Authoritative and organic
Death in Vegas - Live at Electric Ballroom, London

It’s been a long time since most of us last saw Death in Vegas. September’s Fabric show was the band’s first appearance in seven years and much has changed in that time. Richard Fearless has effectively gone solo and this year saw the release of new album ‘Trans-Love Energies’, which has received widespread praise. So it is anyone’s guess what tonight will have in store and there is a sense of anticipation as the predominantly middle-aged crowd tries to work out which Death in Vegas they will be seeing. Will this be a new start or a triumphant return for the pioneers that were once so important to the intersection of electronica and rock music?

Opening with the first single from the new album - ‘Your Loft My Acid’ - it is immediately clear that we are not attending a reunion gig. The synthesizers are minimal and spacious, the bass is tight and the sample of Katie Stelmanis’ haunting vocal complements these to striking and sublime effect. The band members are new, youthful and note perfect. It is unmistakably Death in Vegas, but not as we’ve seen or heard them before.

This is juxtaposed by the seamless flow into the familiar opening chords of ‘Dirge’. The crowd is audibly pleased to be hearing an old classic so soon. Still the sound is subtly different: a new band with a different take on the song and you know what? It sounds better for it. It is a clever start and one that sets the agenda perfectly, announcing that there will be new ideas, whilst simultaneously easing the fears of the die-hard fans that have come to hear the songs they know and love.

So it is surprising that after such an intelligent opening that the next three songs are fairly uneventful. We hear the familiar clipped arpeggios and lush waves of synthesizer, and Fearless’s vocals (on ‘Coum’ in particular) are impressive, but something is missing. This is reflected in the crowd’s movement with pockets of dancing in view but no single consciousness of movement yet perceptible. It is not helped by the fact that the songs are slow (it’s as if someone has turned the BPM down on the sequencers) and Fearless seems uncomfortable at points in his new multi-instrumentalist and vocalist role. There appears to be a craving in the room for the more organic and intense kraut flavoured energy associated with the past and one can’t help but feel that the gig is drifting away.

Just in time, the situation is remedied with the arrival of ‘Flying’. The crowd’s relief is noticeable and the room instantaneously acquires the energy that has been so severely lacking for the last few minutes. Then we finally get what we’ve been waiting for and all hell breaks loose with the eruption of ‘Death Threat’, which sounds fuller and more ferocious than ever before. It is an awesome show of raw brute power and there is no turning back.

From here on in, we are propelled over the tipping point and every track is muscular and full of fire. ‘Aisha’ is unrecognisable from its previous incarnation, with only the original sample remaining over the top of a thundering decimated bass riff. This hardly matters, as the song has lost none of its guts whatsoever. To add to this the encore break is framed with songs that display a dynamism that the early part of the set was deficient in. After a pitch perfect ‘Hands Around My Throat’ the band closes with ‘Rekkit' (again, almost unrecognisable from its original manifestation) culminating in a barrage of sound and a strobe lighting display that would be capable of hospitalising even the most hardened of gig veterans.

And with that it’s all over before we’ve even realised what has hit us. Tonight we doubtlessly witnessed a new band showcasing new material - material that has teething problems and needs space to refine and grow. More importantly though, we witnessed a band demonstrating that not only do they have the ability to do justice to what Death in Vegas always were but that they are capable of realising it in a more authoritative and organic way than ever before. Far from being strangled by the weight of the past they are breathing new life into it and proving that Death in Vegas are not just back but that they are still as important as ever.

Words by Chris Wash
Photos by Matt Wash

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