The first time I saw Iceage play Manchester in 2015, at quaint Northern Quarter venue Night and Day, I bumped into frontman Elias Bender Rønnenfelt exiting the girls’ toilet as I tried to go in. Initially bemused, for the next few minutes I minced my way through an uncomfortable gushing of admiration (I was pathetically star-stricken, he was very polite). Three years on and hoping not to embarrass myself this time, I head to the slightly larger venue, Gorilla, where they’re due to perform. It’s not quite sold out but the space is packed and an expectant energy hangs above the room.
Around 9pm the band enter the stage with Rønnenfelt swaggering on last; he dons a baggy tan suit and eyes the audience intensely. Tonight, the Danish four-piece have a fifth member who switches between keys and the violin, adding a ragged fullness to their abrasive sound.
Opening with ‘Hurrah’, repetitive vocals and pacy guitar sets desperate energy as the tone of the gig. ‘Painkiller’ is well received and carries fine without the additional vocals of Sky Ferreira, though lacks some of the dreamy, breathier moments captured in her voice on the single. Barring ‘Showtime’ (sorely missed, in my opinion, but probably too brass heavy for the one saxophone onstage to pull off), the band play Beyondless in it’s entirety. They mix up the track listing a little, throw in a couple of old and new songs, and end with ‘Catch it’. Controversially, the set list features only one song from 2014’s genre defying, cult favourite Plowing Into the Field of Love. ‘The Lord’s Favourite’ appears about a third of the way into the set, played half as if to ramp up the energy in the room, half as if to get the single out of the way to continue working through their newer release. ‘The Lord’s favourite’, and visibly the crowd’s favourite, Rønnenfelt resembles a young Nick Cave injected with European charm; audience members grasping at his shirt and limbs as if his body were a relic.
‘Beyondless’, a made-up word taken from Samuel Beckett novel Worstward Ho (a book given to them by a fan whilst on tour), channels the existential spirit of imagining a world beyond nothing. The eponymous track sees Rønnenfelt sing of being “perfectly lost at sea eternally” over richly layered guitars spiked with off tempo strings. His brooding performance reaches an emotive peak through the repetition of the chorus in ‘Catch-It’, as the show comes to an end.
On this occasion, Iceage refuse to indulge the farce of an encore, and leave the stage with the audience sweaty, tired, but wanting more.