IAMX @ Heaven London 13/10/2011

IAMX on stage at Heaven, London.

I have to admit, this is a gig I’ve been deeply excited about for a long time.  It’s been almost two years since IAMX last played in London & it’s a band I’ve been dying to hear live ever since I first had Spit It Out recommended to me online.

Sadly, thanks to train breakdowns and delays, I managed to miss the first 45 minutes of set and arrived at Heaven to the strains of Beautiful Town, from recently released album Volatile Times floating out from the arches beneath Charring Cross Station.

In many ways Heaven seemed like the perfect venue for IAMX – dark, sweaty, grimy and the sound was near on perfect allowing you to appreciate just how complex and musically accomplished the band’s performances are, not to mention the depth of the composition & energy of the performances . (No mean feat on Chris Corner‘s part given that he only recently injured his foot.)  The band was tight beyond belief in their responses to each other and their mutual understanding of how to wring the utmost drama out of their performances. Janine Gezang on synths is especially eye catching.  Corner, the creative force behind the band – writing, recording & mixing the band’s material himself – was nestled amidst a vast array of equipment and the writhing, intense performance of his band mates; slender and yet uniquely commanding, drawing the audience in like a  pvc clad, furious conductor of an orchestra of miscreants.  I defy anyone who’s a little bit weird on the inside & outside not to enjoy the spectacle.

The set, as much as I saw of it, was  pleasing mixture of old and new.  I arrived at the tail end of the newer material but fortunately in time to see a raucous, thumping performance of Volatile Times - the most recent single released from the similarly titled album.  The song is a bile flecked dismissal of the falseness & fatuity of modern culture & the music industry and live it was truly anthemic.

The rest of the set moved in to the band’s back catalogue.  Think of England from the album The Alternative was a highlight – another song that deals with Corner’s apparent love/hate relationship with England & its creative community.  The song evokes almost ww1-esque imagery of lost youth.  It was also a massive crowd pleaser, with fans singing along with great enthusiasm.

Reoccurring themes in IAMX songs include sexuality & gender, religion and the hypocrisy of saying one thing and doing another.  There is also an undertone of bondage, domination, submission & real and emotional pain.   Again this comes across no more clearly than in some of the older songs which was why it was a joy to hear Kiss & Swallow, The Alternative & Bring me a Back A Dog which run the gamut and intermingle these themes in a dirty mess.  What became apparent during these songs was the strength of Corner’s voice & again his pure ability and talent as a musician & vocalist.  On recordings his voice is impressive, although it’d be easy to suspect it was electronically enhanced, live it is remarkably powerful.

The encore is worth noting for a fantastic rendition of Bernadette, another recent single, which, in an unrehearsed performance, became a stripped down 1930′s cabaret torch song and achingly beautiful.   I hope that at some point this could be recorded or released just as some other acoustic numbers such as Running have been.

The gig ended with Spit It Out, which was perfectly performed & apt given that, for me, it was the song that brought me to IAMX in the first place.  I wasn’t disappointed.  It was a song that came to me in a time where I desperately needed reminding that wounds can heal, lovers can be found who are worth taking the risk for & that love & sex is more than a game that people play.  Lest that we thought IAMX were going soft on us, don’t worry, the inevitable undertone of bondage and the complexity of pleasure/pain is there too.  I sung along for all I was worth & a room full of people were there with me too.

The band exited, the smoke cleared & even the end of night crowd of happy, sweaty people – all smudged eye-liner & frippery – seemed appropriately IAMX-y.  A fantastic gig & a band well worth catching live if you have the opportunity.