Swans at the Lodge Room

The Swans live experience is unlike most other concerts you might ever attend. Swans create something almost indescribable, but it is our job so we'll give it a go.

When Michael Gira and his band first arrive on stage, and after making a few final adjustments, Gira says "Good evening" to the Lodge Room crowd and then they launch into the set. That subtle greeting is really the only nod to a conventional performance that we get. From there, we're launched into a world of aural insanity.

Gira waves his arms around from his seated position like a madcap orchestral conductor, which is somewhat appropriate because the soundscape that Swans creates is like a hellish, teeth-gratingly experimental version of classical music. It's heavy and intense; it's clear why fans of industrial music, post-punk and yes, metal, like Swans. But the songs aren't structured in the standard "rock" manner. There are no choruses. Attempt to sing along at your peril.

It's always been that way, from the debut Filth album introduced Swans to the world in '83. The band has split and come back, members have come and gone, but Swans have never compromised.

The set at the Lodge Room on Sunday evening featured just six songs, all fairly lengthy. Opener "The Beggar" is the title track from the most recent album, while second song "The Hanging Man" is from 2019's Leaving Meaning. The rest are newly recorded and evolving pieces.

Not that it matters; when Swans perform live, it all blends together into an oddly hypnotic, exhausting, beautiful, dynamic-yet-singular experience. It's like being caught in the tornado of somebody else's nightmare. Trauma smashes you in the senses, and really never lets up.

It's relentless, and you'll feel drained at the conclusion. Like all great art, a Swans show will make you ask questions, of yourself and of the artist. But ultimately, it's fantastically rewarding.

Earlier, Swans' lap steel man Kristof Hahn played a solo opening set that was as gorgeous as it was devastating. His voice is rich, somewhere between Nick Cave and Leonard Cohen, and his take on "Heartbreak Hotel," which he credits as the John Cale version, was stunning.

All told, it was a night that won't leave us for a long time.

Photos by Nicole Oike Berlin

Swans Setlist Lodge Room, Los Angeles, CA, USA 2024, The Beggar