Live Review: black midi
Online music editor George Ward reviews his time seeing black midi at Alexandra Palace.
When I first saw Black Midi back in 2019, their show was intense. It was one hour of insanely tight music, crazy energy and no audience interaction from the band. They came on, killed it, and left. It was incredible. This time, however, after the release of their unbelievable second album, Cavalcade, the show couldn’t have been more different.
A voice boomed through the speakers: “The one… the only… Black ‘Hellfire’ Midi!” The wrestling style intro set the stage for the rest of the night. The band opened with classic ‘953’ with frontman Geordie Greep introducing his bandmates one by one before the song exploded and the pit went crazy.
The crowd at Alexandra Palace intensified the insanity of the gig. Every moment you were thrown everywhere, with the crowd losing their minds at the black midi classics and waiting patiently in the new songs for their signature drops.
While it would have been nice to hear more tracks from their debut album, their reinvented version of ‘Speedway’ was far more explosive than the laid back version on the album. black midi is really one of those bands that you can see live over and over again, each time a different mutation of song. They improvise and throw in jokes while always staying as tight as ever.
The additions of Seth Evans on keys and Kaidi Akinnibi on sax is a brilliant move. They bring even more energy and drama to the live shows and I hope they stick around for the next album.
I love the album Cavalcade and it is definitely one of my favourites of the year, further confirmed by their performance of it. A highlight was ‘Chondromalacia Patella’ (no I don’t know what this means) which begins with Kaidi Akinnibi’s saxophone screaming and ends with Geordie Greep playing an insane guitar solo. It’s a great song but until you see it live, you won’t experience it with its full energy. It perfectly highlights how the band can move effortlessly from beautiful vocal passages to experimental riffs without ever seeming forced. And while you may be distracted by Greep’s signature vocals, don’t ignore his incredible guitar skills; he really is one of the greatest of our generation.
Speaking of incredible musicians, Morgan Simpson held the band together brilliantly. On ‘John L’, his drumming is relentless, with perfectly timed stabs that genuinely make you feel like you’re being attacked. This is not an accessible song and if you haven’t listened to black midi before, I wouldn’t recommend it as an entry point, but in this gig, it made the entire venue go mad. Never have I heard people sing along to something as warped as this.
Unlike some fans online, I like to stay away from live recordings of unreleased material, something that black midi have a lot of and fill most of their gigs with. I was really glad that I went in blind. Their new tracks (hopefully coming in an album soon) go from somehow just as crazy as before to genuinely beautiful, with my favourite being a track led by bassist Cameron Picton playing fingerstyle acoustic guitar. Once again, they continue to surprise me and I can’t wait to hear the new tracks all together.
It wasn’t just the music that made this night so memorable. Like I mentioned before with the wrestling intro, the band seem to be having so much fun playing live that with the additional focus on absurd theatrics, it makes it impossible to not be entertained. At one point, Geordie pulls out a sword and proceeds to go round each member brutally murdering them before they all come back to life and continue playing. It is as batsh*t crazy as it sounds.
Just as we thought it was all over, they launched into ‘Slow’, an ever-changing and hypnotic song sung by Cameron (and the best song on Cavalcade). Cameron completely stands his own on stage, something easier said than done when your other singer is the eccentric Geordie Greep, but his reserved vocals are some of my favourite moments of the gig. He can move from almost inaudible to screaming and both are brilliant. This was the perfect final track and the band had complete control of the crowd, pulling back in the quiet sections and going full force in the climaxes.
If you’re a fan of post-punk, prog-rock or any kind of experimental rock music, see black midi live. They are the most exciting rock band playing right now and you won’t believe how they bring even more energy live than on their studio albums. Whether you love every song or not, I guarantee that you will have an intense live experience and will want to tell everyone all of the weird things that you saw. Or maybe that’s just me.