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Live Review: William Control – Islington Academy, London – 31/05/12

William Control and Fearless Vampire Killers dominated an intimate gig at the cosy Islington O2 Academy 2 and we were on the front lines. Check out what we thought inside!

Band: William Control
Support: Fearless Vampire Killers, Obscure Pleasures, Spit Like This
Venue: Islington Academy 2, London
Date: 31/05/12

Underground horrorpunk establishment Spit Like This open the night with all the speed of a lipstick smeared bullet, launching into a raucous, rumbling set showcasing some of the best tracks from their new album, ‘Normalityville Horror’. The band bring a zeitgeist of influences to their live performance, with all the style and panache of Alice Cooper or Rob Zombie. Glam, burlesque, 80s hair metal, this band pack it all in to the limited time they have onstage, ranging from the brilliantly frenetic, vengeful ‘Sick’ to an audacious cover of ‘Sweet Transvestite’ from the ‘Rocky Horror Picture Show’ soundtrack.

Their chemistry bubbles like vials in a B-movie mad scientist’s laboratory, with twice the insanity and all the grandiosity. Frontman Lord Zion is surely horrorpunk’s very own answer to the legendary Iggy Pop, and he’s backed up by three equally charming and skilled musicians including a corset-clad bassist with an image fresh from the glam metal videos of the ’80s.

Obscure Pleasures go on to prove that Spit Like This are a hard act to follow. While unfalteringly seducing the crowd, the change of pace from hilarious, energetic horrorpunk to a glorious British darkwave goth revival is an odd change and it takes a little while for the band to really hit their stride. Things certainly improve for them when they bring a voluptuous burlesque dancer onstage, complete with nipple tape and a full bottle of Jack Daniels, bringing some essential movement and heat to the otherwise static performance. After a slightly slow start the band achieve what they set out to do – set the stage for the two explosive acts to follow.

It can easily be said that the crowd are as much here for Fearless Vampire Killers as they are for the main act, and from the very beginning it’s just as easy to see why. The London hometown heroes ooze style and confidence from every theatre-paint clogged pore and they rip through their set effortlessly. The comparisons to My Chemical Romance are perhaps inevitable but FVK outdo them at every turn with fun, spontaneity and a genuinely fresh take on their genre. FVK look like they just escaped from a demon-infested steampunk novel by the skin of their teeth and play like they’re holding back hell with music and balls alone. Vocalists Laurence and Kier are waging a war against the stagnant hole UK alternative music has fallen into, and they’re winning! They should be considered one of England’s flagship emerging bands, and if they continue the way they’re going, they’ll go down in musical history.

By the time William Control makes a trademark sinister appearance, the crowd are still buzzing from FVK’s set, but as the lights go down and the first few eerie notes of ‘Pure Imagination’ from the ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ soundtrack strain out into hearing, the venue transforms. Appearing on stage in a velvet smoking jacket, smoking a pipe, the sporadic strobe lighting makes frontman Wil Francis look like a visitor from another time – and a welcome one at that. Without hesitation they launch into ‘Novus Ordo Seclorum’ and feverish, nonstop dancing ensues. Wil Francis has a spectacular chemistry with his fans; visibly charged by the enthusiasm they roar forth with every word. Live, the band has the ability to be both vulnerable and sinister, matching up to the melodic industrial beats they play along with.

The show has so many high points it’s hard to capture it all with words. There is a spectacular moment mid-song where Francis drops down into the front row with a huge grin on his face, taking fans around the shoulders to dance and sing with them. It’s one of those brilliant moments of artist-fan camaraderie that can’t be described adequately – it is truly something that must be witnessed. Through electric performances of ‘Disconnecting’ and ‘The Velvet Warms and Binds’ the band continue to rouse the crowd into frantic dancing and singing – the small venue can barely hold the throbbing atmosphere and thrashing audience.

Each song in the setlist is met with roaring approval and suitably dramatic gestures and theatrics from the band – Francis choking himself with a cord and singing from a grave-like position on the floor, and doing his very best between songs to show the crowd just how much he loves them. The William Control project is truly everything Aiden aren’t – melancholic, sexually explicit, teasing, disturbing and poetic all at once – and the live show pushes those elements home much more effectively than the studio releases. Throughout the show Francis makes a thorough effort to break down the character the songs are based on, and while the lyrics are occasionally obscene and heavily decadent, the intense vulnerability behind his performance is always obvious.

After an acoustic encore of ‘London Town’ and ‘I’m Only Human Sometimes’ the band depart to rampant cheers and a thoroughly pleased audience. This live show will completely fly under the radar if you’re not looking for it, as it has over the four years of William Control’s experimentation. Next time Francis comes around, get yourself to a show – and hope he brings some of the UK’s most promising bands with him again.


Reviewer: Laurence Stark

Photography: Sarah Seal/Laurence Stark

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