Those who have FAITH
Through it have POWER
And they shall know GLORY
Unto the end…
These are the words projected onto an empty stage while the strong, powerful beats of Pro Victoria ring out through the auditorium. The only word I can think of to describe the experience is ‘epic’. But allow me to back up and talk a bit about the acts leading up to VNV Nation taking the stage last night.
Ayria was first and I have to say I was impressed. Jennifer has a great voice and wonderful stage presence. And she’s Canadian, which was unexpected. We met her after the show and she was quite approachable and very friendly. I’m definitely interested in hearing more of her music and perhaps catching another show of hers in the future.
War Tapes was another kettle of chips. They were very loud, and not just in terms of amplifier volume. I’ve also never seen a lead singer quite that angry at his microphone stand. It began to get a bit laughable the more it went on. I never got the impression that Neil (the lead) was enjoying himself. I know that such emo music is supposed to be a form of lacrymosal catharsis, but you could at least crack a smile once in a while as you’re screaming, my friend. All in all I think I would have swapped their positions, with War Tapes up first, followed by Ayria, then VNV Nation.
Pro Victoria moved directly into Joy. Considering it was one of the first VNV songs I ever heard, and is still one of my favorites, I was beyond ecstatic to see it live. Ronan and Mark were in top form. Ronan said the show would be more ‘intimate’ than the show in New York due to a lack of dividers, with people (myself included) being right up against the stage rather than ‘five miles away’. He then kicked off Sentinal from the new album, and was happy to hear some of us knew some of the words. By his own admission, he doesn’t always get his own lyrics right.
‘In 1999 we brought out an album called Empires,’ he said after that song, ‘and according to some people, that was the only album we ever made. This song is not from that album.’ This was Ronan’s way of introducing Epicentre, easily Danielle’s favorite VNV song. The crowd was absolutely electric. Another new track, Defiant followed next, and another old favorite came next, in the way of Further.
Ronan described Tomorrow Never Comes as the kind of song you play as “you roll down your windows and flip the bird to that ass in the car next to you playing some dumb shit!” This was followed immediately by Chrome. The entire crowd at the TLA made sure they had Ronan’s attention with three little words: “YOU’RE NOT LISTENING!” He made sure we were listening, however, by bringing us into Illusion after songs with such high energy.
His mention of Empires surely made old school fans hungry for those tracks, and the band didn’t disappoint: Standing and Darkangel came back-to-back. ‘Bear your heart for all to see,’ implored the screen during the opening of Standing. Towards the end of the song, Ronan lost his voice. Not because he’d strained it, but because he’d been moved past the point of words. “You are an incredible fucking bunch of people,” he told the crowd. “You’ve moved me to tears.”
It was during Darkangel that the evening nearly took a tragic turn. A young woman fainted close to the stage during Darkangel. Ronan immediately had the crowd clear around her, pulled her onto the stage and carried her in his arms to the wings, where she was tended to by the TLA’s crew. He then went on with the song, and afterwards made sure her friends could get to her and assured us she’d be okay. Solitary, more than once called by Ronan ‘our hymn and our anthem’ was the last of their ‘regular’ songs, and the rousing rendition left us stomping our feet and calling for VNV. Ronan returned to the stage and asked for our attention.
He told us that the next song they’d play would soon be released as a single, and that ‘rather than spend 20 to 30 grand on some glitzy video that means nothing,’ he wanted the fans to help generate material for a video. To make sure it wasn’t a one-sided affair, one of the keyboardists came out with a camera of his own and shot a video of the crowd waving and screaming ‘HELLO!’ before The Great Divide began. Again, Ronan asked us to sing along, sure that he’d mess up the lyrics somehow.
VNV left the stage again, only to return with intent to play a special request for someone who wasn’t present. Apparently it’s also been the case that every show on this tour, they’ve played a different song. So in Philadelphia, we heard Holding On. This moving and heartfelt song, to which all of us of course sang along, was followed by Beloved, during which the young woman who’d fainted returned to the stage with a hug for Ronan. The evening was brought to a close with Perpetual. The last phrase of the song was repeated over and over, not by Ronan, but by the crowd. “Let’s keep this going,” Ronan said. “I like this.”
At the end of the evening, my throat was sore, my head ached, my ears were ringing and my back had more than one kink from standing and moving for hours on end without respite.
And I loved every single minute of it. Well, except for maybe War Tapes.