Throbbing Gristle – [Live]

Friday, 08 May 2009

Subversive, antagonistic, esoteric—these are words I would use to describe Throbbing Gristle’s legacy as one of the forefathers of the industrial music genre. Touching on subject matters like fascism, mutilation, degradation and the overall darker side of the human experience, have made for some of the most uneasy music to listen to. That may not sound that “extreme” these days, but Throbbing Gristle was doing this back in the mid-70s.
The show in San Francisco at the The Grand Ballroom was a Throbbing Gristle homecoming of sorts for the UK band. The last time the band played in San Francisco was in 1981 at the Kezar Pavilion, which also happened to be their last show as the band subsequently broke up. (The show was made into their now-infamous album, Mission of Dead Souls.) This is not to say that the original members haven’t been doing anything over the past 28 years. They have all gone on to create some of the most influential bands within the Industrial/experimental genre: Genesis P-Orridge with Psychic TV, Chris Carter and Cosey Fanni Tutti with the appropriately titled project, Chris & Cosey, and Peter Christopherson’s Coil (a personal favorite).
Prior to the band hitting the stage, all of the house lights were turned on and the band played their entire set in the bright lights. TG started the set with “Very Friendly,” a tune about murdering children. Probably not the best tune for parents in the audience who left their kids at home with a babysitter.
In quintessential Genesis fashion, the lead singer kindly told some of the more outspoken fans, “No matter how much you fucking yell, I will always be louder than you!” After this little interaction, they continued the show with “Persuasion” and “Something Came Over Me.” While Chris Carter and Peter Christopherson hunkered over their laptops and other noise devices, Cosey Fanni Tutti pummeled the guitar to extract sounds that became more of a physical experience (read: bass shaking your insides) than an aural experience. The noise and bass got louder and louder, building a crescendo that was reached when they played their more popular songs, like “Hamburger Lady.” For those not in-the-know, this is a tune about a woman who got in an automobile accident and the physical results of said accident.
There was a moment of fan-girliness when an audience member threw a love note on stage. Genesis proceeded to read the entire note, which included the woman’s phone number. P-Orridge read the note twice, in essence prompting the crowd to jot the number down. He then proceeded to describe her as “brown hair, blue dress and some cleavage.” An excellent way to lighten up the evening and showcase the band’s wry sense of humor.
They brought the mood down a bit with the droney “Almost a Kiss,” and finished out the evening with classics “What a Day” and the sensory overload that is “Discipline,” with Genesis pacing the stage and ranting while the rest of the group threw the performance into a fury of industrial beats and noise.
My only criticism—which is actually more of a preference—is that I would have liked to see them use analog instruments of the sort they might have used back in the day. Other than that, it was great to see the band enjoying themselves as much as the crowd. It will not be anytime soon that I forget witnessing such an influential and genuinely unique group of artists. This was a definite homecoming for Throbbing Gristle. In my humble opinion, I think a little history was made and I’m glad I witnessed it.



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