Hearing that I would get a chance to finally see Cradle of Filth, and in my own town no less, got me just a tiny bit excited. Well, I was a tiny bit excited when I heard about it, even quite happy when the press admission came through, and a lot excited when I got there. Much to my surprise, I might add. To be honest, I didn't think I would give half so much of a shit about it, because I haven't kept up with Cradle's work in recent years, not since before Midian was released. It wasn't until the b-sides on Lovecraft and Witchhearts that a weak little spark of interest was reignited. I probably don't need to mention that the spark didn't turn into a flame.
Thirteen years ago, when I was an innocent little sixteen year old, I came to Cradle of Filth for the first time, with Vempire. It was a hallmark album of my youth, and I have a lot of awesome memories surrounding it. From Vempire I went back to the Principle of Evil Made Flesh, and then onwards through Dusk and Her Embrace and thenceforth to Cruelty and the Beast. By that stage I wasn't as impressed with what the band was up to, and Midian totally killed it for me. By that time, I was already rooted in the whole 'old releases only' pretension that can afflict even the most open-minded of metal fans.
So it was filled with the anticipation of hearing a decent amount of old material that I rocked up to Thebby Theatre this cool, rainy evening. Espying several vestal masturbation shirts on the way, I couldn't help but think that it was eminently suitable that the Cradle show was on a Sunday night in the City of Churches (in fact, for those who don't know the Thebarton Theatre, there is a church right next door – up against which someone was already pissing, and that before the night had begun!).
Amazingly, we got to the show on time and almost caught the entirety of Naetu's set (well, we would have if it hadn't been for the wait at the door). These guys, Naetu that is, are a black metal band from Perth. The kind of well-thumbed, crusty black metal that you used to get a lot in Adelaide but don't so much any more: basic, tight, full of good cadence, and keyboard-less. Or, as some purists would say, 'real' black metal – thanks to the absence of keys.
Full of gutsy enthusiasm, which was instantly reflected back to them by an equally enthusiastic crowd, Naetu played a set that I really enjoyed. Partly it was the confidence these guys have on stage, partly it was the way that they drew in the crowd, partly it was the great band dynamics, and partly it was the ends-of-the-earth, enthusiastic music that Perth bands just seem to embody. Naetu don't do anything new, or even terribly different, when it comes to their black metal. Some of it stayed shy of really 'getting somewhere', but at the same time they didn't get boring – which, in my experience, is one of the dangers of no-frills black metal.
By the end of Naetu's set, the audience was putty in the band's hands. They were a great first act – in my opinion would have been better to have played after Universum, as the immediate pre-headliner warm-up act – and I hope I get to see these guys again soon. I haven't enjoyed a support act this much for a very long time, and I suspect that this is partly due to the fact that Naetu were just something different. Kudos to whomever put these guys on the bill – it was a great decision.
Universum, however, was a support choice about which I was doubtful. I saw them when they supported Dragonforce, and they were good – and a good choice for that show in particular. But for Cradle of Filth? Well, unfortunately, turned out I missed their set anyway. What I heard from outside the venue, where I got stuck being social, sounded great, and like the crowd were fucking stoked about their set. I heard that the band won a stack of new fans as a result of their performance, which is awesome.
But what I found odd about Universum on this show was that the promoter stated that they weren't to be photographed, on the grounds that they had 'their own photographers'. I am not going to speculate about the whys and wherefores of this decision, except to comment that it's strange. Why a very young band that is very media savvy wouldn't want media coverage is totally beyond me. I hope someone explains it to me one day, because good luck to them if they hope to sell their photographs instead!
[Editor's note: Well, happily, this situation has been explained! Universum were not aware of this restriction, and are understandably upset that media weren't allowed in to shoot their set. In an email from Universum's Stephen, it was explained to us that Universum, and nobody acting with the band's authorisation, refused media access, and that the band was unaware that this would occur as a result of hiring their own photographers. The band is disappointed with this outcome, especially given that they didn't find out about it until Monday afternoon. JUST SAY ROCK also clarified this: it turns out that the venue got the instructions arse-about: it was the support acts' photogs that weren't allowed to shoot the main act - not the other way around. Good one, Thebby Theatre!]
By the time nine o'clock rolled around, everyone was getting hyped up about the Cradle set, and started to file back inside. And then we waited around for more than half an hour while final sound-checks were being done. After the sound-check, any movement detected at the sides of the stage caused uproarious screaming and shouting from the fans down near the front of the stage.
Thebby is a good venue, generally – with good sound, and good capacity for a good light show, but I wasn't confident that the venue would be filled. A packed-out crowd elsewhere, transplanted into Thebby looks a bit gappy, and this show was no exception. Despite the way the crowd managed to fill the space with its yells and screams, it still didn't look half full.
While Cradle of Filth obviously weren't able to bring a full stage-show with them, they did have a cool backdrop projection that showed clips of film, covers from albums, and so on, throughout the set. The lighting during the show was fairly low-key but excellently coordinated; and the very slight amount of stage fog simply served to heighten the atmosphere provided by the lighting.
Opening with Shat out of Hell off the latest release, and following it with Gilded Cunt from Nymphetamine, Cradle of Filth rocketed straight into the title track from Dusk... And Her Embrace, making many of us old-school Filth fans excited about the prospect of hearing more of the band's older material. Especially since Dani – who had hit the town the night before – commented that he'd heard we wanted to hear older material. Well, too bad for us then, I suppose – because the majority of the night was focused on newer tracks, which admittedly went down better with the young kids who made up the majority of the audience.
Cradle of Filth played material from Nymphetamine, the Principle of Evil Made Flesh, Dusk... and Her Embrace, Midian and, of course, Godspeed on the Devil's Thunder.
The one song I would have sold my family into slavery to hear, The Forest Whispers My Name, from Vempire – in fact, any track from Vempire – wasn't on the cards. Ah well, you can't have your cake and eat it too, I suppose. Especially amongst such a huge discography as Cradle's.
Despite Dani Filth's big night out the night before, which included being kicked out of the Enigma Bar, he managed to put on a reasonable performance, even if his screams weren't lengthy, and he seemed tired by half-way through the set. However, with bands like Cradle of Filth, the live performance illustrates very clearly just how much work goes into album production. The absence of additional vocal layers in a live setting, for instance, was rather noticeable.
But in terms of the music, the band did a great job. Their keyboard player – Ashley “Ellyllon” Jurgemeyer – was pretty good, as were her cautious vocal efforts. Unfortunately, her vocals don't have the body of Sarah's vocals, and nor should they have – but more from the belly would have been great. Cradle's drummer Marthus worked like a fucking machine for the whole set, and the guitarists were also on the money.
My only criticism about the band's stagecraft is that poor old Ashley, especially from my vantage-point, was obscured ninety per cent of the time by Paul (guitar) and Dave (bass). This, even during Nymphetamine, in which Ashley's vocals were dominant. This, even though the stage was big enough that it needn't have occurred. Or maybe it was simply because most of the time Dani Filth was in the centre of the stage, commanding all. After a while it became, as someone else mentioned, 'Dani and the Filths', because it was really clear who the star of the show was.
Star as he may be, during the second encore, Cruelty..., something happened – many people I spoke to afterwards couldn't quite work out if it was his fault or someone else's in the band – and there was a slight hiccup, something went wrong, and the song faltered before getting back on track. At this point, Dani Filth walked off stage, leaving the rest of the band to play on their own. Don't get me wrong, it worked fabulously as an instrumental, but it was just a tiny bit unprofessional. The best of us have bad days, and audiences are incredibly forgiving, and you can get past it – but not if you have a hissy fit and leave the stage.
This is more especially the case given that it ended up being the last song of the night. The song ended, the band members left the stage without saying a word, house lights came up, and that was it. No 'thanks Adelaide, it was great to be here'; no 'you've been great, hope to come back soon'; not even 'see ya'. Nothing. Not a word. Nada. Ashley had a microphone, she could've said something, but she didn't. It simply ended.
This rather abrupt ending to what was already a short set left the audience in total bafflement. There was a half-hearted attempt at yelling for the band, but once the lights were on and the house music was turned up, that died really quickly. People left the venue, getting the hurry-up from security, looking puzzled, amid rising speculation as to why the show ended suddenly, why Dani left the stage without saying anything. Who knows?
It would be nice if some sort of statement was made about why the show ended the way it did, or even about what happened, but I'm not holding my breath. It was a good show, a reasonable performance, and Cradle of Filth played some great tracks very well. But the ending, let's be honest, was a bit shit. It ruined what could have been a great set, and simply confirmed many people's suspicions that Dani Filth is a prima donna that takes what he does way too seriously.