Pain Of Salvation - Highbury Garage, London
The stage of the Garage has been turned into a living room straight out of the 1970s for tonight's show, and as I walk in Pain Of Salvation main man Daniel Gildenlow is sitting back in one of the comfy-looking chairs. He begins regaling us with stories about his wife's grandmother and her struggle with dementia before a doorbell rings, and up pop opening band Árstíðir, who make themselves comfortable and off we go.
Daniel sticks around to provide vocals for 'Road Salt', before he disappears and we are left to float away on this dreamy bed of Icelandic folk. Vocal harmonies are at the heart of Árstíðir's sound, and the songs blossom into these lush, romantic serenades. Anneke van Giersbergen also joins the boys for a cover of Anathema’s 'Everwake', before reaching the highlight of their set with an untitled a cappella hymn sung by the entire band – a truly spine-tingling moment.
Anneke van Giersbergen is shortly back out on stage for her own set, and immediately 'My Electricity' has jaws dropping left right and centre as her heartbreakingly beautiful voice rings out across the hall. We are treated to another The Gathering song too with 'Locked Away', but it is 'Beautiful One' that steals the show, and remains the highlight of the entire evening, reducing grown men to sobbing wrecks.
There's more preamble from Daniel about death and soup before we get to the main course of tonight's proceedings. Despite the fact they haven’t actually finished the acoustic album this tour was meant to be supporting, they open up with new song 'Falling Home', a song full of the fragility and paranoia that fans of Pain Of Salvation will recognise from throughout the more introvert moments in the band’s discography.
This is not really your typical stripped-down acoustic sort of show, as very few of the more obvious choices make it into the set. Instead, many of their more regular songs are given a makeover, with decidedly mixed result. 'To The Shoreline' and 'Stress' work really well in the new setting, but 'Disco Queen' and 'Mrs Modern Mother Mary' are a bit messy to say the least.
Pain Of Salvation are also prone to a few really cheesy moments. First Anneke returns for a duet with Daniel, covering Kris Kristofferson's 'Help Me Make It Through The Night' which has us all reaching for the buckets, and then some weird swing-cum-reggae-cum-jazz rendition of 'Holy Diver' is funny more for the incredulity it causes then for any musical merit it may or may not have.
But despite these blips tonight, Pain Of Salvation can still really turn it on. 'Ashes' is scarily creepy stripped right down, whilst set closer 'The Perfect Element' loses none of its power. Encores of 'Chain Sling' and '1979' also prove that behind the technicality and proggy bravado, they can indeed write what are simply bloody good songs.