Posted in music on May 20, 2014

by Andrew Sacher

Swans at Bowery Ballroom - 5/18/14 (more by Amanda Hatfield)
Swans

"As you can see we're playing mostly new songs and really fucked up versions of old songs," said Michael Gira during last night's Music Hall of Williamsburg show (5/19), the second of two sold out Swans shows in NYC on their current tour. It was true. You could hardly call this the To Be Kind tour -- those songs were all mostly played on The Seer tour -- the only real recognizable parts of that album played were "A Little God In My Hands," "Oxygen" and a small portion of "Bring the Sun." Otherwise the two-hour set included "The Apostate" from the The Seer, and three new songs that appear to (at least tentatively) be titled "Frankie M," "Don't Go" and "Black Hole Man."

If it sounds like I'm saying I was disappointed, far from it. It doesn't really matter what Swans' setlist is because every show they put on is a unique, intense experience. When the majority of other bands with classic material dating back to the '80s and '90s (like Swans) get on stage and don't play any of it, there's likely to be some cranky concert goers. But Swans have become a legacy band working entirely on their own terms, far from the type to do a nostalgia tour. And with the incredible creative burst they've had since their 2010 reformation, they wouldn't need to. The current six-piece version of Swans that recorded their last three records is literally a different a band (this lineup doesn't appear on any other Swans album), and it really feels like they're working with the passion of a new group. The way they work out new material on the road and are seemingly over it once it's recorded and released is a tactic tons of small local bands use, but hardly ever seen from a band at Swans' level.

And just like the To Be Kind material did on The Seer tour, these new songs sound great. "Frankie M" actually had a conventional chord change, which, in a set where that happened zero other times, ends up being one of the least expected moves Swans made. "Don't Go" evolved into the kind of lengthy psychedelic trip that "The Seer" and "Bring the Sun" provided at previous shows and "Black Hole Man," played as the alternate ending to "Bring the Sun," replaced the freakout shrieks of "Toussaint L'Ouverture" with Gira's demonically spiritual chants.

Swans' tourmate Jenny Hval and her two-piece backing band opened the show with music that was comparatively softer but similarly dark and uniquely distant from most modern trends. Swans' openers always feel well curated, and Jenny was no different.

We didn't get pictures of the MHOW show, but we did post pictures of Sunday's Bowery Ballroom show. Check out more of those HERE and the setlist from MHOW below...

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Swans at Music Hall of Williamsburg - 5/19/14 Setlist:
Frankie M
A Little God In My Hands
Oxygen
Don't Go
The Apostate
Bring the Sun / Black Hole Man

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Tags: Jenny Hval, Swans

Comments (36)

Wait. They are "literally a different a band"!?!?

Posted by Anonymous | May 20, 2014 10:31 AM

Black Hole Sun / Bring the Man (to the #SVGH)

Posted by Anonymous | May 20, 2014 10:40 AM

MOOOOOOOMMMMMMMYYYYYYYYY
YOU NEVER LOOOOOOOOVED MEEEEEEEEEEE

Posted by Anonymous | May 20, 2014 10:41 AM

Please explain to me how six songs equals a two hour show.

Posted by Anonymous | May 20, 2014 10:43 AM

the songs are twenty minutes/half hour long

Posted by Anonymous | May 20, 2014 10:47 AM

I think I do prefer the more danceable version of Oxygen, and I really miss hearing Coward live, but hey, whaddya gonna do.

Posted by Anonymous | May 20, 2014 10:55 AM

Spooky jamband.

Posted by Anonymous | May 20, 2014 10:56 AM

until there's another post about Parquet Courts, this is the best band in America right now. ever.

Posted by Anonymous | May 20, 2014 11:01 AM

Eaaaaaasilyyyy America's best band as of right now.

Posted by Anonymous | May 20, 2014 11:14 AM

Gira's still a pussy though, right?

Posted by Anonymous | May 20, 2014 12:12 PM

this is music for people who hate music

Posted by Anonymous | May 20, 2014 12:14 PM

Yes Gira is still a pussy
Uno chocha grande

Posted by Anonymous | May 20, 2014 12:17 PM

Swans are America's best band, except for every other American band in existence ever

Posted by Anonymous | May 20, 2014 12:18 PM

Gira is always so grumpy looking

Why the sour puss, tough guy?

Posted by Anonymous | May 20, 2014 12:24 PM

The Little Price is stomping his feet down again?

Posted by Anonymous | May 20, 2014 12:34 PM

Yeah, I was a little bummed that they didn't play the funky version of Oxygen.

Posted by Dylan | May 20, 2014 12:35 PM

Brilliant show.

Posted by Anonymous | May 20, 2014 12:52 PM

This was the worst swans show out of 4 I've seen in the past couple years... guess they had an off night, but even Gira seemed kinda bored. New songs also left a lot to be desired vs the TBK material they didn't play

Posted by Anonymous | May 20, 2014 1:18 PM

"Please explain to me how six songs equals a two hour show."

must be the new math.

Posted by Anonymous | May 20, 2014 1:24 PM

The new songs also don't have as many moments of tense buildup and cathartic, damn-near apocalyptic release. Frankie M had a nice driving rhythm to it, but didn't seem to have any real destination in mind. Black Hole Man was sweet, though.

Posted by Anonymous | May 20, 2014 1:35 PM

can't believe they wrote a song about frankie muniz's heroin addiction.

Posted by Anonymous | May 20, 2014 1:45 PM

Having looked on Wiki, I noticed that Penarol haven't won the Uruguay league title for the best part of a decade !
Is this the longest they have gone without winning a league title ?
What's been going on with them ?

Posted by Android Rooting | May 20, 2014 2:03 PM

^Yes, quite.

Posted by Anonymous | May 20, 2014 3:22 PM

Gotta love all the scarves that once used to pretend to like this band, in order to appear cool now just bash them because they think it makes them look cool/funny.

hummus har har post-ironic GBH

Posted by Anonymous | May 20, 2014 4:11 PM

Micahel was actually in the best spirits i'd ever seen him in last night. it was the bass player that was too drunk and flipping out (his bass amp shat the bed for the second night in a row)

Posted by Anonymous | May 20, 2014 4:23 PM

Oh 4:11, you try so hard and still fail. Cheer up, friend - only 2 more hours to the dinner rush and you can drive around listening to Morbid Angel 8-tracks while you deliver them pizzas.

Posted by Anonymous | May 20, 2014 4:33 PM

^ Must be working since I'm the cheese to your mouse :)

Posted by Anonymous | May 20, 2014 4:40 PM

^ like a Pavlovian dog ... c'mon Sparky, SPEAK! SPEAK!

Posted by Anonymous | May 20, 2014 4:55 PM

^^ sorry, that reference might have been lost on you ....

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Classical_conditioning

Posted by Anonymous | May 20, 2014 4:56 PM

smh @ buckeye shrimper

Posted by Anonymous | May 20, 2014 4:58 PM

flamed scarf

Posted by Anonymous | May 20, 2014 5:04 PM

Poor ol' Buckeye must've inhaled a little too much methane through his straw last night. He seems more salty than usual.

Brain damage, amirite?

Posted by Anonymous | May 20, 2014 5:11 PM

uh oh, buckeye is off his meds

Posted by Anonymous | May 20, 2014 6:26 PM

say what you want but a flamed scarf sounds like a perfectly ironic fashion accessory. and as you know we hipsters love our irony and ironic accessories. just thinking about it makes me want one so I'm not exactly sure how it's a put down?

Posted by Anonymous | May 20, 2014 7:08 PM

he is not even using the word correctly. 'flamed scarf' makes no sense. too much methane. smh @ buckeye.

Posted by Anonymous | May 20, 2014 7:43 PM

OMG we could wear it during the summer, 7:08! Imagine all the attention we'd get!

Posted by Anonymous | May 20, 2014 9:43 PM

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