It has been a while, I admit it freely. There have been post-lockdown concert but I have not written about them. Not that they weren't any good. (At one of the very first events and also shortly after flooding events in our area, it was Mary Lattimore playing harp, as she does, and loops in a park. I actually cried with the emotion of it). But I did not have much time to write either as I would like to keep my radio shows at the level they are (allegedly, according to some very kind followers) and even the shows only lead a meagre existence next to the day job. But I need to tell you about this one. You still have a chance to see Canadian The Burning Hell in all their glory, as the tour has only started. So, here's a short note of what to expect (mind the spoilers!) I am not too sure though whether the performances will always be similar as Gebäude 9 in Cologne has a pretty large stage (compared to their usual Cologne hangout: Die hängenden Gärten von Ehrenfeld. That is what you call a cosy atmosphere...) where in particular Ariel Sharratt really, really made use of that stage. Also the stage allowed for many instruments and many instrument changes and musicians swapping positions. This is what happened (getting really spoiler alerty now): The set consisted of three subsets with the same artists, only a different one in the foreground - apart from Mathias Kom. Poor lad had forgotten to introduce himself and did so finally with and in the last song. After a short and sweet introduction, first on stage, jumping into the cold water, facing the anticipating audience who might have just trodden in to escape the lashing all-day rain outside and the meanwhile lake-sized puddles - in one of the puddles coincidentally two plastic swans glided about. I wonder who put them there - is, deep breath, Steven Lambke. Now, Steven Lambke is no scaredy-cat. After all, he has been out there as a singer-songwriter, as a solo performer, as band member (Constantines) and co-founder of wonderful label You've Changed, based in Toronto, where he dares to put out music that is not aimed at the algorhythmed potential market but sounds that exude from the artists. Because they love to create and they have to create and we are just really lucky buggers to be able to listen to the result. One of the artists on You've changed, Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, author, activist and musician, wrote a wonderful piece on Steven Lambke on the occasion of his album release of "Volcano Volcano" which you can find here. Co-founder of the label, Daniel Romano, provided a poem on Steven Lambke. You get the drift - Steven Lambke is pure understatement. His solo set sounds lo-fi even though the lyrics are already out there and would really require written form to at least try and shine a light on their double or even triple meanings. But later, during a couple of guitar solos and clever accompaniments (I am not mentioning that melodica now though it added a sweet tone) and taking over the bass, Steven Lambke showed: He can.
Accompanied by Ariel Sharratt, Jake Nicoll and Mathias Kom on diverse instruments, Steven Lambke's songs show much dreaminess, tenderness and fragility, in particular on "Volcano, Volcano", despite the evident guitar prominence and the singer's often hoarse whispering and at the same time because of it, but it is the last song from an earlier album that gets the audience's jaws drop...totally psyched out and amazing. Make way now after a short break for a totally different set with the same personnel as Jake Nicoll climbs the stage. Long time collaborator of The Burning Hell, he can finally now show off his mastery of instruments galore and his latest solo album "Pool House" The minimalist songs, deeply longing and melancholic, are sung in Jake's fantastic voice and pointedly supported by the other three artists. Jake Nicoll certainly used the time and unkind weather well while fellow Canadians in other places gush about their tomatoes growing, as he remarks dryly. I had never released that such a hidden gem has been touring with The Burning Hell.
The final set - after invitations to peruse the invitingly stacked merchandise table and the tremendous chat with the band members (Steven Lambke reveals the gobsmacking information that the four only rehearsed for a bit before the tour to learn each other's songs. Take that, whoever is in the mainstream charts these days) - belongs to The Burning Hell. Or shall we say, it belongs to their current album "Garbage Island" with all its diversity and apocalyptic feel ("it all ends well" and "no, it is not a musical" and "our musical "Garbage Island"), its musical top league performance and as well as to Ariel Sharratt.
She receives adoring glances and applause not only from Mathias Kom but from the audience too. Fun fact (well, I thought it was funny): For every instrument including her voice, Ariel has its own facial expression, own move and stance, even a persona. Which should be obvious as every instrument has its own life. Give that woman a stage and she burns, without hogging the limelight because she contributes genially to everybody else's songs too. And has made shirts, videos and has a go at managing - used that lockdown phase on Prince Edward Island well, it must be admitted not without envy.
Mathias Kom has his come uppance with the ukulele, his first instrument, and against the intimidating ukulele conference he once attended. Marvellous, simply that, without giving it all away. One more spoiler, the screamingly funny "this is how we met" story is of course also presented, don't worry. "Pass The Wine, Fuck The Government, I Love You" - indeed!
(Photo credits: Kevin Burns, thank you!)