The last time Combichrist were in Newcastle was for their performance in July 2010 and if northerners still have their memories of the adrenaline-fuelled spectacle, then they’ll remember that it was a show of bombastic proportions. After a string of UK shows last year, the industrialists found their way back up north, but would it match the euphoria of the last occasion?
Coventry’s deadfilmstar begin the evening with a respectable set of gothic tinged industrial before Dundee-based Surgyn take the night in a different direction. The duo’s monotonous dance beats and bare-boned electro backing-track make every song blend into one another and their attempt at a ‘party’ vibe doesn’t really pull off. The UK’s answer to Jedward introduce us to new song ‘Limousine’ and leave many of us with mouths agape, wondering what just happened.
Fortunately, the night gets a much needed boost from Welsh talent Jayce Lewis, who has been gaining an audience further afield in Asia. With an impressive band behind him, the vocalist – who made the transition from drummer to frontman following his work in Losing Sun – is pitch perfect at the fore and just as impressive when adding that extra bit of percussion on the toms. The tight five-piece are spectacular on the catchy ‘Electric Medicine’ whilst the unpredictable, rock-driven rhythm and lush melody of ‘Paradox’ makes it a set highlight. The performance doesn’t get bodies bouncing, but it doesn’t need to; after all, that duty can be left for Combichrist. There’s more heads nodding and a general appreciation of the Numan-inspired electro-rock on offer here. Essentially, Jayce Lewis is a unique force both on record and onstage; if tonight is anything to judge by, he’s going to make a big mark on a lot of people by the tour’s end.
The much-anticipated headliners are up next. Combichrist’s set tonight begins with just Andy LaPlegua and keyboardist Shaun F onstage – LaPlegua pacing back and forth covered in black and white facepaint while his bandmate begins the audio ecstacy with ‘Intruder Alert’. Eventually, each band member is introduced one-by-one amidst the slogging dark electro and the brooding, powerful presence of LaPlegua commanding the stage. Drummer Joe Letz makes one of the coolest introductions to a gig ever – slyly sliding his way onto the kit in the middle of ‘Blut Royale’ to add a fearsome, percussive dynamic to the popular song. Combichrist are at their most charismatic at this point. Touring guitarist Abbey Nex shortly follows Letz’s lead and introduces himself to complete the five-piece before ‘All Pain Is Gone’. ‘Are You Connected’ continues a performance that never lacks energy, with the crowd animated song after song.
It’s a professional showing only stained by a strange outburst from Letz who lets the Newcastle crowd know (post-encore) that Combichrist won’t return if they’re not louder. Regardless of whether it was the percussionist’s idea of a joke or not, it got a few heads turning and some in a confused stupor. Nevertheless, the comment is quickly forgotten and LaPlegua’s voice hits another aggressive peak when he barks out ‘In The Pit’ to give us a rambunctious electro bruising to remember. The atmosphere is on fire till finish and Combichrist leave Newcastle in their wake with hangovers, aching limbs and a tune or two lodged in your mind for days after. “Come hear the voices in my head…”