Imagine that a group of pagan priests knew all the right spells, got hold of some electronic equipment and assembled a starship powered by dreams and magic. That image came to me Wednesday night as I saw the Legendary Pink Dots in concert for the third time.
I always get the feeling I’m seeing a mystical event rather than a mere concert when I see the Dots play. Obviously the material has something to do with it, with its dreamlike mix of symbols, philosophy and dark humor, accompanied by electronic beats and washes of sound. There’s also something hypnotic about the way singer Edward Ka Spel, dressed in his robe and scarf, moves his hands. I get the feeling I’m watching a shaman perform a ritual.
The Dots played in a club on Red River called Elysium. A good club for a band like the Dots, the Elysium tends to host bands of the darker variety – goth, industrial and the like.
I wondered what they would be like with the new lineup. Short answer: They’ve still got it. Erik Drost, LPD guitarist from 2003 to 2006 is back in the band, coaxing pleasant screams out of his instrument. I definitely missed woodwind specialist Niels Van Hoorn’s zany presence, but without him you could really see how closely Ka Spel and Phil “The Sillverman” Knight work together. Silverman with his massive table of electronics, queuing up notes, rhythms and textures; Ka Spel with his smaller table, producing melodies and sound effects as he sings. All finely coordinated. Ka Spel pilots the starship, while Silverman operates its powerful engine, or maybe it’s the other way around?
I started out jotting down the setlist on my cellphone, but gave up pretty quickly and just let the music wash over me. The band has such an extensive back catalog that even if you’ve been a fan for years they can play a song you’d swear was new that turns out to be something old you just haven’t heard yet. I can tell you they had a satisfying mix of old favorites and songs off their latest, Seconds Late for the Brighton Line.
They opened with “The Unlikely Event” from All the King’s Horses, followed by “Third Secret” from The Maria Dimension, “Rainbows Too” from Plutonium Blonde, a really cool spoken word that might’ve been “God and Machines” from the new album, then “Russian Roulette,” the first song on the new album. Followed by lots and lots of great music, including many of my favorites. The encore featured a kickass version of “Birdie” from All the King’s Horses. About two hours of music altogether.
Just one sour note. A guy with long blond hair and a tank top who was either crazy or on drugs or both had to be escorted out by the bouncer. He kept shouting out nonsense at the band. Funny at first, then annoying. Then waving his arms in people’s faces. Finally a guy on the front row slipped out through the crowd, and pretty soon a big biker looking dude went over and dealt with crazy dude. After that no more distractions, which was awesome. I feel like I owe front row guy a beer for fetching the bouncer. The show certainly did get better after that.
The music was enhanced by the trippy film and slide collage from Lori “Surfer” Varga and her trusty assistant Eric. I’ve met her before – used to watch her film presentations at the Cathedral of Junk. I got her number and plan to interview her in the near future.
Note: Always take at least $20 or $40 to any LPD concert so you can take advantage of their amazingly well-stocked merch table. You’ll be kicking yourself later on if you don’t. You’re liable to find out that rare live album you were eying is impossible to find, or impossible to find without paying a premium to somebody on eBay.
I got the T-shirt with the Roulette design from the tour. Black of course. Almost got Ka Spel’s latest solo effort, The Minus Touch, but wound up getting the tour-only release by Ka Spel and The Silverman, The Thirty Year Itch. I’ve given that a few spins already and it’s quite good. Two long tracks. The first is a triptych on the subject of loneliness — a one night stand that didn’t happen, adrift at sea; and a monologue by an astronaut adrift in outer space followed by a “creation story” about the Big Bang; the second is a long experimental soundscape. Nice addition to my growing Dots-and-related collection.
I’ve been a huge Legendary Pink Dots fan for many years. I posted a sort of Dots 101 about the group a while back. There are several YouTube videos in case you haven’t heard their music. I also posted a list of tour dates here. The North American tour is winding down, but you’re in luck if you live on the West Coast. Quite a few California dates left, plus one in Oregon.
And send a little love their way if you can. They create their wonderful, thoughtful music and tour the world on a shoestring budget. LPD music and apparel can be found on the ROIR website.