There’s a curious mix of nostalgia, nerves and expectation involved in seeing the bands of your youth again especially when both you and the group have become middle-aged. Before the gig starts you think back to what was, and hope that it can be again. The wish is, ostensibly, that some dads in black t-shirts who are as tired or more tired than you are, can weave a spell and bring back the sonic thrills of your teenage years. Most importantly, you hope that they just don’t let you down.
There was never much chance of being disappointed by Swervedriver. The Oxford four piece, or at least the two original and founding members Adam Franklin and Jimmy Hartridge, have had three decades (not counting a lengthy eight-year hiatus at the turn of the century) to perfect what they do, and it shows.
Taking to the stage at Shibuya’s Womb under the enormous disco ball, they look jet-lagged (something that frontman Adam Franklin himself refers to later), but ready for action and happy to be there. Starting with “Mary Winter” from this year’s excellent Future Ruins LP, it is immediately obvious that they have lost none of their power. Their trademark blend of raw muscular guitars and dreamy sunset melodies, blistering and intricate in equal measure, sounds as good as it ever did, but now seems honed by experience and perhaps just a touch more wistful than before.
The set, consisting mainly of songs from Future Ruins, comeback album I Wasn’t Born to Lose You and 1993’s classic Mezcal Head, nicely balances something old and something new while making a great case for Swervedriver as one of Britain’s most consistently high-quality bands.
Towards the end of the gig, there is a brief moment of tension, caused most likely by a technical problem. The playing becomes hesitant and the band cast each other glances. Musicians of this caliber, however, cannot be put off so easily and within just a few moments they have turned it around and bring the gig to a close with confident, passionately played versions of “Deep Seat” from their debut album Raise, and their biggest British hit “Duel.”
The crowd, ranging from cool young things who may not have been born in the 1990s to balding Cool Biz salarymen, however, are not ready to let them go. And with much stomping, whistling and clapping, draw them out for an encore of fan favorite “Rave Down,” and very first single “Son of Mustang Ford.”
For just a few more minutes the past and the present meet in an expertly conjured effects pedal storm. The sound seems to shimmer as it bounces off the walls, and then Swervedriver are gone. Probably for a well deserved lie down.