A couple of years ago I hadn’t even heard of 70’s cult psychedelic folk band Comus but then for some reason their name kept cropping up on one of my e-mail groups so I decided to check them out. I fell in love with their first album First Utterance the first time I heard it and have been wanting to see them ever since. They only reformed in 2009 playing together for the first time in 37 years and have done a handful of gigs since. I was going to go and see them about this time last year but my car broke down a few days before the gig and I ended up spending all my money.
We did manage to get Roger Wootton and Glenn Goring to appear as a duo at the Summer of Love festival last year but although I enjoyed their set it didn’t have the weirdness that the Comus songs have on record – I don’t think the fact that it was pissing down with rain helped matters much either. So I decided that I needed to see the full band and was glad to see that they were playing at the Borderline in London on 28th April.
I’ve always loved the Borderline as a venue but it had been quite a while since I’d been and the first thing I noticed was that there had been some changes. I think they’d knocked the wall behind the sound booth down and made the gents smaller so that there was more room to stand and watch the band. Other than that and a new small bar near the “dancefloor” it was still pretty much as I’d remembered it.
I was at the bar when the first band came on. They were called Purson and from the very first song they had the audience entranced with their sixties flavored rock. They looked and sounded as if they were playing a speakeasy in 1969 with just the lack of oil lamps and a smokey haze giving things away. The lead singer, Rosalie Cunningham, who was wearing a long flowing hippy dress has a lovely voice and plays a mean guitar while the rest of the band kick ass behind her!
Next up were Fusion Orchestra 2 who turned out to be a reincarnation of a band that were around in the early 70’s with one album that has achieved a cult status – bit like Comus then! However the new incarnation (with a 2 added on the end of the name probably to avoid lawsuits!) only has one original member, Colin Dawson, in it. At first glance I thought that maybe it was the drummer but it turned out to be the guitarist. The band came on and were just about to start when a female singer suddenly appeared wearing a black dress with a flower in her hair. This sudden last minute appearance jarred me for a few minutes because she didn’t look as if she belonged with the rest of the group but once you got used to her looks her voice fitted in well. She did admit though that the album, Skeleton in Armour, had come out almost 20 years before she was even born.
After they had finished the stage was virtually stripped bare of equipment leaving only a small rack of drums before Comus took to the stage and opened with Song to Comus off the First Utterance album. Unfortunately due to a technical hitch Colin Pearson’s violin was not audible during the song and there was a long gap while it was sorted out before the set continued with a favourite of mine Diana. The sound seemed to improve as the night went on and by the end they sounded great. The set was comprised of all but one song from First Utterance and the three new songs from the new album (or mini album as they called it) Out of the Coma.
Song to Comus
Out of the coma
I enjoyed seeing them live and my only criticism would be the lack of material. Given that they only play stuff from their first album as the second album was generally regarded (even by the band) as crap they will find it hard to continue to pull in crowds if they play the same songs every time. The three news songs were good and Out of the Coma sounded much better than it did when I first heard it at SoL last year. They seem to be working closely with David Tibet of Current 93 who was supposed to be there but couldn’t make it due to illness so maybe that might produce some creative outpourings.