By John Armstrong, Rock At Night Manchester
Venue: El Lokal, Zurich, Switzerland
The fantastically intimate confines of El Lokal in Zurich, Switzerland hosted The Dream Syndicate on their European tour, here to promote their first new album since 1988 – the rhetorically titled How Did I Find Myself Here. Eight new tracks grace the album and that only six of them appeared in the mammoth and vigorous two hour and twenty minute set performed to a packed, enthusiastic and appreciative audience demonstrates the wealth of material they have at their disposal. A mezzanine floor and also the stairs provided additional viewing space among the various eclectic artifacts adoring the ground floor and performance area. A giant skeleton spread across the ceiling grinning and waving at everyone below, the square angular corners of a Bo Diddley guitar clung to the wall, while a life size mannequin of Brazilian soccer star Pele rubbed shoulders with a digital projection screen inviting us to imagine – among other things – what Elvis would have looked like if he borrowed Che Guevara’s hair and star fronted beret. A vibrant and highly suitable venue; and quite believably the most intimate of the whole tour.
The band squeezed their way through the crowd and stepped onto the stage one at a time as front man Steve Wynn grinning broadly reminded everyone to go wild and they were off into a paisley coloured underground music heaven.
Chris Cacavas made up the five piece live line up on keyboards, the sound fueled by the rhythm section of Mark Walton’s pulsing bass and Dennis Duck (entirely imprisoned in his stage corner by the drum kit), the whole overlaid with intelligently formed guitar parts, the interplay between Wynn and Jason Victor. Sonic space and dynamics are something many bands don’t master and the correct use of two guitars was thoroughly demonstrated; unconventionally so too, as Victor removed his custom model and passed it to an astounded audience member while the de-instrumented guitarist worked away in a crouch above the effects pedals. Wynn then took off his own guitar and the pair equally shared the left and right hand duties through the instrumental section. Wild indeed; an inspired moment of visual anarchy.
The deep sense of joy in playing and the pleasure taken in it by The Dream Syndicate was infectious; there was never a real need to remind the audience to go wild. To return after such a long gap with an album of this quality is unusual. There is an option to buy the album with a facsimile handwritten lyric book, covering songs form the back catalogue as well as the new ones. It is worth the extra indulgence. At the close of the encore – conducted without leaving the stage, due partly to the difficulty of moving from behind the drums and the absence of anywhere to go other than into the crowd, Wynn announced they would be at the merchandise stand signing stuff and talking to people for the rest of the night because “This place doesn’t close until 2 and neither do we”. Twenty two songs, with an encore longer than many bands actual performances added up to a dream gig from The Dream Syndicate, and it was a beautiful dream.
Armed With An Empty Gun
Out Of My Head
Filter Me Through You
Whatever You Please
How Did I Find Myself Here
Forest For The Trees
That’s What You Always Say
The Days Of Wine And Roses
Now I Ride Alone
Blind Willie McTell
Tell Me When It’s Over
When The Curtain Falls
John Coltrane Stereo Blues
Website and album link http://www.thedreamsyndicate.com
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