If you’ve never been to Camden’s Barfly, the first thing that strikes you is just how tiny it is. Like, really tiny. You can stand right at the back of the room, by the bar and feel like you’re right down the front. It’s the sort of room where you can see the condensation running down the walls, the sort of room where you can see what the band had for their lunch. It is intimate, that’s for sure and a terrific place to see Wovenwar’s first UK live set. We’ll get to them in a bit: first though, time to check out support act Empress AD, ahead of their Reading and Leeds festival slots.
You can always tell whether a support band has a bit of a buzz about them by how early people turn up for their set. Ladies and gentlemen, it’s VERY busy and judging by tonight’s performance, the buzz on Empress AD is entirely justified. Empress AD are the sort of band that’s difficult to pigeon-hole, such is the diversity and dexterity to their oeuvre. But that is part of their charm: they have a brilliant, disorienting blend of music that runs a gamut of styles – they clearly have a Pink Floyd record or nine in their collection and they are self-evidently enraptured by dark dynamics beloved of Cult of Luna. However, theirs is not a simple facsimile. On the contrary, they have taken their influences, blended them and added several ingredients of their own, a recipe for a performance that thrilled as much as it beguiled. Definitely ones to watch, then.
You’re already probably familiar with the backstory on Wovenwar and their phoenix from the ashes development so I won’t labour on it again here but know this. They are the real deal. Wovenwar are just a terrific band. There is an air of expectancy about this performance and, when they arrive on stage, they are greeted like returning heroes.
For a record that has only recently dropped, everyone seems to know every word to every song and they have clearly tapped into something, and something good at that. From the taped opening of Onward through live debuts for Sight of Shore and Moving Up, Wovenwar just exude confidence, class and power and everyone seems to have realized that the band have got “it”; whatever that elusive “it” is.
Lead singer Shane Blay is a veritable bear of a man and a compelling singer, but one with humility and intelligence in abundance. But this is not a show about him, all of the band appear to be having a hugely enjoyable time. Given what they have been through, this can only be seen as something like a victory.
When the band launch into set closer Prophets the entire room goes ballistic and transforms itself into one giant circle pit and it really is a sight to behold. Someone leans over to me and says “You know, I prefer them to As I Lay Dying”.
And, after tonight, I have to agree with him. Brilliant entertainment.
Death To Rights
Sight of Shore
Matter of Time