TesseracT & The Contortionist @ Academy 2
“Is it me did that last band have no f**king stage presence?” questions a tall, tattooed and deeply unimpressed figure as he charges into the men’s toilets. I agree with him from the urinals as he continues his torrent of disappointment, they’re sterile entertainment value bubbling a fury within him. The Contortionist have already driven our photographer, Anthony Firmin, back to the bar downstairs and we’ll soon be joining him. The Indianapolis quintet have been much hyped about over the last few years but here they do little to add substance to such hysteria, their music lacking substance, the riffs unimaginative and the songs as a whole based around lead guitar which, in an already packed Academy 2 lacks clarity and personality. Vocalist Michael Lessard does little to engage the crowd and in fact, none of them do, with two members not even looking out into the crowd. It’s wholly forgettable, which has us craving something more indulgable from tonight’s headliners.
TesseracT fans must be dizzy. The band’s merry-go-round of vocalist changes – with Daniel Tompkins now back in the band for his second stint – has been more soap opera than rock n’ roll and it mustn’t do good things to the band’s stability. For me, Polaris, the record which punctuated his return, did little to invigorate the senses. Lost within their ambience-cum-djent-attack, it was a record which boasted all the bells and whistles without any of them having a discernable impact.
Unfortunately, this was replicated tonight on a poorly lit stage. Not being able to see the members faces is off putting for a start – the stage is light from the back tonight and so we watch silhouettes spew out song after song; except there is little movement and so they never really lure you into their realm, you always feel on the outside. Tompkins barely speaks a word to the crowd between songs and the band often spend time off-stage between tracks.
Musically too, you feel they are too rigidly confined within their sound these days and, consequently, their set becomes predictable. Each song seems to follow a linear flow of hazy, wistful soft sections weave in and out of bouncy, angular seven string riffs that, by the end, all blur into one. Tompkins is, admittedly, a brilliant talent, his honey falsetto sounding maleficent where the dynamics are genteel.
Yet, besides the infectious Nocturne, there are few real songs in their arsenal; few songs that can encapsulate an audience and have them singing in full voice. So their set passes by with little defining character.
Perhaps it’s just me. Music is art and art is relative. There are people singing along to certain songs, some looking much happier than I, but for me this is a night which confirms that this just isn’t a band for me.
Words: Phil Weller | Photos: Anthony Firmin