I've just got home from what has to have been the most disappointing gig I've been to this year: the Paradise Lost 25th Anniversary Tour at the Roundhouse in Camden, London.
I've been a fan of Paradise Lost since Icon came out in 1993, when I was 17. I'd been looking forward to this show since May - I even bought my tickets on the first day they went on sale!
We had a shitty journey into London which I shall spare you the details of, and missed the first band, Katatonia. But we arrived just in time to see Lacuna Coil, and are very glad we did. They were excellent. Very clear sound, lots of energy from the band, awesome backdrop. I was looking forward to seeing Paradise Lost even more.
Then they came on stage. In total darkness, with a video screen projecting images behind them. A few lights went on: purple and green. By three songs into the set, it became clear that while Paradise Lost were on the stage, I wasn't actually going to get to see them. The lighting was purple and green, purple and red, or dark blue and green for almost the entire show. Very dark colours with virtually no spotlights. I remember from my teens that Gregor Mackintosh (the lead guitarist) hates being in the spotlight, but that shouldn't require an entirely dark stage!
I could make out Aaron Aedy, the second guitarist, because he was physically closest to me, and has a shiny shaved head. I cannot be certain who else was up there. Nick Holmes's voice was, but I don't know about the rest of him. He could have stayed home in Yorkshire and relayed his vocals via internet for all I know. The drummer was visible in spotlights twice, but I didn't recognise him because Paradise Lost have had something of a Spinal Tap problem with drummers. Anyone at all could have been playing the bass. I think it was a shortish man with a beard. And my favourite musician of the lot, lovely Greg - there was a long-haired tall left-handed person playing guitar on his side of the stage, but gods only know if it was him. Could have been any long-haired tall left-handed guitarist, since I couldn't even tell that person's gender.
I can't fault the band's performance. The choice of songs was good, not all of my personal favourites from the last 25 years, but it's impossible to please everyone in an hour and a half. The selection was certainly one that would keep most fans happy. The sound was okay where I was sitting - not fantastic, and not terrible either.
The person I want to criticise is whoever the hell decided to make the lighting so dim that audience members couldn't see the band. Was it just because of that video projection?
In this day and age, going out to see bands is expensive. Fans go out for a number of reasons: to share in the atmosphere of the gig, to support the bands they love, and to see the band perform. If you didn't want to see the band, you could get a bunch of mates round and listen to their albums at home. Honestly, I'd have much rather they dispensed with the video screen and let us see THEM.
At one point, Nick addressed the people sitting upstairs - "Are you having fun?" or words to that effect, and got a very poor response. In reply, he said something like "Maybe you should have stayed at home". That's exactly how I felt. Maybe I should have stayed at home, rather than be horribly disappointed by failing to see one of my favourite bands.