A Winged Victory For The Sullen - Vinz
De Roma (Antwerp) - 25 oct 2014
A Winged Victory For The Sullen played on saturday the 25th of October in the lovely Roma venue in Antwerp, in support of their latest album 'Atomos'. A delegation of Merchants of Air went to see them (Serge, Eline and me) and at first we thought that this would be an ideal opportunity for a double- or even triple-opinion review. But since we pretty much completely agreed on the quality of the shows of both A Winged Victory For The Sullen and supporting act Vinz we decided to just divide the work. And because Serge bought the vinyl edition of 'Atomos', which will be reviewed soon, it was up to me to do the concert review..
Not a problem, I've been a longtime fan of pretty much everything Adam Wiltzie is involved in. Stars Of The Lid, Aix Em Klemm, The Dead Texan and A Winged Victory For The Sullen (which will for practical purposes (read: I'm lazy) now be abbreviated to AWVFTS). Though he was also involved in the last album of Sleepingdog, with dutch singer-songwriter Chantal Acda, a project that left me a bit cold to be honest. Support act Vinz is also a close friend of Wiltzie and he and Dustin O'Halloran both play on his latest album. And unfortunately, Vinz has left me a bit cold as well.
Vinz is the alias of Brussels-based Stefan Huber and armed with only an acoustic guitar and his voice he got on stage. We were seated comfortably (at tables with candlelight even!) in the imposing, gorgeous venue that is De Roma and let Vinz perform his singer-songwriter folk. The problem with having such a stripped-down performance, being only vocals and guitar, is that it is (for me at least) incredibly difficult to hold on to something if it doesn't grab you. Even when watching a mediocre band you, most of the time you can find something that does in some way appeal to you, be it the vocals, drums, guitarwork or the dynamics between the different members. As a man with an acoustic guitar you don't have that 'luxury'. You have to do your thing all by yourself and if it doesn't grab the audience, it doesn't. And I can't speak for the rest of the audience (in fact, the majority did like it) but it just didn't grab me. Lyric-wise it didn't appeal to me as well. It reminded me of lots of things: Luka Bloom, Lou Reed, Nick Drake.. but of all it was lost to me. Which is a shame because I have huge respect for someone standing there all by himself. In the end, Adam and Dustin provided support for the last 2 songs and even though they brought a much-needed dynamic boost to the performance it was too late for me. Adam made the remark that in a just world, Belgian singer-songwriter Tom Helsen (baarff) would be 'mopping up floors' and Vinz would be much more well-known. And while I wholeheartedly agree on the Tom Helsen comment, I don't think Vinz is the answer as well. But hey, I'm just one guy with an opinion. As I said, the majority of the audience seemed to be captivated by it. It just shows how much music can divide opinions.
One thing the audience opinion certainly wasn't divided on, was the stellar performance of AWVFTS. For one and a half hours long they mesmerized the crowd with their sublime, cinematic blend of modern classic, ambient and drone. Armed with a grand piano, synths, samplers, Wiltzie's trademark effected guitar and a whole string sextet they played basically the whole 'Atomos' album and some, quote Wiltzie: 'classics', like 'Steep hills of Vicodin tears' and 'A symphony pathetique' from their eponymous debut. The whole performance was pretty much an hour long track, with every part flowing into the other. AWVFTS have such a fantasic way of grabbing your attention with their amazing sense of dynamism and flow. Everything works so well together. Dustin O'Halloran's fantastic piano work, Adam's drones, the strings.. Even the stagelighting is an integral part of the whole performance. After that first hour, a well-deserved semi-standing ovation was their reward. Then, by way of an encore they played another half hour (with said 'classics' among them) before ending on a beautiful subdued note with only the string sextet performing the track 'XII from 'Atomos''. I could go on and on in hyperboles about how amazing the show was but I guess I will just leave it at this: shame on you if you weren't there. Come to think of it, I think I can go on about it. There's one thing nagging at the back of my mind. As much as I love Wiltzie's music I feel so much of it reminds me in many ways of Stars Of The Lid. And everytime that happens I ask myself: "Goddammit Adam, it's been 7 years, when are we going to get a new SOTL album??!!"............
To end this review, I would like to extend a special thank you to whoever it was that had the idea to play The Caretaker in the intermission between Vinz and AWVFTS. It's not often you get to hear such magnificent music in just an intermission. It suits De Roma so well, it's ghostly sounds complimenting the atmosphere of the beautiful venue. Thank you, guy-behind-the-buttons, for making my evening...