Oslo – September 4th
Now I’ll be entirely honest, I went to Oslo on a warm, balmy night with the expressed intention of watching support act Sealings then buggering off. Esben & the Witch’s distinctive brand of sultry gothic post-rock is not for me, I thought. I’ll have a thrash about to Sealings then order an Uber, I presumed. But oh how wrong I was. The Brighton invasion of Hackney (for this is where both bands have journeyed from) stayed me firmly put and definitely surprised.
Expertly opened by Exes, the proceedings were thus; Sealings did not play any of their punk bangers that I had dreamed of pogo-ing to, oh no. Sealings played a lot of droney noise. Maybe it was their lack of a live drummer (they use a drum machine) or maybe it was the technical hitches they seemed to be having, but the three piece (one third of whom sported a skeleton mask, for ‘lols’ presumably) were not the band I was expecting at all. Surprise no.1.
By the time Esben & the Witch came on stage, Oslo was absolutely heaving. Another great Bird on the Wire booking, I do love those folks’ ability to match venue to artist perfectly. The smoke machine pumped for dear life, the band entered the myre (it could have been Cooling Marshes in there really) to yelps and howls of appreciation. As the band bounded through ‘No Dog’ and wallowed through ‘Dig Your Fingers in’ it became glaringly apparent to me what the howls were for. Esben & the Witch are really really good at what they do. Surprise no.2. Cascading drum rolls and walls of reverb from three incredibly talented multi-instrumentalists who swapped instruments and the spotlight throughout like it was no thing at all was entirely impressive. Ending with 15 minute long (some might say ‘epic’ but I don’t like the miss use of that word) ‘The Jungle’, I couldn’t help but admire the scale and ambition of what Esben & the Witch are up to now. Their newly released album ‘A New Nature’ was on the stereo with heavy rotation all of the week after. I might even buy a smoke machine for my living room.