Berlin Black / Dead Eyes Opened – The Fulford Arms, York, 7th November 2015

Posted: 9 November 2015 in Live

Christopher Nosnibor

OK, so I’m something of a sucker for the old-school goth thing, but equally, have a deep-seated ambivalence to the scene in general. I love the Sisters, Bauhaus, Danse Society, Skeletal Family and a handful of others, but take issue with the majority of the rest of the bands, because they all sound, and feel so derivative. And while in my teens I was an immense fan of The Mission and still have something of a soft spot, I’m painfully aware of how bad Hussey’s lyrics are, and it’s a shame that many a great ‘goth’ tune has been marred by lyrics that are similarly built upon the blind recycling of cliché

And so it was that I felt a bit uncomfortable at times during Dead Eyes Opened’s set. Craggy-featured Spooks (ahem) is a compelling front man, with strong echoes of Dave Gahan about him. He seemingly embodies the tortured angst the lyrics convey, and they’re strung out over needling tripwire guitar lines, thumping bass grooves and quintessential mechanised goth drum patterns. Reaching forward, outwards… the audience just out of reach. Trapped by the theoretical confines of the edge of the stage but 4” high… The band calls to mind a number of the superior bands of the genre, not least of all Suspiria. There are also hints of the Lorries, and I keep waiting for them to launch into ‘Adrenaline’. What they lack in originality they compensate in presence and quality of material, and if sounding like Rosetta Stone is their worst crime, then they’re clearly doing something right. The drum sound crisp, with some good programming on display. There are Sisters of Mercy lifts aplenty, with the last track nabbing chords from ‘More’. A revelation? Not after all these years but a decent live act with some cracking tunes played well? Very much so.

Dead Eyes

Dead Eyes Opened

As for York’s own Berlin Black, singer Chris Tuke comes on channelling Bauhaus’ Peter Murphy – not just through the hair, but in his energetic stage presence. There’s no doubt that there’s a fair amount of booze involved, but he’s got charisma and presence and the element of unpredictability as he teeters on the monitors and various tables and other elevations around the room adds to the excitement of a dynamic performance.

It’s been a couple or so years since I’ve seen Berlin Black, and during that time they’ve evolved a fair bit. I’d also forgotten just how sharp a pop band they are, often calling to mind The Psychedelic Furs circa ‘82 to ’84. Tuke even straps on a keytar for a handful of songs, and on a lesser band it would be cringeworthy and cause for ridicule, but Berlin Black pull it off with aplomb. It helps that they’ve got some great tunes, which emerge from the chaos in pristine form.

Berlin Black 1

Berlin Black

The live drums provide a distinct contrast with their touring partners, both sonically and in terms of flexibility, and Berlin Black feel a lot more spontaneous, thanks in no small part to the tautness of both their rhythm section (notable for former March Violet Jo on bass) and some intuitive guitar work. The combination of energy and a less derivative sound than many of their peers – not to mention less obvious lyrical tropes – are Berlin Black’s clear strengths, and it’s not surprising that at this hometown show, they go down a storm – and deservedly so.

Berlin Black 2

Berlin Black

While half the city was out watching fireworks under heavy cloud cover, those who chose to celebrate the first Saturday of November by staying indoors with some decent beer and some decent bands for a mere fiver definitely got the better deal.

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