Monday, November 8, 2010
Recoil feat. Alan Wilder concert review
Photo courtesy: Mute Records
Santa Ana, Calif.
Oct. 24, 2010
After years of witnessing pulsating electronic dance music at Coachella and elsewhere, I’ve discovered the most memorable DJ sets are usually accompanied by either eye-popping lighting, visually stimulating imagery or both.
The latter element was definitely present during Recoil’s first-ever local appearance on Sunday night in Santa Ana. Mastermind Alan Wilder last played Orange County as a member of Depeche Mode in 1994 (he exited that band soon after to focus more time on the solo project). Recoil’s inaugural U.S. tour, which began earlier this month, drew fans from Europe and Asia for its Southern California run.
Selected, a new Recoil double-disc career retrospective, was assembled, remastered and edited together by Wilder and longtime musical collaborator Paul Kendall. It focuses on songs from 1992-2007, in addition to an album of new remixes. Diamanda Galas, Toni Halliday of Curve, Nitzer Ebb’s Douglas McCarthy, spoken-word artists Maggie Estep and Nicole Blackman and Texas blues guitarist Joe Richardson, among others, are featured vocalists.
In a recent interview, Wilder told me his past shows here were “absolutely some of the highlights of my whole Depeche Mode career. There was the Rose Bowl event (before 75,000 people on the 1988 Music for the Masses Tour). We used to play regularly in Irvine … we did lots of shows there and they were always great crowds.”
During Recoil’s sold-out Galaxy Theatre gig, only Wilder and Kendall held court onstage behind Apple Mac laptops and assorted electronic gadgetry to occasionally manipulate the sounds. Concert-goers were packed like sardines on the general-admission floor, which didn’t leave room to dance (I would have limited the people allowed down there). Surprisingly, only a fraction of them bobbed their heads to the music. Maybe they were mesmerized by the frequently disturbing and explicit images projected on the huge backdrop screen.
The 75-minute set kicked off with the ethereal “Black Box” intro. Richardson’s deep voice signaled the powerful gospel/blues and clanking rhythms of “Pray.” A slinky and seductive “Drifting” came paired with a strip club scene. The thumping and haunting “Killing Ground” — all female whispers, accompanied by World War II and atomic bomb imagery — was a stark highlight.
Wilder looked like he was having fun and smiled whenever he turned to face the crowd. Pure excitement arrived via a popular extended remix for Depeche Mode’s “Never Let Me Down Again”; everyone seemed to perk up and wave their arms back and forth just like at a DM concert. A slow building, percussion heavy remix of the Normal’s 1978 experimental classic “Warm Leatherette” continued that high-energy vibe.
Later, “Faith Healer” — probably Recoil’s best known song — expertly set McCarthy’s intense voice and clips from its music video to images of church healings and exorcisms. For the encore, Recoil adeptly incorporated elements from DM’s “Walking in My Shoes” and “Personal Jesus” into the bluesy “Jezebel.” All told, Recoil put on an intriguing presentation, one that would have been even better if Wilder had wrangled an actual vocalist out to O.C.
Much-anticipated special guest Martin Gore, chief songwriter for Depeche Mode, followed Recoil with a DJ set. The initial 45 minutes were generic, hard-hitting techno — and a disappointment. The crowd had thinned out slightly as midnight approached, but most people just stood, stared and snapped pictures.
Launching the evening’s proceedings was Conjure One, an electronic music vehicle for Canadian musician Rhys Fulber, formerly of Front Line Assembly and Delirium. At the Galaxy, he was joined by live vocalist/bassist Leah Randi and fared best amid the soothing “I Dream in Color” (from the coming digital release Exilarch). Their set was pure enchantment.
On a far more energetic tip was the second opener, techno DJ Architect (aka Daniel Myer), who laid down some electro grooves and breakbeats and earned a very enthusiastic response. Totally into the music and working up quite a sweat over the turntable action, he spiced up a vibrant set of tunes from his latest album, Consume Adapt Create, with bits of Nitzer Ebb and DM (“Stripped,” “Behind the Wheel”).