dø” has brought the short set to a conclusion, but when it does eventually fade out and applause erupts, you could be forgiven for thinking there are many more people at Ideal Bar than really is the case. I would love to have heard a longer set from this talented musician, but I guess there is only so much you can do on such short notice.

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Gold

A handful of more people have trickled in by the time the lights dim and the six musicians that comprise Gold stride onto the stage, but it would still be a stretch to call this turnout a crowd. But the Dutchmen move quickly to shame me for my skepticism, delivering their droning first song “Wide-Eyed” off their latest album “Why Aren’t You Laughing?” as though the venue was brimming with diehard fans. Vocalist Milena Eva masters the art of both looking right at us and through our thin ranks at the same time, which creates the impression that she is completely lost in the music and not really interested in the slightest in who or how many people care about it. And when the excellent “He Is Not” is aired afterward, the three guitarists (Jaka Bolič, Kamiel Top & Thomas Sciarone) as well as bassist Leyla Overdulve also signal that they are going to be sparing no energy in ensuring that we in attendance are given our money’s worth. When the somewhat older “Summer Thunder” (from the group’s 2017 album “Optimist”) hits its intense climax and the tremolo melodies whine like sirens, it honestly looks like some of them are having seizures, applying pick to string with a freneticism seldom seen even in the black metal genre. I must admit: I am genuinely surprised by the professionalism with which Gold approach and tackle what must be a frustrating night.

Having listened to the aforementioned “Why Aren’t You Laughing?” countless times since that legendary Roadburn concert, I had forgotten how different this band actually sounds in the live setting. Whereas the record is produced to favour the lighter, ethereal facets of Gold’s sound, on stage the likes of “Old Habits” (off 2015’s “No Image”) and especially the standout “Taken by Storm” unleash walls of sound that probably turn some heads in the two main halls of VEGA, where other shows are taking place simultaneously. On any other night, it would be vice versa, with bass and drums cutting through and disturbing the proceedings at Ideal Bar — but like so many other things, Gold manage to turn things upside down. To this day, I have never heard another band so adept at painting such stark contrasts as this Rotterdam-based outfit, with Eva’s angelic singing intertwining seamlessly with an instrumental foundation that is not only heavy, but also almost unbearably tense. It just works.

Yet it is not only by virtue of their music that Gold create intrigue — it is also showmanship. Eva puts on a customarily expressive performance, often shutting her eyes when her falsetto parts reach the highest notes in songs like “You Too Must Die” and the harrowing “Please Tell Me You’re Not the Future”, and lapsing into a witchy dance during some of the instrumental passages. As a unique selling point, she also wears a custom designed outfit which seems to morph into something new with each passing song. This is the second time I have witnessed said outfit, and yet it is still impossible to describe exactly what happens and how it happens — but these wardrobe transformations certainly add an element of mystique to a band whose music is already pretty elusive (as the turnout also shows, to an extent). It is hard to take your eyes off Eva, but once you muster up the strength to do so, you notice how impassioned the rest of the band is on stage as well. Everyone, including drummer Igor Wouters, is playing like there’s now tomorrow, like this is the best show on the tour so far. And if they are able to do that in front of 20, maybe 30 people all throughout a 13-song setlist, then try to imagine what some of their bigger and more populous concerts are like. Once “Truly, Truly Disappointed” brings the proceedings to a conclusion then, I think all of us are feeling exactly the opposite, and I hope that the dedication of the few has encouraged Gold to return to Danish soil in the near future — hopefully to play to a much bigger crowd.

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Setlist:

  • 01. Wide-Eyed
  • 02. He Is Not
  • 03. Things I Wish I Never Knew
  • 04. Summer Thunder
  • 05. Old Habits
  • 06. I Do My Own Stunts
  • 07. Taken by Storm
  • 08. Please Tell Me You’re Not the Future
  • 09. You Too Must Die
  • 10. O.D.I.R.
  • 11. Till Death Do Us Part
  • 12. Mounting into Bitterness
  • 13. Truly, Truly Disappointed

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