I remember when the Horrors first descended upon NYC just before Halloween 2006 for a MisShapes and wwwhatsup party, playing the tiny toy stage of Don Hill’s and bringing us a cover of Screaming Lord Sutch’s “Jack the Ripper” and hit “Sheena Is a Parasite”, along with their big hair, slim black magic wardrobe and fire and brimstone performance. Back then, the Horrors seemed to be late 70′s punk goths transported into the golden nuggets days of 1965 and driven back to the modern stage, via an ornate automobile like the Addams’ Family’s Druid Princess, of course. They may have updated their look and taken on a drastic reworking of former inspirations, adding new techniques to find their next sound, but their set these days lacks none of its former fury and sounds so much fuller.
It’s frankly sweet to see a UK band I’ve seen from the beginning evolve and grow into an act that, six years later, can pack a generously-sized Brooklyn venue two nights in a row, bringing out fans, literally, from college age to well beyond. Tonight’s crowd had a lot of over-35′ers, and I heard a few “never seen them yet, looking forward!” exclamations from older men in the line before we got inside. Industry types? Nope, just new fans. It may help that the Horrors’ latest release, Skying, had won this year’s NME award for Best Album.
Guitarist Joshua Third is a force all his own, darting and skirting back and forth like a black tornado of feedback and melody. He’s the former physics major turned guitar wizard who knows enough about circuitry and electronics to build his own pedals, hence adding to the Horrors’ unique psychedelic riffs, shadowy overtures and crushing fuzz. Bassist Rhys Webb is more the laid back prancer, but he, drummer Tom Cowan and keyboardist Joe Spurgeon whip up some blissful dynamic through strength.
From opening song “Changing the Rain” to the finale, “Moving Further Away”, singer Faris Badwan said little, so you know when he mentions, “Thanks for coming; this is my favorite venue to play in New York,” he must mean it. I can appreciate the fact that he is one of the few frontmen I’ve seen who never feels the need to pick up a guitar or other instrument, and instead focuses all his energy on the performance at hand.
From his baritone voice to the Nick Cave/Birthday Party-esque jumps on monitors, punching up of arms, to getting mean with his mic stand, (at the end of the set, using it as a giant theremin to get some major distortion out of an amp), he’s fully captivating.
The Horrors’ set tonight had such cathartic energy that the crowd couldn’t help but be swept up in the storm. At one point, a mini slam/crush began, only to be broken up within moments by able bouncers who dragged some of the fans, still kicking and punching, up the stairs to the lower stage left balcony. It turned out that the fiestiest center of the group was a girl. This added to the the show’s realism, since rock music should still get kids fired up on the dancefloor, as long as nobody’s the worse for wear.