Having recently delivered arguably their best album to date with ‘Sanguivore’ – a luxurious gothic homage to the work of ‘Bat out Of Hell’ creator Jim Steinman – Creeper are riding high on a wave of acclaim that will no doubt see them end 2023 in many best albums of the year polls. Hugely ambitious, totally un-hip, and great fun, ‘Sanguivore’ is packed with memorable songs with many earworm moments. The Vampire narrative running through the album is perfect for transferring to a live setting where the story of Spook & Mercy comes to life on the Sacred Blasphemy Tour, and worries about the choice of a venue outside of the city centre being a stumbling block are quickly dispelled by the sight of legions of Creeper fans queuing around the venue, with many in full vampire face paint similar to the band themselves.
Making it a more bang-for-your-bucks triple bill are two exciting supporting acts; with South Wales Noir Pop outfit The Nightmares getting the evening off to a fine start. And after a week on the road opening for Kids In Glass Houses, it’s fair to say that The Nightmares are purring like a finely tuned Rolls Royce engine. One look at their social media tells you that quartet digs the colour red, and tonight, the stage is awash with red-on-red. So much so that it is pretty damn impossible for those outwith the front few rows to get a grasp of the onstage action, which is a shame as the combination of Adam Parslow (vocals/guitar) and Eleanor Coburn (keys/vocals) side by side centre stage is visually striking. At times (especially on ‘It Follows’), Parslow’s vocals spark comparisons with Brian Molko of Placebo and quietly snare the audience in without them knowing it, vocals that make you pay attention. As do the songs aired in a 30-minute set that passes in a blink of an eye; with ‘Cruelly Yours’, ‘Heartless’, and the pulsating set-closer ‘Murder Season’ particularly standing out. Parslow mentions that the band are embarking on their debut headlining tour in early 2024 and are terrified about it, which seems bizarre considering how strong the material is. Keep an eye on their socials for the dates being announced.
Providing the American filling in a homegrown sandwich are New Jersey’s Save Face. And instantly the energy levels are raised a thousand-fold. Led by Tyler Povanda, Save Face are a blur as they quickly set about the job of covering every inch of the stage and grabbing the audience by the throat. Povanda is mesmerising to watch, and the only comparison to make that comes remotely close to the Povanda experience would be equal parts Gerard Way, Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker, and Iggy Pop, especially when ‘Bury Me (Tonight!)’ is performed like there is no tomorrow. ‘Sharpen Your Teeth’ is delivered “…for the moshers, for the vampires…” and when the maelstrom of music kicks in, the first pit of the night opens up. The recent album ‘Another Kill For The Highlight Reel’ provides the music for the evening and the likes of ‘A Song for Your Futile Heart’ and the bouncy, feel-good ‘GLITTER’ stand out (especially the latter which features a killer bass groove from Robbie Roe). There is only one way for Povanda to leave the stage and that’s with a mic drop. A set best described as an all-out assault.
Curtain-drops are the best. In terms of how to open a show, nothing compares to the house lights dimming and the shadowy figures of the band being seen taking their places behind the curtain. It heightens the senses – (total sidebar, but does anyone remember Download Festival 2015 when Kiss fucked their intro up and the curtain refused to fully rise, meaning the “drop” was all of 10ft? Gene must have been so pissed with that). Tonight, no such dramas, and after the ghostly music piped through the house PA ends, and Creeper’s Vampire Familiar (and social media guru) Darcia warns the audience that it is not too late to leave – as well as how to correctly pronounce ‘Sanguivore’ – the room goes pitch black and the intro to ‘Sanguivore’ opening track ‘Further Than Forever’ begins to bleed through the curtain. More of a musical suite rather than just a song, the nine-minute epic begins with Ian Miles’s guitar intro that sings to the audience, and once it does, the curtain drops and the place goes ballistic. Even more so when after a few minutes of the intro, Creeper vocalist Will Ghould takes to the stage. Ghould, aka William von Ghould – or in the daylight, Will Gould – is dressed head-to-toe in regulation black, complete with shades, and looks striking in the white vampire face paint the band has adopted for this album and concept. In a setlist where new material slots in perfectly alongside older material, ‘Further Than Forever’ is the only song that could open the show and is a grandiose way to introduce ‘Sanguivore’ to the Creeper faithful, who it has to be said, knows every word perfectly.
The setlist is a perfect mixture of material from the first two studio albums and new tracks from album number three. And it is a testament to the quality of the material found within ‘Sanguivore’ that when a new track is aired, the intensity does not dip. But when the new tracks are of the quality of ‘Teenage Sacrifice’ then there is zero chance of the intensity dipping; one of the top 10 tracks of 2023 (along with at least 3 others from ‘Sanguivore’) it is a hook-laden beast of a track and in this boisterous setting, it is delicious. Special mention has to go to Jake Fogarty behind the kit, who although it is quite difficult to make him out in the darkness, is making himself heard (his work on ‘VCR’ is majestic). Same with guitarist Lawrie Pattison (some Weegie heritage in there maybe?) and Hannah Greenwood, again, her keyboards are so far back in the darkness that at times she cannot be seen, but rather than remain static, she paces back and forth lost in the music. But, if she was any further forward then she would be at risk of taking Will’s mic stand to the head (especially during ‘Further Than Forever’ when it is used like a lethal weapon). Sean Scott didn’t get the message that bassists are supposed to be the quiet, studious ones in the band and is having a ball covering the stage and working the crowd like you might expect a lead guitarist would, he also drops some stellar screamo vocals on ‘VCR’ which forms a killer pit-inducing one-two along with ‘Sacred Blasphemy’.
Ghould impresses with his low Glenn Danzig-meets-Nick Cave vocals on the murder ballad ‘The Ballad of Spook & Mercy’ which is a cornerstone moment on the album, and live, the audience knows exactly what is expected of them and delivers with gusto. Another standout moment amongst the new songs is ‘Black Heaven’ and the pulsating drum sound that Fogarty produces – Fogarty also cooks up a short, impressive drum solo later on, which also sees Hannah helping out briefly on a floor tom before she gives up and chucks her sticks in the air and leaves Jake to it. It’s Hannah who delivers one of the set highlights though with another gorgeous rendition of ‘Crickets’ (accompanied by Ian Miles on acoustic guitar) that has the audience singing/roaring along with her, and it proves that sometimes less is indeed more. Magical. As are the insane run-through of ‘Annabelle’ (still the best song that Brett Anderson never wrote) which has the audience bouncing as one, the full-pelt ‘Chapel Gates’ which at 2 minutes in length is the shortest track on ‘Sanguivore’, and the sheer explosion of joy that is ‘Hiding with Boys’.
Creeper must know that they have struck gold with ‘Sanguivore’ and that it is a legacy-defining album that will be a benchmark for some years. With that in mind, not many bands will close the show with a new track in place of older fan-favourites, but with ‘Cry to Heaven’ Creeper have delivered arguably THE song of the year and it is something to behold watching how much it already means to the Creeper Cult. On the subject of the audience, it looks like Creeper picked up many new fans on their arena jaunt with Alice Cooper, and tonight’s audience proved that age and demographics mean nothing as long as the songs are memorable and strike a chord with the fans. And Creeper have memorable songs by the bucketload.
This is the part where hacks usually slot in some attention-seeking line like “Arena’s beckon”, but in this case, it is fully justifiable because Creeper are destined for much bigger venues. Catch them while you can in smaller venues, all remaining tour dates can be found here.
Review – Dave
All live images – Dave Jamieson