Date: October 9th 2018
Venue: The Deaf Institute, Manchester
Support: Kanga / Tennis System
In the demise of The Dillinger Escape Plan, who performed their final shows at the tail-end of last year after a 20-year long career, frontman Greg Puciato jumped straight back into his other music outlet The Black Queen with Joshua Eustis (Telefon Tel Aviv) and Steven Alexander to put out their second record, ‘Infinite Games’.
Now with a fixated vision and focus on what The Black Queen actually is, these refinements shine through on their sophomore full-length outing, and now the trio are back in the UK to showcase that streamlined progression in a live setting.
Starting things off on the Manchester date of the run is solo artist Kanga , who in many ways bears a lot of resemblance sonically to the tour’s headliners. The Californian based composer channels through her programmer and keyboard setup a sound that you might get from a feral and bastardised Combichrist, and her experience putting together scores for films like Insidious III and The Conjuring II is abundantly clear.
She bends and contorts her body as the fuzzy bass pulses through the room, but the issue here is that every song bleeds into one another. Sadly so do her vocals, which are practically ODing on reverb. Maybe that’s the intended affect, but ultimately it makes for a blurred sound and experience.
Los Angeles trio Tennis System  follow suit, and they’re certainly a bit of an anomaly on the bill. Electronics are far from the main focus, and instead for the three-piece emo-tinged punk rock is their game. They sound like a somewhat shoegaze influenced yet aggressive version of Sunny Day Real Estate, and their energy onstage is hard to not get engrossed in.
However, despite their vibrant and animated behaviour, there’s little else on offer here to hook you in and lust for more. There’s also some random video footage looping behind the three-piece, some of it depicting some DIY facial piercings and others showing a woman cutting her eyes with a kitchen knife. It’s hard to make a connection between these visual themes and their music, and that may well be the point, but it doesn’t make any impact, even as the band make a bit of a messy exit as they vigorously cast their instruments aside.
The room is almost completely enveloped in darkness as the three members of The Black Queen  slowly take to the stage, and fittingly so as they then throw themselves right into set opener, ‘Thrown Into The Dark’, and the dark synthwave/dream pop (or more so nightmare pop) troupe cast their minimalist, clinical and cold craft courses through the room. It’s like Nine Inch Nails meets Spandau Ballet.
Away from his intense screams and frantic demeanour onstage with his now former project The Dillinger Escape Plan, Puciato proves himself to not be a crazed beast but indeed a gentlemen of decorum, crooning to the likes of ‘Distanced’ and ‘Ice To Never’.
The somber and broody mood is all set and slowly consumes the crowd. Well, that is until we get midway through the frail and haunting ‘Your Move’, when the sound dulls out a little. It turns out that The Black Queen blow out some of the PA speakers, and with that there’s about a 10 minute delay while the technical issues are addressed.
Some hecklers in the crowd shout out saying that Steven Alexander looks like Skrillex, which is a little funny the first couple of times they shout it, but after the tenth time in the space of a minute it’s like listening to a broken and annoying record. It’s almost like that one word is the extent of their entire vocabulary.
With issues rectified and the set resumed, the ethereal and somewhat cinematic tone returns with ‘Taman Shud’, and by the time following number ‘That Death Cannot Touch’ enters the frame the packed out room is singing out alongside Puciato during its subtly catchy as hell chorus before eventually leading all the way to climactic closer, ‘Apocalypse Morning’.
In the demise of The Dillinger Escape Plan, indisputably one of the most intense, frantic and erratic live bands of the past century, The Black Queen represents the wake and calm of their aftermath, and in being essentially the complete opposite counterpart of Puciato‘s former main focus, the trio prove in abundance through minimal and cold synthwave that you can do an awful lot with very little.
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