Fields of the Nephilim’s Halloween gig at Shepherd’s Bush Empire

5 November 2012

There’s no point denying it. I’m a goth. Always have been and always will be. Oh woe is me. Hand/staple/forehead.

I’ve loved Fields of the Nephilim ever since I was a sad little redheaded seventeen year old goth grumping my way around Colchester in an array of dishevelled velvet flounced skirts, jingling mirror embroidered tie dye dresses and pointy little patchouli oil doused boots. I can still remember the moment that I first heard them – my rather older ex boyfriend, who turned out to be a really quite dreadful person, was driving us to a Sealed Muster up north and put their album Elizium into his car’s cassette player. ‘This seems like your sort of thing,’ he said.

He was wrong about so many things but on this occasion he couldn’t have been more right. I was in love. Even just the name is wonderful – has any band ever had such a wonderfully evocative name?

Naturally, Fields of the Nephilim had split up a few months before I heard my first one of their songs but nonetheless I continued to spend the rest of my teens and early twenties in thrall. My fetchingly Pre-Raphaelite ensembles joined by army boots, a heavy dusting of talcum powder, a long trench coat and a ripped and holey black cardigan. I thought I looked AMAZING. I really did not.

Besides the music, which was ethereal, swirling and dense with mystical, pagan and romantic imagery (incidentally, it’s great for writing to), there was also the additional attraction of their frontman, Carl McCoy who I believed was quite possibly the most perfect man to ever walk this earth. I had a framed copy of the above picture beside my bed for many virginal years and no wonder – who could ever measure up to such hat tipping debonair cowboy charm? NO ONE that’s who. Other than perhaps Kiefer Sutherland in Young Guns II but um moving on.

Oh, I loved Carl McCoy. I laugh with immoderate glee at Fields of the Nephilim videos nowadays (the one below is for Blue Water which is a very rewarding watch if you have a healthy sense of the ridiculous) but back then I watched them in ardent devotion, sighing over Carl with his contact lenses and intense moodiness, which I thought was unbearably hot but actually really just meant that he probably took himself very VERY seriously.

I went to see Carl McCoy play once as The Nefilim in the 1990s at Rock City. It was an eventful night for more reasons than one, most of which I can’t really divulge here. It was still a great night though and I had the time of my life on the front row, swooning when he knelt in front of me to sing Moonchild and sighing over him with the other goth ladies who clustered around the front of the stage…

Naturally therefore I was all ears when I heard that they were planning to play a special one off gig in London this Halloween night and when the tickets went on sale, I was here in front of my laptop at 9am, debit card in hand and a hopeful gleam in my eye.

As is usual when one buys tickets several months before the event, it feels like the day will never ever come but it eventually did and last Wednesday afternoon I found myself excitedly boarding a train to London, all gothed up and raring to see my heroes in action. I had time for a quick detour to Whitechapel before the gig and headed there in the gloom to have a drink in the Ten Bells, wander the gloomy Victorian streets behind Commercial Street and have a really heart stoppingly eerie experience on an otherwise deserted Princelet Street before heading across to Shepherd’s Bush.

In my usual rubbish fashion, I’d failed to arrange to actually go with someone to the gig but just as I was starting to feel ever so slightly awkward and a bit of a SAD NO MATES, a very nice girl came up and said the immortal words ‘I hope you don’t think this is weird but do you write books?’ Hurray! A Fan! Bless her, she and her friends took me under their wing and I have to say that I had the best time ever dancing about, taking photos of ourselves as Mortis and his groupies (don’t ask) and weeping over Pete Steele. Unfortunately I completely SUCK at remembering names and it was pretty noisy when she told me hers so I can’t deliver the promised shout out! Gah.

Anyway, on to the gig itself, which was absolutely extraordinary in every way. I’d already seen The Nefilim back in 1995? and so had some inkling of the powerful majesty of a Fields of the Nephilim gig in full swing but honestly it completely took my breath away. There were literally moments when I stood, mouth dropped open and actual TEARS IN MY EYES as I listened and as for the singing along. Oh my. There’s something surprisingly hymn like about the Nephilim’s songs – well maybe not surprising if you could have heard the goths crammed into the Shepherd’s Bush Empire raising their arms and chanting along to Love Under Will, Preacher Man and Moonchild.

Goths not watching Fields of the Nephilim. If you are the person on the left then THANK YOU for being so nice and saving me FROM MYSELF.

Preacher Man was a definite highlight for me – a really powerful, energetic live version that had pretty much everyone dancing like maniacs and chanting ‘We don’t fear no contamination’ like the most warped football chorus ever. After this there came Psychonaut, which has never been one of my favourite Nephilim tracks but managed to completely captivate me on this occasion before moving on to my favourite, Moonchild or as I like to type it: Moooooonchiiiiild. Incredible.

The gig came to an end all too quickly and there was much stamping of feet before the band came on again to do a blistering encore performance of Last Exit For The Lost, which is one of those songs that starts oh sooo slowly but then builds up into something truly spectacular. It also involved a lot of goth hand pointing and much chanting – so much so that I was completely hoarse after one too many ‘LAST. EXIT. FOR. THE. LOST’ chants.

It was all just completely fabulous. It also made my heart sore a little for the happy times I spent in the 1990s going to gigs and doing the whole goth thing – it was almost as if the venue had fallen into a vortex and whisked us back in time to an era of faded Electrostatic Quagmire T-shirts (WHERE has mine gone?!), patchouli doused leather jackets, flour encrusted cowboy hats, crimped black hair and enthusiastic half naked men making wobbly pyramids in front of the stage. Ah, youth. Who says it’s wasted on the young?

Did you go and see Fields of the Nephilim at London or Leeds last week? Did you love them in days gone by? Did Carl McCoy completely RUIN YOU for all other men? Come and tell me all about it.

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