Notorious ‘industrial’ band Throbbing Gristle play rare gig in Shoreditch

INFAMOUS 1970s electronic group makes a rare appearance at Shoreditch venue Village Underground

Throbbing Gristle was always a band which flirted with the dark edges of modern life and who were wilfully confrontational in their music.

Any band that picks well-known suicide spot Beachy Head for an album cover-shoot is running the risk of offending the great majority though that was rarely of deep concern to the four-member group which originally split in 1981.

As far back as 1976, the forerunners of modern industrial bands like Nine Inch Nails were portrayed as ‘wreckers of civilisation’ by a Tory MP and their musical palette of doom-laden synths and clunking metallic beats can be characterised as an acquired taste.

It was fitting to approach their rare gig, after reforming in 2004, at the Village Underground in Holywell Lane, Shoreditch on October 23 with a degree of trepidation then.

Remember that punk’s call to arms of ‘here’s three chords, now start a band’ was far too conventional for TG, who questioned why you needed chords in the first place but it has to be said on this evidence that live they are still thrilling, entertaining and even fun.

Perhaps it’s because this is close to a homecoming; though three members hailed from the north of England, much of their musical output was crafted in a Hackney basement flat in Martello Street in the late 1970s.

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The anger of their early years looks to have dissipated and there is an undercurrent of humour to their performance, most clearly in the theatrics of lead singer Genesis P-Orridge.

Peeling petals off a rose through a refrain of ‘He loves me, he loves me not’ or manipulating the pitch of the band’s whole sound through some kind of manufactured theremin, he is an intriguing stage presence, though he rarely takes to the microphone as their set is dominated by dark ambience, creepy atmospherics and terrifyingly propulsive bass.

After a pretend exit, crowd favourite Discipline forms a fanatically-recieved encore, though not before Genesis proclaims ‘what we need in here is some bloody piece and quiet’.

It’s much more likely the crowd walked away wishing for a bit more TG noise after this triumphant return.