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ULVER - Nosturi, Helsinki (FI), 21.04.2011

Ulver performed the "War of the Roses"

Gallery link: Ulver at Nosturi, Helsinki

ulver11Having never played a single show during the first 15 years of their existence, for the past two years Ulver seem to have gotten acquainted with the touring routine well enough to continue with it. Ever since their first shows in Finland I’ve sworn to never write about the band again. Words don’t do their performances any justice, because in Ulver’s case you had to be there, you had to feel the music seep through your skin and whatever you may say is simply not enough. Yet one year later, on the 21st of April 2011 we found ourselves in Nosturi club again, wondering what this time was going to be like.

Garm (vocals) started the show by informing the audience that the band will be playing their upcoming album “Wars of the Roses” in its entirety. This seems to be the usual practice these days, so we expected to hear all the favourite hits at the end. Or so we thought.

The concert was kicked off with a song called “February MMX”, accompanied by trippy videos on the background, the usual Ulver style. Garm’s hypnotizing vocals, lulling beats, dim lights – all the attributes were there to create the unique atmosphere of truly magical tranquility which is inherent to Ulver shows. However, later on this said tranquility started to trench upon rather depressive feelings and songs like “England”, “September IV” and “Norwegian Gothic” didn’t really bring sunny associations to one’s mind. Ulver take you to autumn when you just got adjusted to spring.

The stage lineup was distinctively smaller than before, yet no less crammed with all kinds of electronic gimmickry. I was struggling to find theremin – the instrument that has impressed me so much at the previous show until I realized that Garm is playing it… on a tablet, most likely an iPad. Welcome to the XXI century. In general, the whole stage set up was a light version of what we have seen earlier.ulver112

Ulver’s recent effort “Wars of the Roses” consists of just 7 songs, the last one called “Stone Angels” – a painfully long poem by Keith Waldrop, which Daniel O’Sullivan recited to Ulver’s consciousness-bemisting sounds in the background, while avoiding any eye-contact with the audience as much as possible. It was this kind of an art experience, where you know there is something about it, but it is somewhere beyond your understanding, so you just get annoyed with its length.

After that the band left the stage for a short break only to come back and finally play something everyone knew and enjoyed – “Hallways of Always”. Unfortunately that was it – an 8-song show and just one “crowd-pleaser”. As I’ve already mentioned – it is the usual routine nowadays to play entire new records live, but afterwards a proper dessert should be served, topped with the cherries of your catalogue. Especially when the new album is clearly not your best endeavour.

In the days of terribly oversaturated music market the thing that works and will work to Ulver’s advantage is that they are very different and distinctive, which is a valuable asset. However, dropping the bar you’ve one set high is always frowned upon. Taken out of context, the “Wars of the Roses” show was a remarkable dream-like experience. Yet, compared to the band’s first live performances, this one left a half-hearted aftertaste.

February MMX
September IV
Norwegian Gothic
Stone Angels
Hallways of Always

Photo: Jana Blomqvist | Report: Tanja Caciur

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