DEATH SHANTIES @ SOWERBY BRIDGE PUZZLE HALL, Tuesday 5th February 2013
Tonight, it struck me that I have never seen free jazz performed live before. It hit me right between the eyes.
I’ve seen Alex Neilson live before, of course. In fact, I’d question a lover of underground music who hasn’t
seen Alex Neilson live in some form before. Tonight, however, I saw a whole other side to him. He was hitting
bells, gongs, chains whilst drumming like a man possessed by voodoo beasts. Oh, and while doing this, he also
managed to play a theremin with his face. Fuck me, it was one of those nights. Was this really a Tuesday in a
tiny real ale pub in a small West Yorkshire town? It sure as shit didn’t feel like one while they were playing..
Alex’s playmates in Death Shanties were Dutch sax player Sybren Renema and artist Lucy Stein. Sybren Renema
played it hard and wild. No indulgence, no fucking around, just right in there on the moment. Only the other week
I had an argument with a friend about shows that provide a visual element after describing this set-up to him.
Tonight I got all the evidence I needed to demolish his points. Lucy painted across Alex and Sybren using an
overhead projector but there was more to it than that. She was clearly feeding off the music. Her brush strokes were
in perfect synchronisation with Alex’s drum explorations. Was Lucy painting like a drummer or was Alex drumming
like a painter? I think they met each other half way in an explosion of rhythm and colour. Add to that the fact that the
Puzzle Hall know how to keep their beer and it was my idea of heaven.
I had never seen any free jazz performed live before. Tonight rammed home what a terrible oversight I have made.
Death Shanties have to be seen.