I had no intention of writing a review about this gig as I was not sure whether I would be there, so I arrived at Birthdays relaxed and without my camera…what a big mistake that was!

KALEIDA had impressed us with the release of their debut album Tear The Roots in September so, the humid and heavy atmosphere of that night, did not stop people from completely filling the basement venue in order to see them live. 20 minutes to 10, the lights were turned off and a caped figure holding a bouquet of white dahlia flowers, appeared amidst the crowd. Christina Wood, the caped barefoot figure, then took her place on stage and started placing some of the dahlias on the edge of the stage before giving three of them to people at the front row. This entrance, had already won everyone over, even before the first song was finished. Christina was dressed in white, while Cicely (Goulder) and Zosia Jagodzinska (cello and drums), were dressed in black suits.

The gig started in a dark electric blue lit atmosphere and in downtempo and trip hop rhythms with songs from the band’s first EPs.

If Peggy Lee, Portishead and Massive Attack ever wrote a song together, then KALEIDA’s music would be it

I had gone to this gig, prepared to listen only to Tear The Roots and thinking that this is a new band with not so much experience, who just released a first full length album, this is a midweek show with a ticket price equivalent to that of a pint…you get the spirit. All these ill-made assumptions were about to be proven spectacularly wrong.For the first half of the gig, the rhythms and the low lights that only revealed the outlines of the figures, created a dystopian bleakness from which Christina Wood was ‘escaping’ with lamenting, assertive, sensitive vocals, impulsive and elegant movements. There was so much energy and passion coming out, somehow ‘tamed’, with every verse, that I thought it would surely not be possible to maintain this level throughout the gig!

The second part of the gig was dedicated to Tear The Roots or rather a pop infused, blues-inspired presentation of the album. While Cicely was surrounded by synths and electric drums absolutely in control of the truly captivating beats and subtle melodies, Zosia’s cello notes gave gravity to the melodies and Christina’s dynamism lifted every verse, revealing so many emotions that no one had thought could be hidden in the songs, before this gig. Her voice had the qualities of Peggy Lee, Dido and Beth Gibbons. All The Pretty Pieces was delivered in such a way, that listening to it again today at home, seems to be a sad act of depreciation. The sound in the venue was perfect. One would expect that a space so full with people would create a difficult to overcome, absorption and that the sound would be muffled. On the contrary, skilful sound engineering (and I suspect Cicely’s input) made sure that the instruments’ sound was clear and lively and Christina’s voice had a warmth that was 100 times stronger than in the audio. In this atmosphere of pop bleakness, the pulsating rhythms of Coco were perceived as heavier, having a dynamism that only someone with a wild imagination could ascribe to it while listening to the audio alone. At the same time, on these layered sounds, Christina’s voice had the same effect as a pizzicato on an orchestral piece. The band dedicated 99 Luftballons, a cover of Nena’s songs, to Donald Trump, as an anti war song and the set list also included Take Me To The River, a beautiful cover of Al Green’s song.

What this gig clarified for me is that KALEIDA might have made ‘injections’ of pop in their rhythms for this album (compared to the sound of their EPs), especially in Think, Meter and House Of Pulp, but their music is more suited to alternative underground parties.

In this atmosphere, no one had thought that there were two more important ‘scenes’ in the performance. The first occurred when Christina, while dancing an instrumental part of a song, stepped down from the stage and found her place once again among us, making space for dancing, discreetly inviting people to dance and at the same time making a statement. What was registered on people’s faces while this was developing, was sincere acceptance of the move and respect for the artist. It was great that she found a dancing partner and this move took on a theatrical aspect even though it started at a completely different spirit. While our interest moved away from the stage, even the most ‘difficult’ to motivate people, began to dance at that point, before Christina returned on stage in the same way. We were fast approaching the end of the show when we listened to ‘Free’ before the last song introduced the last act of this performance.

The last song was a different version of Convolution from the one in the album. During this part, Christina gathered the dahlias from the edge of the stage, held them momentarily as a bouquet, before violently throwing it on stage, kicking, swaying, tearing flowers, before throwing what was left of them to us!

All poets write bad poetry, Bad poets publish them, good poets burn them(Umberto Eco)

One of Hedda Gambler’s last acts of defiance, was the destruction of white roses on the stage of the National Theatre last year. Dahlias are known to be symbols of dignity, elegance and bond so in the context of this gig and the lyrics of KALEIDA’s songs their destruction seemed to be a rebellious act against ‘polished’ appearances and established standards, a punk act really, one that Umberto Eco would definitely praise and I personally admired.

The gig had ended and the few minutes it took me to get out, and all the way back home and the next day and the days that followed, I kept thinking that this was not a show by an inexperienced band, the ticket price did not reflect the quality of the show that we were offered (we have paid much more and get offered much much less by more experienced musicians elsewhere), I would gladly have paid 5 times the ticket price for this performance. KALEIDA is definitely a band that has vast experience in shows and in writing music, these three musicians have either hidden from us their  past music history or they are just extremely talented.

I consider this ‘small’ gig, on a bleak autumn’s evening, in the middle of a week, to be one of the best live shows of this year in London. Congratulations KALEIDA, as your name suggests, your music is beautiful, worth supporting and very passionate!KALEIDA will be playing again live at Oval Space, opening for Vitalic on November 17, 2017. You can find tickets for this gig here: https://ovalspace.co.uk/events/view/vitalic-live/

Blaue Rosen box

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