Live-Review: Covenant in Berlin

The 22nd of september, apart from being yet another soft grey day over the German capital, was also the last day of Covenant’s German tour, naturally ending in old Berlin. And no matter how big such an event can be in the alternative spheres, very few people around Kreuzberg-Neukölln on that day might have been aware of what was about to unfold on that very night in their neighbourhood.
The venue Columbiahalle is quite popular within the Alternative Berlin for the massive amounts of events this place had always happily put on, and the Nordics are also familiar with it for that was where they performed for their last Berlin gig, at E-tropolis Festival in March 2013.


At 7 O’clock, as Columbiahalle was slowly filling up with all sorts of dark and less dark people, I was re-exploring the place I discovered 7 months earlier for E-tropolis, where I had seen the very same band for the first time. And as I was doing so, a small, strange looking, half naked boy came on stage and froze in a somewhat theatrical position in front of a keyboard. Still for a moment, largely ignored by a crowd that was still wandering around, drinking, talking and checking the merchandise, he decided to move at last and started playing around with the keyboard. I was a bit confused, not only by the boy’s relatively odd behavior, but also by his very shiny PVC skirt. It was not the end of the confusion though, for when he finished playing what apparently was a song, two other, perfectly ill-matched PVC adepts got on stage along with him. And as they chaotically started to play a song all together, I started to realize, pretty much at the same time as everyone else in the venue, that this might have actually been the first support band. As slowly as it was confused, the crowd finally got around the stage to find out what was this strange PVC celebration all about. I learned later that the act was called Gothika. So, Gothika, a Japanese Goth Electro band that I had never heard before – and I doubt being the only one – was opening for Aesthetic Perfection and Covenant on two of the German dates on that tour, including Berlin. So this oriental bondage club is composed of Latex boy on keyboards, whose big thing is to scream “yah” completely randomly every so often, a singer that I thought at first was a gothic soft porn star (seriously, only the voice gave it away – that it was a man, I mean), an outrageous female in pvc drags and officer’s hat on the other keyboard (probably Gothika’s best asset) and a random middle-aged drummer in a white shirt at the back. Yeah, it’s hard to find, drummers.

But apart from their patchwork looks, the fact that they had no idea how to make music was probably not helping. Take a basic EBM-inspired arpegiatto launched on the keyboards at the start of the set added to easy-lectro melodies and you got an idea of how Gothika sounds like. But then the singer comes into play and it’s a different story. For that’s vocals you would only accept in a bad anime soundtrack. And as I was, stupefied, witnessing the uneven, erratic show, I felt embarrassed. embarrassed for me, embarrassed for all the people around me, embarrassed even for the band, and above all embarrassed for the entire scene in itself. A Japanese drag queen in pvc, singing barely audible songs, is that what the scene has become? Is that what it means now to be a Goth? I hope not, even if I’m getting more and more doubtful.
The second band to take over the stage did not need any introduction.
The American boys of Aesthetic Perfection confirm their popularity over Europe (and especially Germany) thanks to this successful tour with Covenant. I never was a big fan of their music, but it felt like a refreshing wave of good taste after Gothika. Even if the singer was wearing a bowtie. Daniel and friends was soon enthusiastically declaring ownership of the small C-halle stage with their happy jumpy Electronic music that feels like Industrial Metal. Carnal lyrics, crazy positive atmosphere and a singer prompt to make me forget the sores caused by the previous band… Yeah, Aesthetic Perfection are good on stage.After setting the fans on fire by opening with the already massively popular “Antibody”, Daniel would never stop jumping all over the place while the keyboard player would keep on trying to win some sort of fight with his keyboard – or to have babies with it, depending on the point of view.
The only thing I felt unnecessary was the cover of Fine Young Cannibals’ “She Drives me Crazy”. It could have been a good idea, but sadly I’ll only keep an odd memory of Daniel’s awkward behavior all along the song to indicate us that this is a seriously good joke, through overacted body language, forced laughs every so often and so on. I was definitely in when they started playing it. Irony never killed anyone, right (I’m not too sure about that, but nevermind). But due to Daniel strange need to justify himself, it just became quite heavy. It was a release to be back to regular Aesthetic Perfection tracks which did not require to send smoke signals confirming the joke every 30 seconds. But it was already time for the lights and the breath speeds to alter, calling for the Swedish beat. Soon the trio took over the small stage in front of a Sunday night Berlin crowd which was slowly getting used to the feeling that summer time/festival time was gone; a little bit tired, a little bit bittersweet, yet giving a peaceful but warm cheer to those that most would have seen so many times already they would almost feel like old friends. And it was just as if the feeling was shared on stage; this happy tired feeling was just all over the place. I felt their performance quite different from the Infest show they had put on a month before, less club-oriented, more aerial, higher, quieter; a last communion with the loyal German fans before continuing their tour, in Japan first, then later on in Europe over an handful of dates.

First disappointment if one, concerned the size of the stage and the amount of projectors behind the band which obviously and very quickly appeared too little. Although, as you – dear readers – may know, Covenant is all about light. But as soon as the Swedish force hit the stage I understood it would be a total different take on lights than last time’s thousands of white projectors, the new one being much more “Leaving Babylon”. The whole light work this time was solely limited to a liquid red light streaming across a stripe of screens in the background as they were playing, matching perfectly the atmosphere. As always, Covenant stands right where beauty and subtlety collide. But although fitting the new album, and although the entire set was more peaceful than it could sometimes be, still they grew the tension slowly, higher and higher still. And right at the climax of beauty, it just happened to be the most amazing thing to hear Eskil to exclaim “Maximum Lights” to some light guys behind us, and to feel brutally submerged, drowned and brought higher by the amount of light. Still very oriented on the new album, the set starts off with the already classic “Leaving Babylon – Part II”, elegant minimalist instrumental, before kicking in with “Leaving Babylon”, the song. And I still can’t get enough of hearing “We’re leaving Babylon” as the first words of the show, calmly whispered by Eskil’s velvet voice as an introduction.

An although we will have faster songs played on the night (“Edge of Dawn”, “Voices”, “Stalker” – f*** yeah, “Stalker”), the overall atmosphere will be light and blue, with clear upbeat tracks like “Ritual Noise”, “Bullet”, “Get On” and also slower tracks, still consistent with the peaceful ambiance, such as “Beauty and the Grace”, and the amazing short moment of intensity “I Walk Slow”. Which, I re-affirm, happens to be my favourite Leaving Babylon track. This very quiet song doesn’t appear to have convinced the crowd just yet though, given the odd welcome it received on that night, people talking and only half cheering at the end, as if it would more have been more of a break than a proper song. Playing a song for the first time and receiving a mild welcome is the best way to get a band frustrated enough not to play it anymore, therefore I doubt it will ever become a gig standard. Have I been the only one to feel the slight tension around that song or not, the rest of the set kept on unfolding anyway, lights on until the very end. But more than the light, more than the usual amazing show and more than the slight different taste that the end of a tour can have, Covenant on that night offered something more. At the end of the encore, when all thought it might have really been the end this time, it all started again. But this time, not only Covenant, but also Aesthetic Perfection came back for us. “One World, One Sky” was played, which never sounded better than on that night. And for me, that very moment is now printed on the song, along with the smiles and the hugs, and the sincere friendship between members of two different bands who lived together for the time of a tour. Those last moments of the last date in Germany in the heart of Berlin, will I believe, remain a safe and happy memory for all those who happened to be there. Once again Covenant crafted magic on stage, on this gloomy night of the end of September, in a city that never failed to show them all the loyalty they could give.

Review & picture by Marie Lando.