Live Review: Saint Vitus

Saint Vitus
The Underworld, Camden, London

(Photo: whenwedie)

Saint Vitus, to people in “the know”, are the quintessential doom metal band second only to say, Black Sabbath?! Due to record company issues, band issues and line up changes, not to mention the booze and the drugs (OOOOH THE DRUGS!), this band really shouldn’t be around today. The fact that they are here, relatively coherent and have been touring the states and Europe since 2009 is as close to a miracle as some people will ever see. As a die hard, there is always a nervous anticipation that comes with a Saint Vitus gig. There is always an air of potential disaster when Saint Vitus play. The woes are always eased when Vitus finally show up in one piece if not a little late and a little buzzed.

Tonight, we receive what some may claim to be a collectors set. Opening with the obscure classics ‘Clear Windowpane’, ‘White Magic / Black Magic’ and ‘Shooting Gallery’ comes from out of left field but this change in usual set list is most defiantly welcomed by the doom freaks in attendance. Saint Vitus looks like they have found the love for their music and each other again…kinda. You could almost, if not a few grey hairs, be back in LA during the late 80’s watching these dudes. Wino, who commands vocal duties like a wild-eyed acid casualty, wails like no other. His vocals, albeit a little muffled by the underworld PA, were spot on whilst a maniacal Dave Chandler solo’d into oblivion occasionally preferring his teeth to his fingers.

Vitus plough though ‘Look Behind You’ ‘H.A.A.G’ and the amazing ‘White Stallions’ before the unthinkable happens…..we get hit with a new song. That’s right, a new song……from Saint Vitus. I have a built-in pessimist reflex, so my immediate reaction is to think “cashing in on this doom revival and releasing another album… It’ll never match up to the original stuff”. Oh how wrong I was. ‘Blessed Night’ has the same demonic Vitus sound of old but with added groove and most of all, it is fresh and relevant. Weird for a band that pride themselves on being born too late.

Having sung their praises for this review the songs were not all played without fault. Sure it’s loose as fuck and the band come in to early on a few occasions but who gives a fuck? It’s Saint Vitus! Personally, I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s the drunk and dosed up unpredictability of a Saint Vitus show that makes it what it is. Exhibit A; Dave Chandler leaving the stage to solo up close and personal to the people down the front of the stage as bassist Mark Adams and drummer Henry Vasquez dish out cold can of beer to anybody wanting one (which is everybody) before the band reconvene on stage for an encore of ‘Living Backwards’, ‘Dying inside’,’ ‘I Bleed Black’.

A second encore is the final one. Vitus finish off on perhaps their biggest tune, ‘Born Too Late’, an anthem for all in attendance and an especially poignant moment as Dave Chandler dedicates the song to recently lost Vitus drummer Armando Acosta. With a new record on the way and there now two years almost spent touring Europe and the US, it would appear that we are all witnessing the resurrection of this pioneering doom metal band. Against all odds, Saint Vitus lives!

Tom Lindsey

Les Savy Fav – Live

Les Savy Fav
London Electric Ballroom

Photo: Chico Hooke

Well, better late than never. Les Savy Fav have been visiting our shores for at least a decade, but it is only tonight – after previously missing out for various reasons – that I will finally clap eyes on the gloriously unhinged NYC art-rockers. Their shows – and in particular, the actions of vocalist Tim Harrington – are fast becoming the stuff of legend, but as far as LSF are concerned, it’s best to expect the unexpected.

I thought The Bronx were a crazy bunch, but they have nothing on these guys. There aren’t many bands around whose singer would start their set by dressing in pyjamas and pretending to doze off on a table placed in the centre of the stage. Said table gives way just as Harrington’s bandmates arrive, and all hell breaks loose in the crowd as they rip into ‘Excess Energies’, the band’s abrasive sound providing a suitably visceral soundtrack for the madness that unfolds.

Whatever Harrington is on, I want some. During the rare moments that he’s actually onstage, he’s busy tearing nipple holes in his t-shirt, climbing around the lighting rig like some kind of punk rock gorilla, or even piggybacking his band’s guitarists onto upturned monitors whilst simultaneously bellowing his way through ‘The Sweat Descends’. Most of the time, he’s romping around the venue with a wide-eyed sense of adventure, engaging in all manner of random anecdotes and chats with the audience, who rightfully greet him as one of their own.

You’d think that all these antics would somewhat distract from the music, but the band’s ‘Root For Ruin’ album is arguably one of this year’s finest, and the likes of ‘Appetites’ and the understated ‘Sleepless In Silverlake’ sound superb tonight. Ultimately, Les Savy Fav’s main strengths lie in their songs, their fan-friendly approach, and their ability to put on a fantastic show that without resorting to any clichéd pyro/explosions nonsense. Check them out whilst you can – this is genius of the most demented kind.

Alex Gosman