Sunday, October 23, 2016

GOAT, Albert Hall Manchester 22nd October 2016 9/10

This expansive evening, spanning almost six hours, had been most intelligently programmed. Each of the four support acts represented a branch of psychedelic music the headliners had synthesised to form their own style. Fellow Swedes Josefin Ohrn + The Liberation were themselves explorers, drawing on eclectic influences, their most conventional element the prominence of the (female) lead singer. The wholly instrumental Liverpudlians Mugstar drew on more uncompromising krautrock influences, notable for the amazing drummer and hypnotic visuals of a mountain range flyover, projected on the screen. Next, Jane Weaver's roots were in folk, and she represented the pop psych. tradition. Yet, it was Leeds band Hookworms who really energised the crowd with their psych. punk: I could appreciate why, for some, they were the main draw of the evening. The banner on their keyboard 'no borders' clearly existed within the political context of Trump and Brexit, but could equally been an expression of the wide ranging artistic expression in this lineup.

We'd been taken on a journey not just of genre, but from the individualism of Josefin Ohrn towards the collective: Hookworms are known only by their initials, whilst GOAT famously performs anonymously. This is where their schtick differs from that of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros: GOAT's back story of growing up a small town in Sweden with a history of voodoo worship is a long way from the personality cult of Alex Ebert. A key part of the fusion of styles stems from world music: in their stagecraft as well as guitar work, they reminded me of the amazingly energetic Songhoy Blues. Like this band from Mali, they also relied heavily upon hypnoptic rhythms and frenzied dancing to whip up the audience into a frenzy. Whereas the purer psych. rock earlier in the evening had felt intellectual, and introverted, GOAT inspire outward expression of euphoria. Visually, whereas the others acts made use of computer generated images projected onto a large screen, the outfits of GOAT's two female leads created swirling, mesmerising shapes. There may be no talk between songs, but the leads never stop moving around the stage.

Having missed their set at Primavera Sound in June, my last experience of GOAT was in April 2014 at Slim's, San Francisco. This was a more intimate venue that Manchester's Albert Hall, and I missed the more immersive view of the lower stage of Slim's. This time, though, there was the chance to experience new music from their just released third album, Requiem. This brings a greater folk influence to their work, as evident in the pan pipes during Union of the Sun & Moon. Live, GOAT's material is expanded in an improvisatory manner, with extended drone rock instrumental sections, as on the closing encore Let It Bleed. More extrovert tracks from World Music, such as Run To Your Mama, or Talk to God, the opener from Commune, most excited the crowd. I draw hope from the omission of Goodbye from Requiem, which some have interpreted as signalling the end of this project. There is a greater need than ever for openness to other cultures and belief systems: it is cross fertilisation that rise to such joyous fusions as GOAT.

Set List
*Union of Sun & Moon
*Try My Robe
Disco Fever
*Trouble In The Streets
Gathering of A Tribes
The Sun The Moon
*I Sing In Silence
Run To Your Mama
Talk To God
Goatman (1st encore)
Let It Bleed (2nd encore)
(*from Requiem)

Josefin Ohrn


Jane Weaver