Tonight, in Heaven, the lights are staying up. No strobes, no effects, just a harsh halogen glare. Throbbing Gristle want you to see them for who they are now. Older. A little tubbier, perhaps, but still capable of producing a singularly evil sound. It’s a simple move, but one that humanises a band whose music has often been about precisely the opposite.
But first, S.C.U.M. The London based no-wavers enter, plonk their gear down and proceed to batter the shit out of it while affecting disinterested expressions. Singer Thomas Cohen throws all manner of daft shapes, but his vocals are drowned out by the impossible noise coming from a guy with a synth who looks like Anthony Michael Hall in The Breakfast Club. Behind me a man clutches his head in his hands and looks like he wants to vomit. Mission accomplished then.
TG take to the stage and Cosey Fanni Tutti plucks the first mournful pulse of ‘Persuasion’ from her bass. It’s a ghostly rendition, with the eternal Genesis Breyer P-Orridge imbuing each lyric with a dreadful wit. But it’s with the electronic onslaught of ‘Live Ray’ that the band really comes alive. “That feels better,” Gen grins to the audience, savaging a violin. Likewise, the famously nasty ‘Hamburger Lady’ is made even more sad and terrifying with stark blasts of harmonica.
Already this feels like a triumphant return, but there’s an understandable melancholy to P-Orridge’s stage presence. ‘Almost A Kiss’ is truly haunting and, as Gen repeatedly kisses a tattoo of Lady Jaye Breyer P-Orridge, who passed away in 2007, this reviewer finds himself shedding a couple of tears.
‘Springbankistan’ follows, but it’s in the pairing of ‘What A Day’ and ‘Wall of Sound’ that TG reach their apotheosis. Sleazy disappears beneath his robe and the room begins, appropriately enough, to throb. Long after Genesis has finished singing, the barrage of sound continues, reverberating around Heaven’s cavernous interior. It’s easy to forget when listening to, say, ‘The Second Annual Report’, just how emotionally ravaging their music is. The sounds are flattened and confined on record. Made safe. Live they’re an overwhelmingly physical, visceral force.
And then that’s it. Aside from a rather sweet moment where the four band members join hands like the best of friends you really hope they are, they’re off. ‘Leave them wanting more’ is an old adage, and tonight Throbbing Gristle did.