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Review: The Wild Swans/Liverpool University

John D Hodgkinson says far from unfinished business it's a creative peak for Paul Simpson. Pictures: Darren Aston

Written by . Published on June 13th 2011.


Review: The Wild Swans/Liverpool University

“THIS unhappy band has been unfinished business for me for over 20 years, haunting my days and nights, obsessing my thoughts at the expense of my health and sanity....this shouldn’t be viewed as a reformation or even an exorcism, it’s a continuum; different but the same”:  Paul Simpson.

Melting Blue Delicious climaxes in
a wondrous guitar thrash from Mooney
flailing at the strings and wrenching
the tremolo arm. The previous night
his guitar was flecked with blood

Never achieving the success they craved and deserved, The Wild Swans have always been firmly clutched to the hearts of those that love them. In particular, their fans in The Philippines, where they are treated as demi-gods, as witnessed at London’s Bush Hall the previous night where a large contingent besieged the Swans, even bringing small children to have their photographs taken.

Paul SimpsonPaul SimpsonThe Wild Swans cut a dramatically epic swathe through the post punk years with their dark, ethereal, uplifting songs. One of the most notable things about The Wild Swans’ ethos was a commitment so strong that amounted to a collective consciousness.

For this incarnation Paul Simpson has again surrounded himself with like-minded souls who are attuned to this. Steve Beswick was due to play drums, but suffered a stroke; thankfully, he is recovering, but not well enough to tour. His place is taken by Stuart Mann at such short notice that he learned the set on his journey from Cornwall and rehearsed just once.

Co-producer of the new Wild Swans album, The Coldest Winter For A Hundred Years, Richard Turvey was parked behind the keyboards.

Liverpool legend Mike Mooney and Ricky Rene Maymi of The Brian Jonestown Massacre (“All these songs about England, and we have a damn Yankee in the band –Simpson”) play guitar, and the familiar reassuring figure of original Bunnyman Les Pattinson (Simpson's friend since schooldays in Maghull) stops everything from flying off down Brownlow Hill with his solid and inventive bass.

The Swans made their entrance to the music from Brideshead Revisited and launched into Falling To Bits, the opening track from the new album.

Ricky Rene MaymiRicky Rene MaymiThe songs played from Coldest Winter dovetail beautifully with the rest of The Wild Swans oeuvre; Liquid Mercury, Bringing Home The Ashes and newer songs, such as Lost At Sea, could well have been written within days of each other.

Even better is brand new song, Bluebell Woods, Simpson’s plea for us to shop local and lamenting the loss of “Silver Birch, Scots Pine and English Yew” being replaced by “Dark satanic shopping centres.” He pours vitriol down the throats of Tesco in particular.

When Time Stood Still is a beautiful song, full of longing and melancholy in which we see Simpson motoring home on the M58. It took Les, with a shrug, to point out that the motorway actually goes to Wigan The intensity is cranked up as the set unfolds. God Forbid is as beguiling and potent as ever; even if the verses were sung an octave lower than in 1982.

The title track from Bringing Home The Ashes is full of heartbreak and loss. In Secret sees Simpson lamenting that others fail to see his world-view. Revolutionary Spirit still searching for redemption in the pain, darkness and insanity. The set reaches its zenith with the brooding power of No Bleeding, Simpson declaiming as the song rises and falls into Turvey’s exquisite piano coda.

Mike MooneyMike MooneyAs an encore there was Melting Blue Delicious, The Swans doing bubblegum, according to Simpson... Whatever, it climaxes in a wondrous guitar thrash from Mooney flailing at the strings and wrenching the tremolo arm. At the previous night at Bush Hall his guitar was flecked with blood, he broke strings and a finger or two surely. Several well known local guitarists were left with their mouths agape and I would risk a penny or two betting that eBay was awash with instruments for sale.

So it seems that The Wild Swans have finally delivered the legacy that Paul Simpson craved. Surely it can’t be over now? He seems at a creative peak. I have looked upon these brilliant creatures, The Wild Swans are Cool(e). 

10/10

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5 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Angie Sammons shared this on Facebook on June 13th 2011.
Louise PallisterJune 14th 2011.

A perfect review of a perfect gig.

WagJune 14th 2011.

Super writing and an excellent performance. Good on you Paul for doing the do.

AnonymousJune 14th 2011.

Excellent pictures Darren!

Nic GoughJune 14th 2011.

John you write with such eloquence and passion. I wish I could have shared the experience - perhaps they will play near me soon - fingers crossed.

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