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CHELSEA WOLFE and KÆLAN MIKLA live at Gruenspan, Hamburg (June 22nd 2024)

There's a European football championship going on in Germany.

Yes, right. I didn't care one bit either. Years in the past I actually followed tournaments and even ironically draped the room in flags I got for free, which would feel so icky in today's disgusting nationalism climate. But this whole rotten and corrupted professional sports thing just has become so uninteresting for me.... I only received minimal random informations through my social media feeds and haven't watched a second of it. And since I'm living on the countryside and my co-workers are as oblivious as me, I didn't really have it on my mind when I drove to Hamburg on Saturday. Only when I neared my prefered free parking spot and saw a couple of Turkish flags being waved from inside a car it slowly occured to me, that there might be a little problem with a huge crowd watching the game right there. Felt like an idiot, but luckily I was early enough to find another (of course not free) place far away from quite dangerous adreneline-high drivers randomly speeding, stopping and changing directions.

Well, fast forward to the line outside the Gruenspan, I must admit that with all those football carnival tourists around and the beautiful summer sun still shining the black crowd waiting to be let into a dark room to enjoy nocturnal melancholic music stood out more than usual. 

The championship takes place all four years, and four years ago Chelsea Wolfe was also supposed to play in Hamburg. But due to you know what her show only won my personal ranking of the Top 7 canceled shows of 2020.

Her appearance at this year's Roadburn Festival also clashed with too much other stuff to attend it, so it really had been a long time, since I had last seen the queen of contemporary Gothic live. August 2018 it was... wow. Yes, this show was defintely long-awaited and highly anticipated from my side.

These ladies from Iceland have been on my list of bands I'd like to see for while now too, so we were really checking boxes here. The assigned duties in this trio were vocals, bass and keys/flute/electronic beats, which reads a bit unfair, but was actually quiet balanced.

Bittersweet between profound and quirky (especially the sometimes very high vocals), often minimalist and always very 1980's Kælan Mikla couldn't have sounded more just Gothic, but somehow made every cliché they incorporated completely their own and were even able to deliver a couple of little sonic surprises when you thought you had already figured them out. Recognizable and with a sympathetic cool charisma they certainly made it hard not to like them. Undoubtly a worthy support for Chelsea Wolfe!

Did you bet on Chelsea beginning her set with her new album's opener "Whispers In the Echo Chamber"? Well, congratulations! You won and probably earned a cent on the Euro. No, this show wasn't one for earth-shattering surprises. And why should it have been? After the long wait everything the audience wanted was just her and her trusted band including long-time songwriting partner Ben Chisholm and drum bestie Jess Gowrie doing their dark magical thing.

So this was definitely the artist everyone knew and loved with her familiar versatile sound between the nightly shades of Alternative/Noise Rock, Electronica, Doom, Ambient, Industrial, Folk and all the blurry demons and spirits flying inbetween those pillars.

The most obvious difference to the last European tour was the amount of songs in which Wolfe just sang, neither playing electric nor acoustic guitar and Gowrie played the electronic pads of her drumkit. That was simply due to the fact that the set included all ten songs of "She Reaches Out To She Reaches Out To She" and this album's particular demands.

When you perform all your new stuff and afterwards I love it even more than before, than you definietly won the cup. It's always such a spellbinding experience to see Chelsea Wolfe create this distanced but capturing aura with her ethereal voice. And on this night - in the Gruenspan venue, which isn't always the sound engineer's best friend - the mix favoured it, even when you were standing in the front row, even when it was meant to be buried under the flood of emotional noise. From the flawless whispered verses in the opener on it was just clear that this was going to be a great sounding show.

Despite the focus on recent material there was still enough time to play seven other songs from most albums of her back cataloque. And it all being brilliant choices ("Feral Love", "Carrion Flowers", "Flatlands"...) makes it hard to criticize the setlist.
Sure, a track from "Apokalypsis", preferably "Movie Screen" would have been the absolutely delicious icing on the cake. And especially since the "Birth Of Violence" tour never happened on this side of the Atlantic, I had secretly been hoping for maybe a little cluster of that semi-acoustic material now, but the band only played "The Mother Road" in a more plugged version. Which again was great, too.
The bottom line (and every other fan will probably agree, only with other songs) is that the absolutely perfect Chelsea Wolfe show just needs to be forty minutes or so longer! But of course it's greedy to request that, since seventeen songs already made a really good overall length.

At the very end the singer stood alone with her guitar to perform a stripped down version of "The Liminal" - and if you've not only seen my cover image for this review but any fan or photographer presenting their favorite pictures from this tour, you know that this finale was also visually iconic.
The whole light show had been conceptually simple, yet very effective and unique so far. But this fiery swirling maelstrom of light and nebula will be one of most palpable, magical and memorable sights to see on any stage this year, even if you're attending events which are twenty and more times bigger and more expensive.

And no, I'm not talking about watching football with hordes of drunken Englishmen. I will admit though that on this night I felt slightly posh and snobbish being a part of an exclusive minority with a superior choice of leisure activity.
I also still don't know which teams played against each other and who won. This show however will be etched in my mind at least as long as Zinedine Zidane's headbutt or Brazil's 1:7 loss against Germany.

Yes, even I remember those. Goth save the Queen!

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