THE BLACK QUEEN make an understated return.
BUSH HALL, LONDON Greg Puciato’s electronic explorers bring a spectacle but little fire
Two years ago, less than a month after their debut album was released, The Black
Queen made their UK debut at the Oslo venue in London. Now, less than a fortnight after the release of their follow-up, they’re back in the capital, although this time in a less rock’n’roll setting. The high ceiling with chandeliers and carpeted floor (sticky with spilled whisky) is a world away from the dive bars frontman Greg Puciato used to call home, and that is very much the point. Not just a musical departure from his Dillinger days, this is a visible, physical detachment as he commits fully to this new chapter in his life, attracting a mix of metalheads, goths and hipsters to west London. The spark of that first show, however, is missing tonight.
Sure, the material on debut LP Fever Daydream is superior to new album Infinite Games, but the performance as a whole is subdued. Nobody is expecting Greg to climb the walls and swing off the light fixtures, but in that initial 2016 show he was oozing energy and was positively ravenous, darting around stage and smacking speakers to the beat. Tonight he remains resolutely behind the mic stand, occasionally dancing his way to
The visuals are an exercise in
the rear of the stage, flanked by a guitarist and keyboardist. His ability as a vocalist isn’t in question, creating an interesting dichotomy of a man who is so hench yet sounds so sensitive, but the lack of vigour leads to a disconnect between artist and audience.
Visually, it’s stunning. A giant screen looms over the stage, playing various trippy clips, from liquid to contorted faces, as the trio onstage play in a thick fog of dry ice, bolstered by the starkly monochrome lighting effects. It’s an exercise in ambience, an idea explored in detail on the latest album, but it’s those bombastic, new wave singles from Fever Daydream that still hit hardest. The Nine Inch Nails worship of Secret Scream kickstarts a room-wide clap-along, but it’s the tidal, warming The End Where We Start that boasts the ability to consume hearts whole. For some it’s too little, too late. As the show reaches its colourful climax, the rear of Bush Hall is noticeably emptier than when the show started. It’s impressive to watch, but for a band capable of adding multiple dimensions to their sound, it’s at times a very 2D affair.