If you know anything about IAMX, you know that it’s a live band – though ‘band’ might not be the correct word as IAMX is Chris Corner’s solo project, but hey, there’s four people on stage so we’ll stick with it. Not to say that the studio performances are not incredible, of course, as the former Sneaker Pimps member records and produces everything with acute attention to details, but music that is that personal simply takes another dimension when heard in person.
That is especially true of Metanoia, Corner’s last EP: dealing with subjects such as depression, anxiety, insomnia but also sex and atheism, it really doesn’t get any more personal than that. Or maybe it does, and maybe it did that night.
Performance is about making an audience feel something, and although it sometimes is a fictional feeling – a play – but, at times, it becomes more than that: human emotions. With bands as niche as IAMX, no spectator is here by accident, and all of them know what they’re in for.
The first mesmerising notes of I Come With Knives resound in the tiny, tiny venue, and the winter cold is forgotten welcome to the furnace, welcome to the Circus. The track has been a touring favourite of the band for years, but this time around, they perform a completely re-worked version of it, somehow pushing the boundaries between eerie and exciting even further.
‘What was old is new again’ is a recurring theme for this tour, and the decision to re-vamp all of the old tracks is probably rooted in how much ‘Metanoia’ is more of an exorcism than simply a record. Trying to work through mental health issues is exhausting, and having to perform songs you wrote when you were feeling particularly awful is probably, well, particularly awful; tweaking them a bit might help make them a bit more bearable. But Metanoia still feels like the centrepiece, and even though every song is performed in the most exuberant and honest way possible, the ones from IAMX’s last EP feel so real you swear you could touch them.
Corner has said before that when picking the songs he’s going to perform live, he doesn’t pick his favourites, but thinks about the way they’re going to feel, and it’s easy to observe: somehow, every song is more powerful, more meaningful than the last. When a live performance is as much about the music as it is about sharing emotions, you know you experienced something special. Those few hundreds of people crammed into the burning hot venue know it, and will be reminded of it every time they find glitter residue in places it shouldn’t be.
Words by Jillian Blandenier