07 October 2019

BALAAM AND THE ANGEL / AM I DEAD YET? / DAWN AFTER DARK: O2 Academy Birmingham – 27/09/19

When you revisit bands after a rather long absence of listening to their material in the confines of your home, car or a DJ set – you open your eyes and ears to a wealth of ear popping wonders that see yourself embrace them like you never had before. There are a handful of bands that I could mention that have done this over the last 10-15 years or so and made me stand there smiling and sweltering in my leather jacket like a fat kid locked in a sweet shop – yet there was something more with Friday 27th of September’s event.

Now this review has taken me a week to note down as sometimes and rarely there are bands that do leave a mark on you when you see them play.

BALAAM AND THE ANGEL / AM I DEAD YET? / DAWN AFTER DARK – O2 ACADEMY (Birmingham)

I walked in – pint in hand. Dawn After Dark took to the stage…

Now – I admit that even though I was a tad too young to embrace Dawn After Dark way back when and only picking up a copy of “Maximum Overdrive” from the Rag Market 6 or 7 years after its release which was played until it had some severe wear. Picking up on the rest over the years was a sweet experience. Yet I wasn’t too sure what to expect. I was still a D.A.D virgin of sorts. But believe me with what happened as an opener was nothing short of fantastic.

Seeing Howard “H” Johnson walk on stage to a rather embracing crowd, there was a mutual energy in the room that held a lot of love. Tony (Henderson) took his place behind the drums and the other members filling the stage and what the crowd saw unfold was what can only be described as an electric set! I don’t say this lightly and never would blow smoke up anyone’s rear end – but it was THAT good.

They opened a blistering set with Crystal High and continued to bring the house down with such cuts as “Is There Time”, “No Shame”, “Shifting The Sands of Time” and “The Groove” and even for a short set as support brought the room to the evening’s first bouncing climax.

It goes without saying that being showered with beer from the collapsing human pyramid and seeing everyone being locked together for such a fantastic return after a 29-30 year hiatus. Like any band (and from one former musician to watching others play) you couldn’t help but see something more with this one off incarnation of D.A.D and the look of surprise from the reaction they received. And more is what I wanted. A few popping bass drum issues entailed but it did not detract from what they projected on to the crowd. As this is a one off set for Dawn After Dark… you can’t help but feel glad you were there. Converted “Loser” status: Ticked Off!

Conversing with familiar faces on the Brum Goth Scene it was more like a family event than a gig. All swigging warm Carlsberg and soaking ourselves in appreciation.

Next up as support were Am I Dead Yet? – the brainchild of Gaye Bikers On Acid frontman Mary Byker and Magazine guitarist, Noko. Together they hold a very impressive and rich history from PWEI to Pigface to Apollo 440. Even though i’d been showered with Carlsberg at room temperature (I hope it was Carlsberg??) from Dawn After Dark’s previous set I knew what to expect albeit sticky. The much darker tones of the “Dead” set was largely in tune from their album release earlier this year. Eclectic in style and performance. Due to the growing issue of Lager wet knickers. I missed a fair portion of the set but it did not detract.

So we’d all been in the venue for the better part of 100 minutes at that point. And we were all awaiting Balaam and the Angel to take their rightful place on stage.

**Now i’d only discovered Balaam by accident back in the late 80’s with the soundtrack to a certain John Hughes film with “four f***ing wheels and a seat”. I’d made my own discovery of that band by going on missions to get hold of their material which was deleted/OOP at that point. I owned the Sun Family compilation, The Greatest Story Ever Told, Live Free Or Die, Days of Madness on vinyl way back when. Even though we’re now in the digital age I decided (like Dawn After Dark) not to listen to any of their material before I headed to the gig so I could be poised and focused to their return. Being the first night of a two show offering here in Birmingham and embracing that earlier side more with The Greatest Story album (my own preference without discounting the performance of Live Free Or Die which followed the next night) I stood and waited with smudged guyliner and now relatively dry jeans and underwear (I’m still hoping it was Carlsberg that flew over me as i’m starting to get whiffs of something else and hoping it’s the slightly drunk dude to my left)…

Then we all stood and glowed as Balaam took to the stage….

“The Osmonds of Goth” stepped forward with Mark, James, Des and Karen bouncing off each other from the get go. Opening with Walk Away it was nothing short of being stood there grinning from ear to ear. A solid sound (respect to the engineer) and a tight performance kicked off the evening’s set. Now rather than list every track from The Greatest Story Ever Told – there was some stand-out performances of She Knows, The Wave and Don’t Look Down – you couldn’t fault any track and how it was conveyed to the hungry (and by now) hungrier crowd.

Cheeky smiles were shared amongst friends during each track and even Howard from Dawn After Dark stood there in the crowd embracing every moment. Mark’s new jacket shone (Not as good as his old one) and the warmth from the band to the crowd emanated as more human pyramids and collapsing bodies sang their hearts out. Jim walked from each corner of the stage around Mark and projected himself in a statuesque fashion as he played his way through and floated around the stage. Prosecco consumed under the lighting rig. Carlsberg showered people on the floor.

Now back to that grin upon my round face. It was hard not to be a bit “Fan girly” at that point. As I was trying to make notes I was embraced by many as though it was one giant spiritual high. Jesus, even with some of the largest gigs I’ve been to you’d never felt such a depth and warmth with other fans for a smaller event.

Closing the first part of set with Love Me, The Darklands to Sister Moon left everyone in raised spirits as the band departed the stage. It’s as though it had all flown by far too quickly. An encore proceeded with Isabella’s Eyes through to Day and Night. Even for that brief return they had generated a splash more love in the room of what was not only a blistering set but a fantastic night. I conversed with Dave who runs the local Goth/Alt event “Zombie Club” here in Birmingham still in that natural glow.

The vibe as the lights came up… Many faces / Many grins / Many pints…

Then I sit here piecing together what had happened with several brain farts along from my journey that night. A raised smile as I write this out.

Could I rate it on a scale of 1-5? Despite the soaking of this guy: A certified “5” is what it deserves.

Now what happened the night after as I have been told was just as solid for Balaam. But that would be another story for someone else to tell…

Mitz x