18th January 2019
IAMX - “Mile Deep Hollow” Tour 2019
After the release of ‘Alive In A New Light’ and a subsequent tour last year, Chris Corner’s IAMX returned for a few selected shows this January to celebrate the new single off the last album, ‘Mile Deep Hollow’. We checked out the start of the short tour in Cologne.
Glam, gloom, grooves, dirty erotics and dirty electronics are the essences of IAMX, Chris Corner’s solo project after the disbandment of SNEAKER PIMPS, the Trip Hop / Pop group Corner started in the mid-90s with Liam Howe and Kelli Dayton. In fact the name of Corner’s solo project seems to be a pun on the title of SNEAKER PIMPS’ 1996 debut album ‘Becoming X’, and the early sound of IAMX is not too far away from the style of ‘Bloodsport’, the last album by SNEAKER PIMPS released in 2002. IAMX dived even deeper into the realm of dark, hypnotic Electro Pop with a noticeable 80s touch and some crispy guitars added here and there. Release Magazine described the project’s music as “the best bits of DEPECHE MODE, PLACEBO and RADIOHEAD (sort of)” and this strange mix of references nicely describes the sonic direction of IAMX - and, on a second thought, how much the lyrics are concerned with subjects such as sex, death, narcotics, obsession, alienation and vague allusions to politics.
IAMX is now in its 15th year of existence, and the tireless, constant touring from day one obviously paid off. The clubs got bigger and bigger, and especially in Germany, Scandinavia and Eastern Europe IAMX has a considerable cult following. Even US audiences developed a taste for IAMX, last but not least as IAMX’ music has been heavily featured in the popular American drama television series ‘How to Get Away with Murder’ with no less than 15 songs - so far! The visual side has also always played a big role in the IAMX concept, so the project spawned quite a few brilliant video clips for IAMX’ singles with millions of clicks on YouTube. Surely another key to success in these days!
Chris Corner always used music as some sort of therapy and to fight his inner demons. This was particularly true for IAMX’ critically acclaimed sixth album ‘Metanoia’, released in late 2015, which told the story of his recovery from panic attacks, depression, insomnia and exhaustion. The experimental, almost entirely instrumental ‘Unfall’ followed and album no. eight, released exactly one year ago and aptly titled ‘Alive In A New Light’, seems to be the end point of his personal psychological transformation and the starting point of something new. Musically ‘Alive In A New Light’ is no renunciation from the previous sound. Probably less hit-heavy than ‘Metanoia’, which had instant IAMX classics such as ‘Happiness’ and ‘North Star’, ‘Alive In A New Light’ continues the burlesque, dramatic Electronica of previous albums. http://iamxmusic.com / https://www.facebook.com/IAMXOFFICIAL
Music & Performance
The show at the Kantine in Cologne was scheduled for an early start, with doors open at 6:30 p.m. and start of the show at 7:30 p.m., which is really early night considering that there was no support act and, surprising for a Friday night, no club night at the Kantine after the live gig. Maybe that’s why Chris Corner and his live musicians Janine Gezang (keys, bass, vox), Sammi Doll (keys, vox) and Jon Siren (drums) decided to let the fans wait a little longer. Well, quite a bit longer! I actually didn’t mind to wait for an entire hour for the band as it gave the opportunity to meet people and socialize a bit, on the other hand it was a pity as the 60 minutes should have been used for an actual support. However, the club was packed and the air sizzling with anticipation! A few times when it seemed that the music from tape might stop and the band might enter the stage there were cheers and screams from the front rows but each and every time it was false alarm and the playback music continued.
Finally, after a long wait, Janine Gezang, Sammi Doll and Jon Siren appeared and took their places on stage, and when Chris Corner walked on stage during the first bars of the last album’s title track the whole place erupted! He clearly is some sort of underground Pop star and IAMX has indeed a respectable die-hard following. Chris Corner has come a long way since I first saw IAMX live in half-empty small clubs back in 2006! The fabulous ‘No Maker Made Me’ from the ‘Metanoia’ album followed, succeeded by ‘Bring Me Back a Dog’, a live rarity from the 2006 album ‘The Alternative’. The nice thing about IAMX live is that the setlist might change a little from night to night, so although the basic structure of the set is the same over several tours even you can’t be sure 100 % what you get at a specific show.
Chris Corner probably knows that there are quite a few fans following IAMX around and how to keep them happy. At the Kantine IAMX perform a set with songs throughout their entire career, with a clear focus on the first chapter and, rather unsurprisingly, the last two albums. The fans welcome anything that comes, and there are a lot of overexcited people squashed down at the front dressed in glitter and sparkles, sporadically shouting Corner’s name between songs. Yep, in his own little world Chris Corner is truly a Pop star, and considering the quality of his output, the big emotions in his melodies and the fact that Corner is truly one-of-a-kind as a showman he would surely deserve more attention from the mainstream. But most probably he is happy with the way it is!
As usual the visual side is just as important for IAMX shows. The light show is elaborate and perfectly matched to the music, and of course there are video projections to complement the mood of the respective songs. Chris Corner is also a fashion icon by now, and while he deliberately got no light from the front in the past - which made his stylish outfit and lavish make-up a bit pointless as you could see only his silhouette - he finally got some visibility. We could actually see his face - whoa!
As exciting and on point the performance of IAMX might have been, the little downside was the place they played at. The sound wasn’t optimal, and the Kantine was so terribly packed that it stinted the pleasure a little. The only lavatories were on the right hand of the stage, and while this might seem a profane detail it meant that you had to fight your way all through the crowd when your body strongly signalled certain human needs. As fiddling as it may seem, it didn’t exactly boost a relaxed atmosphere. And if you had a few Kölsch, the infamous watery beer of Cologne, you rather quickly had to take a leak...
Well, such mundane trivialities were the exact opposite of the bigger-than-life proceedings on stage, of course. Chris Corner was hyperactive and fidgety as usual (did he have some Kölsch?) and with the energetic hit singles ‘Happiness’ and ‘I Come With Knives’ he had the sweaty crowd at the palm of his hand. With the threesome of ‘Exit’, ‘I Am Terrified’ and ‘Sorrow’ the middle part of the show was unusually low-key and introspective but after this slow segment the riotous madness of IAMX live was back with ‘North Star’.
The brand-new single ‘Mile Deep Hollow’ finished the set, and in fact the song got its live premiere in Cologne as it wasn’t performed at the ‘Alive In A New Light’ tour last year. Twelve songs may look a little short for a main set but IAMX are known to be quite generous when it comes to encores. Cologne got no less than five songs as extras, including the ecstatic ‘The Alternative’ and their first-ever single ‘Kiss & Swallow’ finishing the night with a frenzy. The lights turned on again and the fans left the building exhausted but happy. Looking forward to the next IAMX show but hopefully at a better place than Kantine...
01. Alive in New Light
02. No Maker Made Me
03. Bring Me Back a Dog
05. I Come With Knives
07. I Am Terrified
09. North Star
10. After Every Party I Die
11. Spit It Out
12. Mile Deep Hollow
13. Your Joy Is My Low
14. The Alternative
15. The Power and the Glory
17. Kiss + Swallow
Total: 8.5 / 10
All pictures by Daniela Vorndran (http://www.vorndranphotography.com / http://www.facebook.com/blackcatnet)