Pumpehuset, Copenhagen, DEN - 13/3
Fu ManchuPrevious Next
support Electric Elephants
author AP date 23/10/16 venue Beta, Copenhagen, DEN
Originally, it was the plan that Orange County, CA’s stoner rock icons Fu Manchu were to celebrate their own 25th Anniversary and the 15th Anniversary of their milestone album, “King of the Road”, with a tour of special double-concerts in 2015, but unforeseen circumstances forced the band to pull out of those commitments. Now, almost 13 months later, the rescheduled trek has found its way to BETA at last, and just as the original concert was sold out, so, too, is tonight’s gig packed to the brim with grizzly looking stoner types eager to exchange their long-standing anticipation for something more palpable.
Although Electric Elephants describe themselves as ‘the sound of a distant galaxy’, the Copenhagen-based quartet does not align with the psychedelic or space rock genre. Even to call it stoner rock would be a stretch, despite the occurrence of certain elements typical to that style in their songs. No, the group’s sound and way of performance rather comes across to me as a mixture of Billy Talent and Horisont: the vocals — delivered somewhat atypically by the fur coat-wearing drummer — are high on the agenda, the harmonised melodies are played almost exclusively in minor key, and the bass guitar enjoys an imposing presence in the mix. You do not put a pick-up that humongous onto your instrument unless you mean to be heard, and quite right: in the midst of songs à la “Do Androids Dream of Electric Elephants?” and “Interstellar Fusion” (both off the band’s début album “In the Great Dark Between Stars”, which came out earlier this year) it is often the groovy rumble of that instrument onto which your mind latches. That its handler plays it with an expert’s touch and supplements that with a cool, twitchy showmanship further strengthens the idea that the bassist is, in fact, one of the two focal points of Electric Elephants.
The other focal point is naturally the drummer, whose quirky persona and broad vocal spectrum brings an intoxicating lure to the ‘Elephants’ music; one otherwise escaping me at times due to the songs requiring just a notch more work before being properly memorable. Not every piece falls into its place tonight thus, but noting the contrast between tracks taken from the album, and those from its predecessor, 2015’s “…Thank You Brother Star”, it is plain to hear that Electric Elephants have covered significant distance towards establishing their own signature sound at least. The band already performs with the sheen of a well-rehearsed outfit — now they just need to harness the unique elements of the music and use them to increase its lasting value.
“Same procedure as every year, James!” — the recurring exclamation of Miss Sophie in Lauri Wylie’s 1963 comedy sketch, “Dinner for One”, and the unwavering mantra of the OC’s Fu Manchu. Albeit a lengthier and more intimate affair than the fuzz-cranking stoner rockers’ performance at this year’s Riot Fest & Carnival in Chicago, IL, the similarities between it and tonight’s showing are remarkable, all the way down to frontman Scott Hill’s striped tee and the way the band busts out a jam for a soundcheck and segues smoothly into the opening track: “Hell on Wheels”. Obviously, the stoner genre lends itself more to a tightly packed setting such as this, where the sweat of 150 diehard fans can condense on the walls, where the pungent stench of hash can violate every nose in attendance, and where the band can go about its business with a laxer attitude. Fu Manchu knows they have no one to win over, no stringent time slot to adhere to.
What this translates to is an off-the-hinges kind of performance, where not everything has to be so perfect. With all those improvised bits and hick-ups, the music is made feel organic, alive. This is important, because the very nature of “King of the Road” is that it flows freely; the kaleidoscopic instrumental passages and spaced out solos just drop in whenever — no build-up, bridging or any such convention — and it gives the show a genuinely jammy lustre. Of course it does not hurt either, that the record boasts some of the finest (and fuzziest) riffs ever written in this genre, or that the proceedings are slung at us at a volume that leaves few other options than to stand in situ and take it. This induces a trancelike sensation of watching and listening to Fu Manchu on your own, each member of the audience immersed in her/his own, personal experience.
Once the record portion of the concert concludes, there is a brief awakening from this limbo as Hill roars, ”Alright! What other fucking songs do you want us to play?”. Whether anyone actually mutters a suggestion in response is unclear at best, but as “Laserbl’ast” erupts from the PA, the mesmerised mass of people suddenly revives itself and proceeds to rock the venue’s floor with a collective bounce. What does disappoint me somewhat is that the promised second set never materialises per se: “Laserbl’ast” is followed by a trifecta of the Blue Öyster Cult cover “Godzilla”, “Evil Eye” and the magnificent “Saturn II” and then, an all too premature conclusion of the evening. It leaves behind it the nagging realisation that we could have lived without the support — announced only a week ahead of the concert — and instead been treated to an earlier start for the headliner, and those two full-length sets that had been advertised.