HW: Litmus gigs

Jonathan Jarrett jjarrett at CHIARK.GREENEND.ORG.UK
Tue Nov 7 17:56:33 EST 2006

On Sat, Oct 14, 2006 at 08:39:37PM +0100, Colin Allen typed out:
> Litmus are pleased to announce the following gigs in November:
>   November 5th: Jamm, Brixton http://www.brixtonjamm.org
> This will be a full length set; support TBA.


	I went to this. So I thought I'd post a review.

	I got there twenty minutes after doors and was the only punter 
inside for another half-hour, or so it seemed. The venue is bisected, 
and the bar staff seemed to want to work only other half of the bar 
until more than their two mates on the other side had turned up. Even at 
peak the crowd wasn't huge--forty people, who started going well before 
the close of play due presumably to tubes. With firework night and the 
Gong Family Unconvention on at the same time it was perhaps not the best 
night to choose but those of us there got our money's worth all right.

	Support was in fact Huw Lloyd Langton, playing an acoustic set. 
There are very few people who can play an acoustic set and do anything 
more than leave me politely blase, but Huw is one, and he was back on 
form, which was good to see as the last couple of times Ive seen him 
he's not seemed at all well. This time, although complaining 
goodnaturedly almost throughout--the stool wasn't in the right place, 
his hands were tired, it was cold, and so on--he played the sort of set 
I've seen him do before where you can't see how the notes come off the 
instrument with the movements he makes and he takes some space between 
folk and Spanish guitar and weaves intricacy with it. Set-list, which 
involved a reasonable number of moments where I was sure that that noise 
should really need two guitars, was as follows:

Wars Are The Hobby There
Wind of Change
Rocky Paths
Hurry on Sundown

	A very short set, admittedly, though it seemed longer because of 
his stopping a couple of times to carp and start again, but for the last 
number he challenged Litmus to come on stage and play along--"it's an 
idea I've just had" and Martin joined in rapidly on bass, sitting in the 
half-light at the back of the stage like a proper accompanist, Marek and 
Simon following on drums and guitar soon after, and well, I can't say as 
I've seen a better `Hurry on Sundown' ever to be honest. It'll never be 
my favourite song but that was a good one.

	Litmus, despite Huw's grand plan, didn't play straight on as he 
left the stage, but also left it themselves and returned fully-manned 
shortly afterwards, starting with a shorter electronic intro than usual 
and rapidly letting loose with `Infinity Drive'. I had been uncharitably 
assuming that they'd be out of practice, but actually this was 
completely unfair; throughout the set, although they lost their combined 
way in jams a couple of times, recovery was instant, and the actual 
songs were in several cases better worked-out than I've ever seen them. 
The band *were* a bit ragged, but even in that state putting on a better 
show than I'd reluctantly come to be used to in recent months (those few 
recent months when they've been gigging, anyway). No: the recording 
seems to have done them good. Now they know it all much better than they 
did and are better able to mess around with it.

	Consequently, `Infinity Drive' had a free break in it which went 
quite well, including a fun bit where guitar and keys (clearly audible 
for once!) started going round in six while everyone else was moving in 
eights. Anyway. That done with, there followed a short and brutal 
`Tempest', and that was more realised than I've ever seen them do: 
finally I think I understand how this song is supposed to work. It made 
up for the lack of `Destroy the Mothership', which they didn't do and 
which I missed.

	Then they did a new song, at least new to me, though Martin 
explained that it's on the album so presumably not that new to them. It 
was called `Lost Stations', and I have to confess that the words `prog 
symphony attack!' and `power ballad' did feature in my notes here. It 
could be an old-style DarXtar song, let us say. I liked it anyway, but I 
question its credibility outside American stadiums :-)

	All such qualms driven swiftly away by what followed, a monster 
extended version of `Under the Sign'. Is there any other kind? But 
longer and freer breaks than usual. Guitar and bass kept calming down 
and Marek got very agitated trying to liven them up, but they went some 
interesting places meanwhile, and the ending was as huge and triumphant 
as ever. Angie, Space Ritual's dancer, had arrived with Commander Jim 
Hawkman in tow, and her dancing to this was a thing to behold. It's nice 
to know that she's happy to dance for free too :-)

	The next one I am sure that I have been told the title of, but I 
can't remember it. A slow piece with fragile moments in it, quite unlike 
the Litmus so far recorded except perhaps `You Are Here', but if this 
was the second time I've seen it, which I think it is, I do really like 
it. This and the `power ballad' help to show that Litmus are going so 
far beyond being a blanga clone band with this upcoming album. (They 
didn't do `Far Beyond' either dammit. I suppose something has to give.)

	However, I was feeling slightly upset about the stomach at this 
point, nothing to do with the performance I stress, and by the time I 
returned from the bathrooms they were playing `Dreams of Space'. This 
turned into something of a monster version, but less by planning than 
accident. Marek was doing his trying-to-shake-the-stringsmen-out-of-
soft-pedal-jamming bit again during the break, and managed to lose his 
glasses. Had you been listening with your eyes shut, however, it might 
have sounded only as if the band dropped down to just bass and guitar 
and incidental noise repeating a mantric riff without percussion for a 
few minutes; it might even have sounded deliberate, they carried it off 
perfectly well. Marek didn't succeed in his quest and finished the song 
at half-strength, but it was still pretty damn good, and all returned to 
normal soon after.

	Actually I say normal, but it wasn't. Martin said, as close as I 
can remember, "People often tell us they know who we nicked all our 
riffs from, and they're probably right. But they don't think about the 
people who those people stole *their* riffs from" and then they started 
something that I knew I recognised, but it still took me several seconds 
to realise with delight that it was `Astronomy Domine', and what a 
version. If Syd's estate had included his songs he couldn't have 
bequeathed this one to worthier successors, it was amazing, full of 
force and strangeness, and when Martin later told me that they'd done it 
at Eastern Haze for the first time and had people with their mouths 
hanging open I could believe him. It was like their version of 
`Dynamite' only more so, a completely unexpected injection of power into 
a song you thought you'd heard the ultimate version of already.

	The main set was probably scheduled to finish there, because Huw 
was supposed to be joining them on stage, but he'd apparently gone to 
get chips and wasn't back yet, so they pulled another one out of the 
bag, `Earthbound', which sounds new and different even though it's 
actually old and different. They ought to revive this one more (and 
`Evil' dammit) and do something with it that gets it out there. Andy 
said to me afterwards that he'd like to put all the stuff they've left 
behind onto an EP by itself just to get it out there, and while I doubt 
they'd make any money on it, I'd still love a copy, and this song is one 
of the reasons why.

	Huw was finally found, and they set up for what it became clear 
was going to be `Motorway City'. That was good, and was followed with 
`Moonglum'. That actually fell to bits several times but Andy's steady 
going over of the big chord sequence on the keys gave them all something 
to come back to and it's always good to see it, though in truth this 
must be about the shakiest version that I ever did see. Last track of 
the set was `Needle Gun', after a tuning-up duel by Simon and Huw which 
didn't quite mean that it went well. I had fun, don't get me wrong, and 
I didn't mind the Hawkwind numbers replacing the Litmus ones we might 
otherwise have had, but I'm sure they didn't have to be this ragged, 
even if Huw was back on form and playing like 2001 again. He wasn't 
necessarily doing it along with everyone else, and unlike their own 
material they haven't spent months in Wales perfecting these songs I 

	Anyway, they all left the stage after that except for Marek, who 
instead joined in the percussion calling for an encore, but was better 
armed than the rest of us for it, and had drifted into some abstracted 
dance breaks pattern (which it's nice to see someone doing on a real 
kit) by the time the band stopped pretending and came back on. Encore 
was `Right Stuff', and it was great, but there are no bad versions of 
this song (except Monster Magnet's, maybe). Excellent way to end an 
excellent gig. I want that album dammit. February seems a way away 
still. I hope for more chances to see the stuff performed live before 
then, yours,

ObCD: Ramones - _Hey! Ho! Let's Go! Anthology_
"When fortune wanes, of what assistance are quantities of elephants?"
	    (Juvaini, Afghan Muslim chronicler, c. 1206)
 Jon Jarrett, Fitzwilliam Museum, jjarrett at chiark.greenend.org.uk

More information about the boc-l mailing list