Suicide ain't painless

Suicide by Keira Cullinane, July 9 2015. Used with permission
Suicide by Keira Cullinane, July 9 2015. Used with permission

I found this photo by Keira Cullinane of last Thursday night's Suicide show at The Barbican haunting for its sense of Vega and Rev frozen in the immensity of the space, and shackled by the restrictions of encroaching time.

I posted a comment on it on Facebook though we're not acquainted (we have plenty of mutuals) because it struck a chord and summarised the odd emotions that I felt.

Suicide are one of my favourites going back a long time. The last time I saw them was starkly different, up close and intimate at an Artrocker show at the tiny Buffalo Bar (RIP). Vega was in a foul mood so they played a total of about 20 minutes, with a considerable break where he had to be cajoled back on stage. It was deafening and in your face. I was right at the front, flicked by sweat from Rev's hair as he swung from keyboard to mic. I'd avoided their bigger shows since.

This by contrast was an extremely bittersweet, elegiac show. Alan Vega, who was always such a protean presence, was so frail, both physically and, it seemed, mentally, that at times, as the show wore on, it became unbearably painful and sad for me to witness. At one point early on, he growled 'I can't fucking walk any more'. A fire from the past. By the end he could barely recall the lyrics of Dream Baby Dream. Martin Rev was on hand to buddy, cajole and prompt him at times, 'c'mon man' and reminding him of his lines. It was moving.

Sonically it was very much the sound and fury we expected and craved, but watching the encore which Vega seemed bewildered by was heartbreaking. Henry Rollins (an unwelcome presence for me, not least in his boring and hyperbolic speech at the start of the show), Bobby Gillespie and Jehnny Beth from Savages joined him and did their best to help but they seemed as helpless as we felt.

The audience was fantastic, save for an idiotic heckler behind me who loudly booed the magnificent improv choir (The Feral Chorus) as they opened the second half of the show.

As Vega shuffled off for the final time, I couldn't help but feel it was the last time we will see him perform live, at least here in Britain. I was reminded of when I saw Lou Reed and his Metal Machine Trio a few years ago. He wasn't quite as visibly poorly as Vega but it was close. Still, that show was magnificent, and so was this, the sonic assault was almost physical at times. But leavened by moments of probably justifiable indulgence and the aforementioned overwhelming feel of valediction.

Still, I was more than glad to be there.

So many friends new and old there too, literally everywhere in the complex I went, I would turn and bump into a friendly face, some I'd not seen for years. It was great chatting, however briefly.

So here's to Alan and Martin who were Suicide, for now; and also to my friends whom I saw that night. In rough order of appearance: Olivia, Alex, Miranda, Tom, Madeleine, Eleanor, Tamara, Francisco, Charles, Joey, Char, Alistair, Chris, Lee, Cian. I am sorry if I forgot anyone. It was a bewildering night in the heat and aftermath of the Tube workers' strike.

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