Elder + Pallbearer + Irist
04 November, 2022
Photos by Dovaldė Gaidelionytė
Review by The Flâneur
Ah, another miserable rainy evening. London truly has it all (irony, of course). What it does not have, though, especially post-Brexit, is nearly enough gigs from international acts. And, it’s for a good measure. It has become increasingly untenable for international acts to come to the UK, and if they do, they have to do an entire tour within the country to justify the costs to perform here. Added to this is the notoriety of UK audiences and their proclivity for indifference, heedlessness, and arrogant chatter. So, it’s always a fun treat when not one but two world-class international acts team up to bring us a night of cacophonous debauchery.
In the case of Elder and Pallbearer, the emphasis was on “cacophonous”. Indeed, no chatter could have possibly been heard because, as it turns out, EArtH, is the loudest London venue by far. From the first few minutes the sole supporting act, fellow US sludge purveyors Irist took the stage, the sound was deafening. I had to use both earplugs and over ear headphones to save my hearing – and sanity.
Irist were a bit of a snooze for me, to be honest. Their sound isn’t too different from Pallbearer’s but it’s just so overplayed and exhausted that nothing the Nuclear Blast recruits played was able to shake up the profound exhaustion I felt that day. And indeed, this was partially because Irist themselves seemed to be profoundly exhausted – they professed to it themselves. They had supported Elder and Pallbearer for the entire tour, of which this was the penultimate date. Yet, as much as I’d like to attribute my ambivalence towards their set to both their and my exhaustion, I just cannot disregard their generic sound.
After a 40 minute set, one act was down and two remained. It’s odd when shows or tours advertise as having dual headliners, because no matter how you look at it, just one act plays last. I rather thought it should have been Pallbearer, but Elder’s fanbase really does seem to be boundless. I last saw Pallbearer yonks ago in Glasgow, when they were touring with their masterpiece Foundations of Burden. The venue – Broadcast – was tiny and too crammed for them, and the sound was not doing them any favours. EArtH was not tiny in any aspect of the word (unless you’ve witnessed the monstrosity that is the Romanian Parliament), yet was already jam-packed; and the sound – deafening as it was – was less than perfect, particularly in the context of the vocals. How this show wasn’t sold out is beyond me. It definitely felt sold out. Crowding and sound aside, I expelled a breath of relief as soon as Pallbearer started playing. Everything was so much better already.
Pallbearer are one of those rare bands who don’t need a stage presence as long as they’re present on the stage – except they do in fact have a great stage presence. They genuinely looked as if they were enjoying what they were doing – as if they were really having fun. It was so palpable that it was exuding through the thick smoke that was covering the stage. It was beautiful – to watch with an insentient smile or to close your eyes and lose yourself in the moment of it all. Perhaps, I am attributing too much lyricism to Pallbearer or their ability to captivate everyone who witnesses their performances, but they just have a special place in my heart.
On the other end of the spectrum for me is Elder, who ascended upon their headliner-but-not-quite spot shortly after 9:30 pm. Look, I really like Elder, but, I don’t care for them live. I might be biased due to my really bad experience seeing them live for the first time (man, that 2015 Bannerman’s mosh pit was legendary), but anytime I’ve seen them after I’ve just been bored out of my mind. They’re just your regular psychedelic/stoner rock band. Just one Greenland shark in a sea of Greenland sharks – not the greatest and the brightest but noteworthy in their own right. But hey, Greenland sharks survive for an extraordinary amount of time, and so has the blend of genres Elder play.
The vocals were again low, but this seems to be a theme with Elder (and with EArtH). The crowd definitely stirred from their slumber once Elder started playing, but nowhere near to the extent of the mad mosh pit I witnessed that fated night in Edinburgh. But, I digress. I might be a little unfair on Elder – they work very hard and have had a slew of bad luck this year – from cancelled shows and lost equipment and merch, to their Facebook being hacked by the all-feared NFT bots. I bet they just want to chill and play some nice gigs. In a way, this was one of them, yet it did feel as if something was lacking. Sure, their luscious hair flicks bring all the buoys to the yard. And their psychedelic jams holler back the ghouls. So what was it that was missing?
In my opinion, the missing thing was the fun. Elder’s set rather felt forced and exhausted. Perhaps, they had had one too many shows and were going through the motions. Perhaps, the audience had turned into a moody mush because of the sleepy rainy weather. Perhaps, the heat in the overfilled venue had created an unlikely sauna of stoic languishing. The theories are endless and one after another more and more poetic.
However, the truth is, only one band seemed to really enjoy themselves on the stage that night, and that band was covered in thick smoke most of the time. So really, who knows!? My photographer’s opinion on Pallbearer and Elder’s performances is actually the opposite from mine. It just goes on to show how influenced our perceptions are by our own tastes, even if we try really hard to seem unbiased.