Event Reviews
Swans

Swans

Variety Playhouse • Atlanta, Georgia • April 18, 2024

When walking through the doors of the Variety Playhouse, there was a steady hum of open apprehension about what version of Swans would be encountered. Everyone who has seen Swans in its progressively different incarnations was more-than-primed to have expectations subverted. Regardless of which version of Swans were about appear onstage, there was an overwhelming consensus, it would be an experience to be heard in order to be believed.

Phil Puleo and Michael Gira
Reese Cann
Phil Puleo and Michael Gira

It speaks a great deal of Michael Gira’s 40-year career and nearly 70 years on this planet that even the most die-hard Swan fans weren’t fully prepared for what was about to happen. Members of the crowd muttered like geologists theorizing about the strata. You could feel anticipation mounting.

Dana Schechter, Michael Gira and Larry Mullins
Reese Cann
Dana Schechter, Michael Gira and Larry Mullins

Once Swans took the stage, it was immediately evident what was in store. An absolute wall of sound formed and then suddenly emptied on the audience.

Each song seemed like a microcosm of Swans’ discography, starting with a blistering dirge-like cacophony, deep-rooted in no wave roots, that steadily evolved and progressed into something more-and-more inspirational. The presence of former Bad Seed Larry Mullins’s keyboards and Cop Shoot Cop’s Phil Puleo on drums coupled with a finesse and execution sometimes seemingly akin to prog rock.


Michael Gira and Larry Mullins
Reese Cann
Michael Gira and Larry Mullins

There was not much in terms of callbacks to earlier releases. The focus was on recent albums, which seem to better epitomize and reflect a reformation, maturity, and wisdom of not only where Swans have been, but even more so where they are now. With songs like “The Beggar,” they weave a sonic tapestry loaded with imagery of undeniable power, with fairy-tale-like themes of self-actualization, ascension, and triumph over darker places.

Kristof Hahn
Reese Cann
Kristof Hahn

Swans seem to have always toyed and experimented with religious symbolism, but it seems that Gira and Swans have grown and earned the legitimate power akin to some form of religious majesty. While continuously clutching his guitar, Gira performatively swings arms about his head, part maestro, part shaman, insisting and bringing forth the most from both fellow Swans and fans alike. Acolytes in the audience nod and sway ritualistically throughout an explosive two-and-a-half-hour set. Absolutely nothing was left on the table.

Swans at Variety Playhouse: Kristof Hahn, Dana Schechter, Larry Mullins, Michael Gira, Phil Puleo and Christopher Pravdica
Reese Cann
Swans at Variety Playhouse: Kristof Hahn, Dana Schechter, Larry Mullins, Michael Gira, Phil Puleo and Christopher Pravdica

Featured photo by Reese Cann.

Swans


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