About three years ago a friend of mine sent me the video clip At the Gates of Silent Memory of a band called Fields of the Nephilim... It felt like entering another dimension... Elizium for the sleepless souls. I soon went through all discography and joined an FB group to find out more about FOTN. That's where I met João Abreu, the founder of Fields of the Nephilim - Watchers from Portugal. We met in person at one of the two Black Easter gigs (click to see the rest of my photo gallery on the gig). Great guy & a true Watcher.
When he told me he was attending the Tomorrow's Ghosts Festival in Whitby... what else could I do than ask him to share his experience?
And so he did:
"The day was 25th October 2018, the clock was showing a few minutes past 6 am, and I was already at the airport of Madeira island ready for another adventure, mainly to watch yet again my all time favorite band, goth-rock legends Fields of the Nephilim, who were about to perform a mini-tour in their home country England, aimed at celebrating the Samhain period in Whitby, Manchester, London and Birmingham.
So my plane left at around 7 am and took me first to Lisbon, and then another one off to Manchester, where I arrived late in the afternoon. After a much deserved rest, on the following day I set off all the way from Britain’s west to east end, on a long but nice train journey to Whitby, where later that evening would start the Tomorrow’s Ghosts Festival, the first day of this event having the mighty Paradise Lost as headliners.
As soon as I arrived in this small but cozy little town, where the famous character of Count Dracula was created, I had just the time to settle in the hotel and immediately depart into town, before the Festival kicked in.
The weather in Whitby was truly miserable, cold and rainy, not to mention how lucky I was to have survived the very strong winds before getting into the Pavilion, by the coast. But let’s face it, this weather made the occasion even more goth like!
Thus after an intense struggle with the wind outside, I made it indoors and it was already warm enough to meet again with good old friends, from past FOTN gigs, and also to meet new people with the same musical tastes.
The first band to show up on stage in the Whitby Pavilion was The Society, featuring the drummer and original member from The Danse Society, Paul Gilmartin, and they opened well the hostilities for the day, having been followed by The Eden House, who gave an impeccable performance with their nice atmospheric goth-rock, blending in very well guitar melodies, the groovy bass, the nice sound of the violin, with the sweet clean vocals of the four ladies that were singing up front. On the drums, Simon Rippin (ex The Nefilim and actual NFD drummer) was top notch, not to mention Tony Pettitt (Also FOTN and NFD) with its signature groovy bass riffs and even an amazing bass slapping in “To Believe in Something”.
After this, the crowd was definitely warmed up to welcome Paradise Lost on stage, and as expected the band from Halifax (UK) didn’t disappoint, playing their rock/metal sound as nicely as their vast experience allows them to. PL has been around since 1988, and the fans in Whitby were presented with a varied setlist made of the band’s most iconic songs through times, such as “The Enemy”, “Erased” and “Faith Divides Us – Death Unites Us”… Vocalist Nick Holmes at some point, knowing the Festival he was performing at, even made everyone remember that PL were the true founders of the goth-metal genre, also stating: “If someone tells you otherwise, they are talking s**t, and you can quote me on that!”, as he was announcing the song “Gothic”, from their 1991 album of the same name.
Undoubtedly Paradise Lost was a fine addition, and an excellent way to end the first day of the TGF.
On the next day, it was time to know the town of Whitby a little better, as much as the rough weather could allow, and to explore the nice little streets that were filled with people hanging around on their costumes and fantasies, mainly under the gothic fashion, if this was not the one and only Goth Weekend happening here.
Later on, I managed yet again not to have been blown away by the wind, and got to the Pavilion ready for the second day of the Festival.
Sometime The Wolf were then responsible to start up things, and surely I’m not the only one to say this, but the Preston based band was indeed a great surprise to the majority of the crowd present that day. They delivered a goth-rock/metal with a melodic take, delivering such energy through their heavy riffs and drumbeats, and they played with such intensity and attitude, not to mention Drew Freeman on the vocals, having this Wolfman Shaman persona on stage, almost as a Wolfman version of FOTN’s frontman Carl McCoy, made not only his role but their whole show even more pragmatic.
Right next came alternative rockers Salvation, who came to entertain the audience with their rather catchy sound, although I thought their music overall lacked a bit of dynamic and creativity, and in some parts I even felt away from their performance, despite my efforts to stay focused in what they were doing, it was definitely a low down between the very captivating start by STW, and what was about to come. Nevertheless I salute the vocalist, Danny, for his attitude on stage, at some point sharing his white wine bottle with the crowd, well at least something to get the attention of those who went “out” of the venue for a few bits.
And finally, the moment I believe most of the audience present at Whitby Pavilion was waiting for… The moments that followed left everyone in a tremendous state of anxiety, as the sound techs were making the final adjustments on stage, and then all of a sudden, without further notice, smoke started to appear and filled the stage, as if someone had opened a gate to another World, a post-apocalyptic World far beyond human knowledge, the Nephilim were coming! Guitarists Gav King and Adam Leach, bassist Tony Pettitt and drummer Lee Newell took their places under this deep and sinister sound that was echoing, that soon switched to the spine shivering and always recognizable tune of “Harmonica Man”, the crowd had their hands up high for the mighty Fields of the Nephilim!
But it was only up until the beginning of “Preacher Man”, that iconic singer and frontman Carl McCoy showed up on stage in his usual grand dramatic entrance.
As we couldn’t expect no less, the Nephs delivered this unique show that only they know how to deliver, ever since they appeared in the mid 80’s, it all feels very surreal as if your experiencing something out of the ordinary, out of the explanatory, and makes your spirit and adrenaline elevate in such a way that in the end you just want more and more…
In Whitby, we were presented with the band’s eternal classics, that are part in every FOTN gig for the past years, “Dawnrazor”, “Moonchild”, “Psychonaut”, “Last Exit For The Lost”… But no surprises like what happened in Germany a few weeks before, with “Chord Of Souls” and “Equinox”, and then they left us after an encore of just one song (Last Exit), perhaps too short for everyone’s expectations, but of course they were just warming up for the rest of the Samhain tour, leaving their loyal followers with high hopes for the celebrations that were still to come.
For me it was time to get back to the hotel and have a nice night of sleep, after two nights of rocking party, and since there was more Neph trance still to come!
The following morning it was time to have all the stuff packed again, and start the journey back to Manchester, but this time with great company on a car ride with friends Diane and Dave, who like me and countless other fans, don’t miss a chance to follow the Watchman wherever they go.
We arrived at our destination around lunch time, and for the rest of that day and the next one, it was about knowing and enjoying this lovely city, before heading out to the O2 Ritz for the gig. And this one had a different feel of expectation, since 28 years had passed already since the Nephs last performance in Manchester, more precisely on 25/09/1990, so surely many old time fans from here were hoping for a very special show.
In the afternoon, there was still time for a pre-gig meeting at a local pub, a nice opportunity to chat with fellow fans from various nationalities, which unfortunately I don’t have the chance to often meet in person.
As we arrived at the venue, fans were already queuing outside, and many Western hats could be seen in front of us, as well as some Carl’s copies, which I must say and take my own hat off to them, they looked really alike, in a way that even for a few seconds, you stand still and try to realize if you are indeed staring at the Preacher Man himself.
After making it inside the Ritz, and as the crowd started to become larger and larger, it was not long before the support act, The Church from Australia, showed up on stage for their performance. The alternative rock band, with a career now spanning over 38 years, delivered a nice show, some great instrumental parts well executed, as the three decade experience says. Carl even states he’s a long time big fan of The Church, more than reason why he felt they were worth to be the special guests for this FOTN Samhain tour.
And then… once again there I was “suffering” from the same anxiety feeling like 2 days before in Whitby, as the iconic 7 Seal was being raised on the stage wall, and final gear preparations were being made, waiting to experience the Nephilim magic again. “Fog” started to invade the stage and venue, the wait was finally over! The Watchman had shown themselves and once again we were presented with the intro based on Ennio Morricone’s track, “Harmonica Man”, composed for the epic movie “Once Upon a Time in the West”.
As other classic songs followed, “Preacher Man”, “Trees Come Down”, “Endemoniada”, every single one that made their own contribution through time to establish the Nephs as the epic band they are nowadays, the crowd was getting really over the edge at this point, an incredible mosh pit was created at the center of the venue, and some towers were being raised as well, definitely the fans had their special Manchester return paid off!
Among the setlist the band brought that evening, I point out “The Watchman”, a fine track from their 1987 album debut “Dawnrazor”, which unfortunately isn’t a song they choose regularly for the live scene, but was last performed at New Waves Day in Oberhausen, in May this year.
As for the performance, the band is just getting better and better, many will agree that this show in Manchester was their best in many years, perhaps only beaten by the outstanding 2-day ceremony in London, on the 30th Anniversary in 2014. Gav’s guitar skill in “Dawnrazor” was just superb, Tony’s groove on “Psychonaut” is always priceless, Lee with such precision on the rhythm, Adam getting more involved with the band (also nice to see him with a desperado hat), and Carl’s harsh and deep vocals as impeccable as ever, really doesn’t seem to be loosing fierceness at all.
After all the exhilaration on “Last Exit”, the crowd cheered and the Nephs returned on stage for a 2 song encore, starting with the most recent 2016 single “Prophecy”, which had this different short intro, never heard before as far as I know… And then ending with the deep track “Mourning Sun”, from their last full-length release in 2005.
I’m sure that, and many others will feel the same way, as Carl pronounced the typical: “Thank you very much! Goodbye…” in farewell, while we could still listen this child chant in the background getting faded, many were in this kind of out fleshed trance state, that something out of this World just happened… It was undoubtedly a brilliant performance, and for sure I will want to repeat it over and over again, as long as I can.
Fields of the Nephilim, I would really want to take my hat off to you, but if I did that, I wouldn’t be a true Watcher.
On the next day, it was already time to start the return trip to my island, and as I arrived in Manchester airport early morning, I surely didn’t have the usual comfortable feeling of homecoming, on the contrary, I felt kind of sad and nostalgic already, to have left my fellow comrades going on for the rest of the tour, and to have missed other friend in those gigs, but it was of course fantastic to have been with old mates again, and to have met a few more, not to mention the Nephilim experience. Another trip that will last for a lifetime, thanks to you all, and see you again soon on the road in future ceremonies!
Text & Photo credits: João Abreu