Ranking the Coil Concerts – An Opinion Piece

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Ranking The Coil Concerts – An Opinion Piece

These are just my own opinions, with no disrespect intended to anyone who may disagree. Please note that my judgments are solely based on available recordings. I cannot speak from concert experience nor on recordings which I do not have nor have seen/heard.

-Kiefer Gorena

Most Unique Setlists and Lineups

1983-08-24 How to Destroy Angels/A Slow Fade to Transparency – Air Gallery, London, UK

More a performance art piece than a proper concert. John Balance and John Gosling covered themselves in lotions, gave themselves enemas, and even engaged in watersports, while Marc Almond read diary entries concerning a vile ex-lover over backing tapes Peter had prepared. At the beginning, you can hear samples from the notorious “Mange!” scene from Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom (1975). This was the only performance where John did not contribute anything musically (unless you count his nearly naked body flopping on the floor near the end).

2000-06-17 Sónar Festival – Mar Bella, Barcelona, Spain

The second iteration of the “Time Machines” material, this time with William Breeze contributing viola for the first and only time live. The three repeated songs run shorter than before, leaving room for the three new songs: “Amethyst Deceivers,” “The Universe is a Haunted House,” and “Elves.” “Amethyst Deceivers” of course went on to become the nearly-ubiquitous band favorite, undergoing two more significant evolutions. “Elves” is undoubtedly the highlight, being the first noisy, catastrophic closing number for any Coil set – it’s a shame they never played it again. This was also the first time a performance artist accompanied Coil at one of their gigs, in this case an unidentified female dancer on “Elves.”

2001-06-03 Wave Gotik Treffen – Agra Hall, Leipzig, Germany

The “Constant Shallowness Leads to Evil” shows vary little in terms of setlist, beyond “What Kind of Animal Are You?” replacing “Titan Arch” after two shows. This was the only gig of the era with an exclusive track, a seemingly improvised instrumental likely done by Thighpaulsandra solo at the end of the set to push it over 60 minutes. John Contreras and Pierce Wyss also performed on “Constant Shallowness Leads to Evil” as nude dancers holding flowers feigning being electrocuted; this was Contreras’ only time performing with Coil live, while Pierce would eventually rejoin the band with Massimo Villani as Black Sun Productions.

2001-08-18 Convergence 7 – Irving Plaza, New York City, NY, USA

Coil’s only performance in America. Ossian Brown missed this show and the next due to difficulties obtaining a visa – these would be the only two shows of the era he’d miss. Martin Schellard, the guitarist for Thighpaulsandra solo, put a unique spin on the material, while Danny McKernan and Matthew Gibson, bloody boys in underwear, held the metal sheet John banged his head against during “Constant Shallowness Leads to Evil.” Fun fact: the band left New York just a few days before 9/11. There’s vacation footage of them, filmed by Ivan Pavlov, watching news coverage of the event on TV in Russia, released as a bonus on Colour Sound Oblivion DVD #4.

2002-04-06 Teatro delle Celebrazioni, Bologna, Italy

Honorable mention to this gig. The live debut of “Sick Mirrors” in its shortest run has exclusive lyrics and transitions directly into “A.Y.O.R.” for the only time. Black Sun Productions also performed for the second time with Coil ever.

2002-04-27 Play Game On-Only Connect – The Barbican, London, UK

The ninth and final performance of the “Anarcadia” tour. Coil were commissioned by Robin Rimbaud, the Play On festival organizer, to write and perform an entirely new set for a considerable sum of money. Instead, they ousted “Broccoli,” “Paranoid Inlay,” and “A.Y.O.R.” from their normal tour setlist to be replaced by the debut of “An Unearthly Red,” in this exclusive form bearing an extended intro, nascent lyrics (which do not refer to George W. Bush or 9/11 as later versions would), and elements of “Constant Shallowness Leads to Evil” in its finale. This was also Mike York’s second-to-last show with the band, returning only for the 2004-05-23 Paris show.

2002-07-26 Il Violino e la Selce – Corte Malatestiana, Fano, Italy

This was the only “transitional” gig Coil ever played, bringing an end to the “Anarcadia” tour material in favor of the “Live Four” material. Prior, Cliff Stapleton left the band for reasons he doesn’t remember and Thighpaulsandra simply bailed, so to compensate, John controlled his own vocal loops, Peter played definite synth riffs on “Amethyst Deceivers” etc., and Ossian played a bit more synth than typical. They debuted “The Last Rites of Spring,” “Are You Shivering?” and “Ostia” at this gig, all in nascent forms and all of which served as staples of the “Live Four” tour. This is the only concert where John, Peter, and Ossian are the only musical contributors, giving it a unique, albeit stripped-down sound and feel. Massimo and Pierce also perform some exclusive choreography, most notably dancing in front of the projection screen during “An Unearthly Red,” pretending to be sick and sticking accusatory fingers out at people on “A.Y.O.R.,” and spraying an anal enema of fake blood on John’s pantlegs during “Backwards.”

2002-10-12 Megalithomania – Conway Hall, London, UK

Coil celebrated the Megalithomania Festival by playing an exclusive, one-song ambient set, later known as “The Universe is a Haunted House (Drip Drop)” (or just “Drip Drop,” as notated on this website). They debut the raindrops video projection frequently used at most of the following shows throughout 2002 and 2003, and Massimo and Pierce wear the black “Live Four” conehead costumes for the first time. John also prominently uses a stage prop, in the form of a pink rabbit stuffed animal, which he ended up completing destroying by the end.

2003-04-06 All Tomorrow’s Parties – Camber Sands, Camber, UK

After a 5-month hiatus where they sorted out their personal and professional difficulties, Coil returned with a nearly exclusive set of material. Only “Triple Sons and the One You Bury” would be replayed live at future gigs. John would reuse a few lines from “Snow Falls Into Military Temples” and “Triple Sons…” in the “Black Antlers”-era song “Sex with Sun Ra.”

2003-05-29 Mutek Festival ’03 – Metropolis, Montreal, Canada

Peter and Thighpaulsandra alone perform this show. Two is the fewest performers of any Coil gig (unless you count the 1999 Berlin show where just Peter performed, but that was technically billed as eLpH, not Coil). Of the three 2003 shows without John, this is the only one with “Blue Rats” as the opener. “Drip Drop (ANS)” sounds rather unique and “The First Five Minutes After Death” most closely resembles “The First Five Minutes After Violent Death” off of Gold is the Metal with the Broadest Shoulders (1987).

2004-07-11 Il Violino E La Selce – Pergolesi Theater, Jesi, Italy

The most unique set of the “Black Antlers”-era. Before “All the Pretty Little Horses,” John says, “We’re truncating; we’re making short of the things tonight because we haven’t got enough time, unfortunately, to do the long versions that we wanted, so apologies for that.” Some songs in the set compliment this idea, like “Wraiths and Strays” and “Black Antlers,” while others, like “Tattooed Man,” contradict it. “Broccoli” was omitted for the only time on tour. What’s truly of note, however, is the revival of two older songs: “Bang Bang,” played here an octave higher than normal with an exclusive extra verse, and “Amethyst Deceivers,” with additional backing track components, Tom’s familiar marimba riff, and Cliff’s hurdy-gurdy.

Most Historically Significant Performances

1983-08-04 A Manifestation of the Will – Club Magenta, London, England, UK

The first Coil gig ever! Obviously important, even if the set is a bit unremarkable, based on the lo-fi AUD recording we have. John and Peter only perform, as no one else had been let into their world just yet.

2000-04-02 Cornucopea – Royal Festival Hall, London, UK

Coil’s first gig of the new millennium and the first proper live gig as a complete group after almost 17 years. Thighpaulsandra was the primary motivator in getting John and Peter to do this, so he deserves substantial credit for kickstarting the five years. Features the first of only two iterations on the “Time Machines” material, along with the exclusive song “Sipping Birdsong through Bedsprings.”

2000-09-19 “Persistence is All” – Royal Festival Hall, London, England

The first gig of the “Constant Shallowness Leads to Evil”-era, and arguably the first gig where Coil truly developed its signature sound and style. Includes the first of only two performances of “Titan Arch.”

2002-04-04 Rote Fabrik, Zürich, Switzerland

In early 2002, John and Peter established a polygamous relationship with Massimo Villani and Pierce Wyss of Black Sun Productions. This was the first gig where Massimo and Pierce did their “Ghost Boys” performance art with Coil. The two would undress, paint themselves grey from head to toe, and do choreography based on their whims and John’s directions. They did this for 16 Coil shows in total, all in 2002.

2002-07-13 Dour Festival – La Plaine de La Machine à Feu, Dour, Belgium

The first confirmed show where the entire band was tripping on psilocybin mushrooms! Danny McKernan regrouped with Coil beforehand, bought the shrooms at their request, and filmed the show using Massimo’s camera. The shrooms particularly affected Massimo and Pierce, who are clearly spaced out and not doing a lot of choreography, and John, who does a lot of bandying about the stage and screaming.

2002-10-29 Flex, Vienna, Austria

The last gig of the “Live Four” phase, Ossian’s second-to-last gig with Coil, and the last gig with Black Sun Productions. At the Spoiler Workshop the next day, Peter mentioned that this gig may well have been Coil’s final show. Frankly, it’s a miracle all the gigs following this one even took place.

2003-04-06 All Tomorrow’s Parties – Camber Sands, Camber, UK

John’s only public performance in 2003. As Cosey Fanni Tutti recalls, Peter was frustrated and emotionally distant from him at the show, leading to some awkwardness backstage. This also might have been the final Coil show, but thankfully, Peter lightened up by the end of the evening and the group carried on.

2003-06-21 Casa da Música Festival, Porto, Portugal

This was Ossian Brown’s 33rd and final show as a member of Coil. It’s unclear why this was the case, and Ossian declines to comment to this today.

2004-10-23 “Stranded With Gifts” – Dublin Electronic Arts Festival – City Hall, Dublin, Ireland

Also arguably the most historic, this was Coil’s only show in Ireland, the only one with François Testory, the only one with the “Stranded With Gifts / Telesmatic Tree in the King Scale” material, and the last Coil show ever before John’s tragic death on November 13, 2004. Enough said.

Most Interesting Banter

2000-09-19 “Persistence is All” – Royal Festival Hall, London, England

John discusses how strange it feels to him replaying old songs and denounces Stevo Pearce for reprinting Scatology and Horse Rotorvator under the Some Bizarre label without Coil’s permission, forcing them to make their own remasters of those albums and Love’s Secret Domain in 2001 with the famous message printed on their front covers “Stevo, pay us what you owe us!” He also dedicates “Constant Shallowness Leads to Evil” to his friends Fritz, Russell, and David Tibet. Fritz committed suicide and received a dedication on “A Warning from the Sun” off of Summer Solstice (1998).

2002-03-30 Artooz Festival – John Lennon Municipal, Limoges, France and 2002-04-02 Vooruit, Gent, Belgium

At these two shows collectively, John explained the general meaning behind every song in the “Backwards / Remote Viewer” set, with the exception of “Sick Mirrors,” which he would explain a bit later. “Anarcadia: All Horned Animals” was originally named “Queer Wolf” and is for the people-animals whose eyebrows join in the middle, “Amethyst Deceivers” is about the birds which control time and space, “Slur” is about sodomy in the ruins of Marrakesh, Morocco, “A Cold Cell” is about people trapped in physical prisons or prisons of their own making, “Broccoli” is about ancestor worship, “Paranoid Inlay” is about the malice contained within inanimate objects, “A.Y.O.R.” is short for “At Your Own Risk” and is a gay term warning gay people to or to not act on their homosexual tendencies in certain places for fear of physical injury, and “Backwards” is about homosexuality and regression.

2002-04-06 Teatro delle Celebrazioni, Bologna, Italy

“Mr. Crowley and Dr. Ausley welcome you to the spectral health spa. Broken auras, ectoplasmic disorders, celestial lubrication provided…The miraculous image of sound washed ashore. The miraculous image of sound washed ashore. Beware, beware the black shadow of Cher. Beware, beware the black shadow of Cher. This one is dedicated to all those in prisons. Physical prisons or prisons of their own making…If the actor stops acting, does the film become real?…It’s the shaggy God story. I glimpsed behind my shower curtain last night in my hotel and I saw a very, very heavy thing. I saw the hairy mother of God.” John often repeated these poetic and cryptic lines in various incarnations through this live phase. He also gave a powerful, yet hilarious speech on the death of Queen Mother of England and his hope that Prince Charles recycled her, even if her shade continued to stalk the streets of London and suck the blood of London’s orphaned and lost children through her hypodermic needle teeth.

2002-04-12 Volksbühne, Berlin, Germany

John repeats a lot of the same phrases that he did at 2002-04-06 Bologna, along with a few new ones, like “Cherubim and seraphim are marching up the stairs” and “All horned animals, all,” but the main draws are his story about meeting Karlheinz Stockhausen at the 2002-06-07 Sonar gig and dubbing him an honorary member of Coil, his somewhat alliterative speech on ancestor worship and imaginary astral antlers before “Broccoli,” and his band introduction before “A.Y.O.R.,” where he sweetly saves Peter for last: “And here, we have an original wrecker of society: Throbbing Gristle’s, Psychic Television’s, my boyfriend for 22 years, Sleazy Peter “Sleazy” Christopherson.”

2002-07-26 Il Violino e la Selce – Corte Malatestiana, Fano, Italy

Definitely John at his most political and talkative. He discusses Pagan practices and a comet set to crash into and destroy Earth on February 1, 2017, gives an apology for reading the lyrics straight from the sheets during the debut performance of “Are You Shivering?” asks the Italian audience about Giuseppe Pelosi (the man who supposedly murdered Pier Palo Pasolini), and goes on a conspiratorial tirade against George W. Bush and the American navy’s sonar harming sea life after the newly renamed “An Unearthly Red.”

2002-10-26 Centrum Filmowe, Lódz, Poland

John was clearly in a bad mood, berating the audience for not clapping after “I Am Angie Bowie (Sine Waves)” and sarcastically referring to them as a “polite audience.” He decried photographers at the beginning of “The Last Rites of Spring,” launched into a strange rant about bootlegs and Adi Newton inviting Coil to play at All Tomorrow’s Parties at the beginning of “Amethyst Deceivers,” and even namechecked Jim Morrison of The Doors during “Drip Drop.”

2003-04-06 All Tomorrow’s Parties – Camber Sands, Camber, UK

Many oft-quoted lines from John, such as “Excess makes the heart grow fonder..” He asks the sound engineers to increase the room volume after the audience requests it, and then discusses how Victorian children would make jam from the red bits around yew berries, even telling the audience eating yew berries is a good trick to make your friends think you just poisoned yourself. An audience member quotes the line “There’s too much blood in my alcohol” from the song “Heartworms,” to which John responds he is totally sober. Another audience member calls him a liar, evincing just how well-known John’s alcoholism was at the time. John then mentions he has a diazepam up his bum, horse tranquilizers, and a tranquilized horse for later.

2004-06-03 Melkweg, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Audience members question why John didn’t write all the lyrics to “Sex With Sun Ra” on his lyric sheets, to which John comically responds “How dare you!” John laments his mother not phoning him for four years, discusses how David Tibet did not originally write “All the Pretty Little Horses,” explains how Val Doonican and his song “Chasing Butterflies” originally inspired “Teenage Lightning,” and points out the sound problems Tom faced on his marimba, preventing him from playing on the last two songs.

2004-07-25 The Ocean Club, London, England

John tells a (likely exaggerated) story about the time his stepfather hung him by his clothes from a dam in Germany and a woman incessantly harasses him throughout the gig. First, she says, “Take your rags off!” to which John responds, “Take my rags off? Never!” Later on, she tells him to “going fucking die, yeah,” earning her boos and “fuck yous” from the rest of the audience. John quietly chuckles and says, “You don’t want me dead. I’m already dead. If you kill me, I’ll have to live forever.” Quite the chilling, prophetic exchange.

Best Sound Quality Recordings

2001-06-01 Paradiso, Amsterdam, The Netherlands [SBD #1]

There are four “Constant Shallowness”-era gigs with SBDs currently publicly available, but they’re all either high-generation copies or poorly mixed. Still, of these, this pre-FM source is the best overall.

2002-04-13 Alte Spinnerei, Glauchau, Germany [SBD #1b]

This is the only desk recording we have of “Anarcadia: All Horned Animals,” “Slur,” and “A Cold Cell,” and they sound better here than just about anywhere else. Sadly, “A.Y.O.R.” and “Backwards” are missing.

2002-10-05 Ydrogeios Club, Thessaloniki, Greece [SBD #1]

This was the first Coil gig to be recorded on a digital 24tk. recorder. According to their then live engineer Andy Ray, every concert for the rest of the month was recorded in this manner. This particular mix by Thighpaulsandra in 2010 for Colour Sound Oblivion DVD #9 has great mixing and sounds better than prior official releases, but has a few glitches and edits throughout. John’s vocal stems were later mixed into “The Last Amethyst Deceiver” on The Ape of Naples (2005).

2002-10-12 Megalithomania – Conway Hall, London, UK [SBD #1]

Excellent quality. Unfortunately missing the speaker introduction, replaced by audience audio from the 2003-05-29 Montreal gig, of all places, and some live vocals where John didn’t sing into a microphone.

2002-10-16 3rd Tsunami – Amager Bio, Copenhagen, DK [SBD #1] & 2002-10-25 St. John’s Church, Gdansk, Poland [SBD #1]

These are both multitrack desk recordings Thighpaulsandra mixed in 2019. They’re the two best EQ’ed, mastered, well-produced recordings by Coil ever (so far). He has clearly learned a lot about music production over the years, since these completely destroy all other official releases in terms of quality. Sorry, Peter!

2003-04-06 All Tomorrow’s Parties – Camber Sands, Camber, UK [SBD #1]

The sound mixing is a little shaky in some places (I suspect because the audience and John requested the sound mixers to add more room volume), but overall, this recording sounds top notch.

2003-05-29 Mutek Festival ’03 – Metropolis Montreal, Canada [SBD #1]

This is one of the few truly flawless SBD recordings, as far as I can tell. Numerous remixes/remasters of this recording have circulated.

2004-05-23 La Loco, Paris, France [SBD #1]

The last truly high quality digital multitrack mix we have in Coil’s chronology (so far). Peter used many of the multitrack stems for remixes on The Ape of Naples (2005) and Black Antlers Deluxe Edition (2006). Uniquely, some of the backing audio tracks often take up one channel or the other on some songs, while other songs have dedicated stereo mixes, differing from the AUDs. The only sore spot is Tom’s marimba, which peaks a bit.

Best Videos

(Note: Of course, not every video properly captures the magic of Coil’s live shows, so we can’t judge any concert’s visual performance properly, but sometimes, the tapers made some brilliant cinematography which I believe deserves praise.)

1983-12-03 Atonal Festival II – SO36 Club, Berlin, Germany [PRO #1]

This first professional video, a two-camera edit, of Coil live ever. Tragically, only an incomplete video has surfaced on YouTube. We’re missing a piece of history, here!

2000-09-19 “Persistence is All” – Royal Festival Hall, London, England [PRO #1]

Once again, the full professional video has yet to surface. All we have is one screenshot and a few snippets from the Hello Culture documentary. Still, by one account from a private collector, the full video is excellent, although the camera goes out of focus during the intense strobe light section at the end of “Constant Shallowness Leads to Evil.”

2001-09-15 DK Gorbunova, Moscow, Russia [EDIT #2 & EDIT #3]

While plagued by several cuts to the backing video projection, this two-angle edit paints the most intimate visual performance from the “Constant Shallowness Leads to Evil”-era ever put to film. The colors look more saturated in EDIT #3 than EDIT #2, and there’s no explanation for why the dominant color is orange, rather than blue, but that only enhances the feeling that you’re watching colour-sound oblivion. DK Gorbunova had a massive stage, and John makes sure to take advantage, treating it as a playground. Sepia-tone lighting enhances the cold isolation on “Blood from the Air,” green light frames John as an unnatural monster during “I Am the Green Child,” and the lights devolve into epileptic catastrophe during the signature ending number.

2002-04-07 Muffathalle, München, Germany [AMT #1]

Tragically incomplete for unknown reasons, but the four songs that are present have very memorable shots. The camera swirls throughout the stage during “Anarcadia: All Horned Animals,” captures John’s somewhat comical dance during “Sick Mirrors,” and prominently shows the audience members smiling and bobbing their heads to the music – a rarity indeed.

2002-06-07 New Forms III – Theater aan het Spui, Den Haag, The Netherlands [EDIT #1]

Peter’s edit of this show has a lot of problems, including syncing issues and weird cuts, but this is the best visual document of the show overall. “Amethyst Deceivers” especially is gorgeous. Great cinematography, mostly owed to draZen, captures Massimo and Pierce’s intimate and sexual performance, plus the backing videos projected onto Ossian look fabulous.

2002-07-26 Il Violino e la Selce – Corte Malatestiana, Fano, Italy [PRO #1 & PRO #2]

When Black Sun Productions sent thujone23 their collection of tapes to digitize and release online in 2016, thujone23 neglected to release a few recordings from the archive. Fano 2002 PRO #1 was released on YouTube while PRO #2 was not. Both these videos are incomplete, only containing “Amethyst Deceivers,” “Are You Shivering?” and “Ostia,” but both are superb quality. PRO #1 has some iffy cinematography at points but displays some of the best coloration of any live Coil video, while PRO #2 was an absolute revelation, containing steady-cam footage in superb quality. Of all the professionally recorded video that has surfaced outside of Colour Sound Oblivion, these two videos are among the first and definitely the best so far. (Bologna 2002 PRO #1 & PRO #2, also recorded by Mediaweb.it doesn’t make the cut because both videos were displayed side-by-side, dramatically reducing resolution.)

2002-10-26 Centrum Filmowe, Lódz, Poland [AMT #2]

Not just me, but a few fellow fans had been waiting anxiously for this video to surface, as it had been known to exist for a few years (technically, it’s the first AMT to surface of the show, but the second one I knew to exist, hence the denomination). I was inherently disappointed when the video arrived and I realized it only contained ~43 minutes of an over 80 minute show, but I was informed the concert was recorded on 8mm DV tape, which was expensive for the taper at the time. To compensate, he recorded ~43 minutes throughout the whole show, such that every song except “Windowpane” is represented. I’m very glad “An Unearthly Red” was recorded at all, plus the audio quality, video quality, and cinematography are all some of the best of any Coil video! This has been a frequent re-watch for me because it is of such high quality.

2002-10-29 Flex, Vienna, Austria [EDIT #1]

Peter’s edit has a myriad of technical problems, including missing three songs and relying on incomplete audio from Live Four, resulting in several sync and continuity issues, but you can’t argue with a 5-angle professional edit. Massimo and Pierce’s best choreography ever is committed to film from a vast array of perspectives – you can really feel the weight behind “I Don’t Want to Be the One” and “Bang Bang” especially.

2003-05-29 Mutek Festival ’03 – Metropolis, Montreal, Canada [EDIT #1]

To be clear, this edited video is among the highest fidelity of any Coil recording, but the visuals are among the most boring. Only Peter and Thighpaulsandra play at this show and not a whole lot happens – most of the camera angles are entirely dependent on the video projections to have any sort of interesting visual, so you’re almost better off just listening to the audio while watching the Coil Reconstruction Kit.

2004-05-23 La Loco, Paris, France [EDIT #1 & PRO #1b]

The last professionally recorded and edited Coil gig looks and sounds great, even if there is a lack of decent choreography; what else would you expect? PRO #1b gets an honorable mention for its excellent quality soundcheck and backstage footage

2004-05-31 Wave Gotik Treffen – Hause, Leipzig, Germany [AMT #2]

Massimo really had a hand for cinematography. This video of his is up-close and personal. John’s wild dances are amusing, yet wickedly hypnotic, and it’s fun seeing Tom Edwards’ silhouette against the backing projection.

Best Individual Song Performances

Songs which were only played live once not included.

Everything Keeps Dissolving – 2000-04-02 Cornucopea – Royal Festival Hall, London, UK

Don’t have much to say about this song.

Queens of the Circulating Library  2000-06-17 Sónar Festival – Mar Bella, Barcelona, Spain

This version has a slightly more impassioned vocal from John compared to the other live performance at Royal Festival Hall.

(Blue) Chasms – 2000-04-02 Cornucopea – Royal Festival Hall, London, UK

Don’t have much to say about this song.

Something 2001-06-01 Paradiso, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

John invokes Pan and there’s a lot of live instrumentation, compared to some other performances where the band seems to feel the backing tracks alone suffice (notably Antwerp, where I swear the band do not play a single note until “Higher Beings Command”). Nantes has a lot of bass synth played by Peter throughout and Leipzig has some expansive and spacey backing audio track synth.

Runnerups:
2001-03-25 Oblique LU Nights Festival – Le Lieu Unique, Nantes, France
2001-06-03 Wave Gotik Treffen – Agra Hall, Leipzig, Germany

Higher Beings Command – 2001-09-15 DK Gorbunova, Moscow, Russia

This was a great live song, difficult to choose the best performance. Most live performances have incredible live synths by Thighpaulsandra which all vary wildly from one another. I’d go with this one because Peter also plays some interesting synth and John sings a few exclusive lines. Antwerp and New York are both very close, though, and Royal Festival Hall, while it misses a few points for being instrumental, has a fantastic climax at the end.

Runnerups:
2000-09-19 “Persistence is All” – Royal Festival Hall, London, England
2001-05-30 Luchtbal, Antwerp, Belgium
2001-08-18 Convergence 7 – Irving Plaza, New York City, NY, USA

Amethyst Deceivers (Version 1) – 2001-08-18 Convergence 7 – Irving Plaza, New York City, NY, USA

John’s vocoder-processed vocals sound particularly alien compared to other versions, and the guitar-based feedback compliments the song. Props to Barcelona for Breeze’s viola and Amsterdam for good live instrumentation.

Runnerups:
2000-06-17 Sónar Festival – Mar Bella, Barcelona, Spain
2001-06-01 Paradiso, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Titan Arch – 2000-09-19 “Persistence is All” – Royal Festival Hall, London, England

A relatively straight performance, compared to the Love’s Secret Domain version, but John’s ghostly vocal and Thighpaulsandra’s guitar feedback is a little more understated (to great effect) than the other performance in Nantes.

What Kind of Animal Are You? – 2001-08-18 Convergence 7 – Irving Plaza, New York City, NY, USA

Antwerp has a better, more rhythmic vocal by John, but the overdriven guitar makes this version a sonic piledriver.

Runnerups:
2001-05-30 Luchtbal, Antwerp, Belgium
2001-06-03 Wave Gotik Treffen – Agra Hall, Leipzig, Germany

Blood from the Air 2001-05-30 Luchtbal, Antwerp, Belgium

John sings emphatically, Peter sings wonderful processed backing vocals and adds a few extra metallic percussion noises, and the firey synth sounds wonderful. Easily the best version of a song which always excelled live.

Runnerups:
2001-03-25 Oblique LU Nights Festival – Le Lieu Unique, Nantes, France
2001-06-01 Paradiso, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
2001-08-18 Convergence 7 – Irving Plaza, New York City, NY, USA

I Am the Green Child – 2001-08-18 Convergence 7 – Irving Plaza, New York City, NY, USA

A well-placed sample of John laughing and a monstrous live vocal would be enough to make this version the best live performance, but Martin goes off on the guitar a bit at the end and Thighpaulsandra starts literally picking his synth up and shaking it, making all sorts of wobbly noises. Another easy choice.

Runnerups:
2001-05-30 Luchtbal, Antwerp, Belgium
2001-06-03 Wave Gotik Treffen – Agra Hall, Leipzig, Germany

Constant Shallowness Leads to Evil – 2001-06-03 Wave Gotik Treffen – Agra Hall, Leipzig, Germany

John’s most intense vocal for the song ever, screaming “Make it fucking louder, louder!” at the beginning. Awe-inspiring instrumentation.

Runnerups:
2000-09-19 “Persistence is All” – Royal Festival Hall, London, England
2001-05-30 Luchtbal, Antwerp, Belgium

Anarcadia: All Horned Animals 2002-04-02 Vooruit, Ghent, Belgium

Peter throws cymbals at their metal sheet and John screams at the end of the song for the second of four performances. Very lively performance of a song rather dependent on the backing audio tracks. Artooz has these qualities in addition to cool synth from Ossian, Hamburg has a lot of sleigh bells and high quality backing audio track instrumentation, and Dour has some cool live synth from Thighpaulsandra.

Runnerups:
2002-03-30 Artooz Festival – John Lennon Centre, Limoges, France
2002-04-10 Fabrik, Hamburg, Germany
2002-07-13 La Plaine de La Machine à Feu, Dour, Belgium

Amethyst Deceivers (Version 2) 2002-04-12 Volksbühne, Berlin, Germany

One of the best live Coil cuts, ever. Wonderful chemistry within the band, each member contributing a lot. The only flaw is the relatively quiet hurdy-gurdy. Props to Den Haag for Thighpaulsandra’s plaintive piano and Dour for John’s improvised lyrics and the band jamming at the end.

Runnerups:
2002-04-06 Teatro delle Celebrazioni, Bologna, Italy
2002-06-07 Theater aan het Spui, Den Haag, The Netherlands
2002-07-13 La Plaine de La Machine à Feu, Dour, Belgium

Slur – 2002-04-06 Teatro delle Celebrazioni, Bologna, Italy

John’s best vocal for the song, which alone makes it the best version, as he tends to waver pretty badly on most of the other ones. Munich has a lot of nice synth by Ossian and Berlin has great band interplay.

Runnerups:
2002-04-07 Muffathalle, München, Germany
2002-04-12 Volksbühne, Berlin, Germany

A Cold Cell 2002-04-13 Alte Spinnerei, Glauchau, Germany

Don’t have a lot to say about this song.

Runnerups:
2002-04-02 Vooruit, Ghent, Belgium
2002-04-06 Teatro delle Celebrazioni, Bologna, Italy
2002-04-27 The Barbican, London, UK

Broccoli (Version 1) 2002-03-30 Artooz Festival – John Lennon Centre, Limoges, France

Strangely, Peter plays the backing audio track of Thighpaulsandra’s synth early in the track, which I find very appealing for some reason. John sings some unique lyrics and the live instrumentation is pretty nice, too. While not a song that varied live much, there really aren’t that many lesser performances, thus there’s a lot of runnerups. John would sing more intensely as the concerts progressed, culminating in him screaming at Den Haag.

Runnerups:
2002-04-06 Teatro delle Celebrazioni, Bologna, Italy
2002-04-12 Volksbühne, Berlin, Germany
2002-04-13 Alte Spinnerei, Glauchau, Germany
2002-06-07 Theater aan het Spui, Den Haag, The Netherlands

Paranoid Inlay – 2002-04-06 Teatro delle Celebrazioni, Bologna, Italy

Once again, John’s strongest live vocal for the song ever. Ossian plays some nice synth and you can hear Cliff and Mike pretty well too. Later performances would understate the hurdy-gurdy and balalaika to bad effect.

Runnerups:
2002-04-12 Volksbühne, Berlin, Germany
2002-04-13 Alte Spinnerei, Glauchau, Germany

Sick Mirrors – 2002-04-06 Teatro delle Celebrazioni, Bologna, Italy

Interesting that the live debut would turn out to be the best version. John’s improvised lyrics are absolutely stellar, more refined and varied than all other performances, and Peter doesn’t let the track overstay its welcome, smoothly transitioning into “A.Y.O.R.” after about 8 minutes. It’s a shame they changed this track so much after. This was one of my earliest favorites when I first got into Coil; still a standout track after all these years. The following performances would get steadily longer, with distinct additional sections of John whistling and/or vocalizing with the hurdy-gurdy and bagpipes before Peter would commence the percussion track, and of these, Hamburg and Berlin stand out the most.

Runnerups:
2002-04-10 Fabrik, Hamburg, Germany
2002-04-12 Volksbühne, Berlin, Germany

A.Y.O.R. 2002-07-13 La Plaine de La Machine à Feu, Dour, Belgium

This was a somewhat hit-and-miss live song, thankfully hitting more often than missing. This performance has a standout energetic vocal by John and fabulous live synth by Thighpaulsandra. Zürich has an understated vocal by John but lots of nice live instrumentation, Bologna has some interesting processing on John’s vocals and great live synth, and Fano strips the track down and expands it to a sort of tribal dance number.

Runnerups:
2002-04-04 Rote Fabrik, Zürich, Switzerland
2002-04-06 Teatro delle Celebrazioni, Bologna, Italy
2002-04-07 Muffathalle, München, Germany
2002-07-26 Il Violino e la Selce – Corte Malatestiana, Fano, Italy

Backwards 2002-06-07 Theater aan het Spui, Den Haag, The Netherlands

Another one of Coil’s best live cuts. This extended version has multiple crescendos, unique lyrics by John, a stellar visual performance by Pierce and Massimo, and fantastic live instrumentation. Absolutely incredible. Munich and Dour get honorable mentions for equally powerful vocals by John.

Runnerups:
2002-04-07 Muffathalle, München, Germany
2002-07-13 La Plaine de La Machine à Feu, Dour, Belgium

I Am Angie Bowie (Sine Waves) 2002-10-26 Centrum Filmowe, Lódz, Poland

A rather unhinged performance, John’s strange improvised lyrics and the synths veering off course to very powerful effect. Copenhagen is very similar in feeling so it gets an honorable mention. Most other performances stay contained and restrained – Konigsberg is the standout performance where this really works in the song’s favor. Prague has the best buildup early in the song, though.

Runnerups:
2002-09-29 Feelee – Vagonka Club, Konigsberg, Russia
2002-10-16 3rd Tsunami – Amager Bio, Copenhagen, Denamrk
2002-10-27 Palac Akropolis, Prague, Czech Republic

The Last Rites of Spring – 2002-10-25 St. John’s Church, Gdansk, Poland

I think of this performance as demented circus music. The desk recording has a lot of amazing instrumentation which all bounce back and forth between the channels. Some great lyrics and screaming by John, too.

Runnerups:
2002-10-16 3rd Tsunami – Amager Bio, Copenhagen, Denamrk
2002-10-26 Centrum Filmowe, Lódz, Poland
2002-10-29 Flex, Vienna, Austria

Are You Shivering? – 2002-10-05 Ydrogeios Club, Thessaloniki, Greece

Best live instrumentation of any performance, since Thighpaulsandra and Ossian weren’t distracted for the first two minutes disrobing Pierce and Massimo. They really flesh out the song, here, even eclipsing John’s vocal for a change. Fano has really cool double-tracked backing audio tracks, while Gdansk and Vienna have wonderful vocals by John.

Runnerups:
2002-07-26 Il Violino e la Selce – Corte Malatestiana, Fano, Italy
2002-10-25 St. John’s Church, Gdansk, Poland
2002-10-29 Flex, Vienna, Austria

Amethyst Deceivers (Version 3) – 2002-10-25 St. John’s Church, Gdansk, Poland

One of their best live cuts, but this is a track that rarely faltered live anyway. Gdansk is the only version to begin with the melodic backing audio track, rather than the percussion or the bass. John’s vocal is incredibly strong and Thighpaulsandra and Ossian mix up the timbres of their synths, giving this version a very unique, varied flavor. Konigsberg has great lyrics and instrumentation, Copenhagen has very regal piano, Lódz has the best vocal/piano interplay, and Vienna is just a very solid version overall.

Runnerups:
2002-09-29 Feelee – Vagonka Club, Konigsberg, Russia
2002-10-16 3rd Tsunami – Amager Bio, Copenhagen, Denmark
2002-10-26 Centrum Filmowe, Lódz, Poland
2002-10-29 Flex, Vienna, Austria

A Warning from the Sun – 2002-10-29 Flex, Vienna, Austria

 

Runnerups:
2002-10-05 Ydrogeios Club, Thessaloniki, Greece
2002-10-16 3rd Tsunami – Amager Bio, Copenhagen, Denmark
2002-10-26 Centrum Filmowe, Lódz, Poland

Lake View – 2002-10-05 Ydrogeios Club, Thessaloniki, Greece

 

Runnerup:
2002-10-16 3rd Tsunami – Amager Bio, Copenhagen, Denamrk

Drip Drop – 2002-10-12 Megalithomania – Conway Hall, London, UK

Easy choice for obvious reasons. Excluding the extended Megalithomania version, Oslo (the live debut of the short version of the song) feels very obscure and adventurous, while Prague has some wonderful live piano that almost turn the song into a nifty cocktail number.

Runnerups:
2002-10-17 Betong, Oslo, Norway
2002-10-27 Palac Akropolis, Prague, Czech Republic

Windowpane – 2002-10-29 Flex, Vienna, Austria

This version almost feels like a demented hip hop or rap song. Great lyrics by John and some wonderful live instrumentation. Honorable mention to Prague, which has some fantastic screams on it.

Runnerup:
2002-10-27 Palac Akropolis, Prague, Czech Republic

Ostia – 2002-10-29 Flex, Vienna, Austria

While the live instrumentation is a little meh, with Ossian’s synth only really coming in at the end, this is the only version where I can say John absolutely NAILS the vocal. Perfect coordination with the instrumentation – in almost all the others, he’s rushing or dragging along. Konigsberg and Greece feature better interplay between the vocals and the instrumentation, though.

Runnerups:
2002-09-29 Feelee – Vagonka Club, Konigsberg, Russia
2002-10-05 Ydrogeios Club, Thessaloniki, Greece

I Don’t Want to Be the One – 2002-10-27 Palac Akropolis, Prague, Czech Republic

 

Runnerups:
2002-09-29 Feelee – Vagonka Club, Konigsberg, Russia
2002-10-05 Ydrogeios Club, Thessaloniki, Greece
2002-10-26 Centrum Filmowe, Lódz, Poland

Bang Bang (Sonny Bono Cover) – 2004-07-11 Il Violino E La Selc – Pergolesi Theater, Jesi, Italy 

 

Runnerups:
2002-10-26 Centrum Filmowe, Lódz, Poland
2002-10-29 Flex, Vienna, Austria

An Unearthly Red – 2002-10-29 Flex, Vienna, Austria

 

Runnerups:
2002-10-16 3rd Tsunami – Amager Bio, Copenhagen, Denamrk
2002-10-26 Centrum Filmowe, Lódz, Poland

Blue Rats – 2003-06-21 Casa da Música Festival, Porto, Portugal 

Drip Drop (ANS) – 2003-06-21 Casa da Música Festival, Porto, Portugal 

Triple Sons and the One You Bury – 2003-04-06 All Tomorrow’s Parties – Camber Sands, Camber, UK

Default winner for the fact it has John’s vocals, but I do appreciate how Thighpaulsandra’s harsh synths contrast with the softer melody arpeggio compared to other versions.

Runnerups:
2003-06-21 Casa da Música Festival, Porto, Portugal
2003-07-12 Supersonic Festival – Custard Factory, Birmingham, England

The First Five Minutes After Death – 2003-06-21 Casa da Música Festival, Porto, Portugal 

 

Runnerup:
2003-07-12 Supersonic Festival – Custard Factory, Birmingham, England

The Gimp (Sometimes) – 2004-07-25 The Ocean Club, London, UK

Thighpaulsandra plays a lot of excellent-sounding synth and John deliver his darkest, most sadomasochistic vocal ever for this song. Get used to me singing the praises of the Ocean performance…

Runnerups:
2004-06-03 Melkweg, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
2004-07-11 Il Violino E La Selc – Pergolesi Theater, Jesi, Italy

Sex with Sun Ra – 2004-07-25 The Ocean Club, London, UK

Part one, part two, whatever…Tom’s uniquely effected marimba turn this performance into a fever dream, with Cliff adding some scary-sounding hurdy-gurdy buzzes here and there which jolt the listener. Thighpaulsandra uses the Electro-Harmonix to capture, loop, and effect John’s vocals, adding to the surreal soundscape. Fabulous performance.

Runnerups:
2004-05-23 La Loco, Paris, France

Broccoli (Version 2) – 2004-06-03 Melkweg, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

John sings an entirely unique, likely improvised set of lyrics which alone make this the best performance.

Runnerup:
2004-07-25 The Ocean Club, London, UK

All the Pretty Little Horses – 2004-07-25 The Ocean Club, London, UK

An absolute gem of a performance. Tom’s dreamy-sounding marimba alone makes this the best performance hands down, but John also adds a particularly emotional vocal that just puts the icing on the cake. Plaintive, beautiful, and magickal.

Runnerups:
2004-05-31 Wave Gotik Treffen – Haus, Leipzig, Germany
2004-06-03 Melkweg, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Tattooed Man (The Dark Age of Love) – 2004-07-25 The Ocean Club, London, UK

 

Runnerups:
2004-05-23 La Loco, Paris, France
2004-05-31 Wave Gotik Treffen – Haus, Leipzig, Germany

Teenage Lightning (10th Birthday Version) – 2004-05-23 La Loco, Paris, France

This is my all-time favorite live cut from Coil’s entire live catalogue. Absolutely superb performance, with two climaxes in the middle and end of the song. Thighpaulsandra, Tom, Cliff, and Mike together push this song to its limit. The rapturous applause from the audience at the end is completely earned.

Runnerups:
2004-05-31 Wave Gotik Treffen – Haus, Leipzig, Germany
2004-07-11 Il Violino E La Selc – Pergolesi Theater, Jesi, Italy

(I Can’t Get Word In) Edgeways – 2004-07-25 The Ocean Club, London, UK

One of the better live cuts from the whole of Coil’s live catalogue. John screams bloody murder on this performance, probably wiping his voice out, and Thighpaulsandra re-pitches the Nord Modular patch loop in lots of unique and effective ways.

Runnerup:
2004-05-31 Wave Gotik Treffen – Haus, Leipzig, Germany

Radio Weston / Wraiths and Strays – 2003-05-29 Mutek Festival ’03 – Metropolis, Montreal, Canada

In terms of actual live performance, this is probably the worst, as there is only so much Peter and Thighpaulsandra, two people, can do compared to all other live versions where there is at least one more person contributing. Still, all of the samples and tracks they use on this version make it the most instrumentally complex and dynamic. I don’t even particularly crave a vocal by John, here – the song is full enough as is. (Honestly, though, “The Wraiths and Strays from Paris” is probably the best version of the song ever, but that is a remix Peter did for the 2006 reissue of the Black Antlers CDr which differs enough from the original Paris performance that I consider it a studio remix, not a live performance.)

Runnerups:
2004-05-23 La Loco, Paris, France
2004-05-31 Wave Gotik Treffen – Haus, Leipzig, Germany
2004-07-25 The Ocean Club, London, UK

Black Antlers (Where’s Your Child?) – 2004-05-23 La Loco, Paris, France

What an absolute monster of a performance, largely thanks to Cliff and Mike pushing it forward. It’s no wonder then that this is the best version, since Mike would never play another show with Coil again. The instrumental build and climax just before John sings the first proper line is undoubtedly the highlight.

Runnerup:
2004-07-11 Il Violino E La Selc – Pergolesi Theater, Jesi, Italy

Best Concert Performances

2001-05-30 Luchtbal, Antwerp, Belgium

The band’s best instrumental performance of the era, with John’s second best vocal to boot. Every individual song has something to offer: the bursting vocal and synthesized evocations on “Higher Beings Command,” John’s first implementation of the vocoder on “Amethyst Deceivers,” his measured vocals on the excellent debut of “What Kind of Animal Are You?” the additional instrumentation and Peter’s backing vocals on “Blood from the Air” (in its best iteration here), the longest live version of “I Am the Green Child” at over 10 minutes, and the title song bearing my favorite line/reference from any performance of the song: “Stay young and beautiful / It’s your duty to be beautiful!” which is from the 1933 Abe Lyman song, makes this whole gig very special. The only sore spot is a lack of banter from John; he was very quiet, not even delivering his usual ruminations between songs.

2001-06-03 Wave Gotik Treffen, Leipzig, Germany

John’s best vocal performance of the “Constant Shallowness Leads to Evil”-era, with some of his wildest screaming ever. Perhaps he was driven by the fact that the band had invited Pierce Wyss to participate at the gig. Ossian Brown also played at this show and his additional synth tones really propelled the sound, compared to the NYC and Moscow shows where he is absent. The title track is definitely the best part and is in its best version, here, sounding like a pile-driver to the ears. “MAKE IT FUCKING LOUDER!” Following the song, Thighpaulsandra (I’m guessing) launched into an exclusive synth jam that lasted for minutes, giving some exclusivity to this powerful performance as well. I used to think it was my favorite of the era, but Luchtbal has won me over with its superior instrumentation.

2002-04-06 Teatro delle Celebrazioni, Bologna, Italy

Admittedly, this is the obligatory “Backwards / Remote Viewer” gig choice, and it’s the one you would most expect, given its inclusion on Live Three, but I’d still say it’s second best. John actually sings worth a damn on all of the songs, whereas at all the other gigs from around this time, he commonly mumbled over his lyrics or did not give 100% in his delivery. In fact, this gig has the best version of “Slur” ever, if only because it was the only time John sang it particularly well (the thunder booms also enhance it). His exclusive lyrics and vocal delivery on “Sick Mirrors,” debuted here, are unmatched by any other version, and it’s very interesting to hear it seg-way right into “A.Y.O.R.” “A Cold Cell” has a pretty good vocal improvisation at the end, “Paranoid Inlay,” while you can’t hear the hurdy-gurdy very well, does have excellent vocal delivery, and “Backwards,” even in this still nascent form, is quite a beast.

2002-06-07 New Forms III – Theater aan het Spui, Den Haag, NL

The best gig of the “Backwards / Remote Viewer” phase. Thighpaulsandra had rejoined the band by this point and his additional instrumentation dramatically enhanced Coil’s sound, despite Mike York’s bagpipes and other instruments now being absent. It was likely that the rest of the band were getting a bit sick of the material, by this point, so they probably didn’t want Thighpaulsandra to “learn” every song. So, the set became a tight 4 (or 5, depending on how you look at it) song affair. Quality over quantity. Intriguingly, the backing audio track was mixed relatively low in both the live sound and on the SBD recording, allowing the overlaid instrumentals and vocals to truly flourish this time. A stellar early version of “The Gimp (Sometimes),” written “The Gimp/Sometimes” to match the Hate People Like Us compilation if you like, follows “Anarcadia: All Horned Animals” seamlessly, wherein John launches into a raving lyrical improvisation. “Amethyst Deceivers” has beautiful piano, though John’s vocals do waver a bit. “Broccoli” is the least remarkable. Thighpaulsandra’s synths add a unique flair to it, but the song is hampered by John’s vicious, peaking vocals. Nonetheless, whatever qualms one could have with the music immediately evaporate in the face of an extended, 20-minute behemoth of a performance of “Backwards,” one of Coil’s crowning achievements. While Pierce and Massimo kiss, spit fake blood on each other, and give each other reach arounds, John calls homosexual love the norm and the “normal” the “perverse.” I have always interpreted this song as John autobiographically describing how he came to terms with his own homosexuality, in the face of a family and a culture which shunned such behavior. Sooner than usual, the song devolves into the “noise” section, wherein Massimo and Pierce wrap themselves lovingly around John, who stands up and reaffirms his dominance over the pair, and by extension, his own sexuality, as the music kicks back up. “I feel loved! / But it’s backwards! / I feel loved!” he shouts over and over again. John no longer cares that homosexuality is “backwards,” when all that matters is that John feels loved, which supersedes everything else. The song becomes an anthem, a triumph, as does the whole performance. There’s nothing else like it!

2002-07-13 Dour Festival – “La Plaine de La Machine à Feu,” Dour, Belgium

It’s hard not to be a little biased, since this is still a relatively new surfaced show, and the one poor quality video we have paints the proceedings as rather visually boring (despite Peter smiling into the camera a few times) and aurally lo-fi, but if you have a little patience, an urgent and strong performance shines through. John goes off on a rare maniacal performance, shrieking at the top of his lungs at several opportunities. Maybe not so appropriate for “Amethyst Deceivers,” but John and the rest of the band make up for it by singing unique vocal melodies and launching into an exclusive jam at the end respectively. For this particular phase, you won’t find any more energy from John, and it would be a few months before the beast would fully reemerge. “Anarcadia: All Horned Animals,” in extended form for the second occasion of two, greatly benefits from Thighpaulsandra’s shiny, ritualistic synths that almost always perfectly sync to the backing audio track, which he’d later reuse on subsequent songs and phases, and like at the previous show, the phaser on Cliff’s hurdy-gurdy keeps the song chugging along. There isn’t much to say about “A.Y.O.R.” except for the fact that it’s an above-average performance, but unfortunately the pace is broken as sound problems apparently plague Peter from starting “Backwards” right away, so John randomly says some of his phrases to fill the time until the song can begin. The only missing components from this show are the backing video projections on either a screen behind the band or on the band themselves. One can only see brief flashes here and there; perhaps there were technical issues and/or the band could not take all of their equipment with them to this show. Massimo and Pierce’s choreography also takes a backseat. Though they look rather limited by the small stage, they do little more than look sick on “A.Y.O.R.” and present their asses to the audience on “Backwards” – a significant downstep from the previous show, where they contorted and stretched their bodies and were all over each other during “Backwards.” At least John makes up for it by bounding all over the stage and even mounting Massimo at one point. Ultimately, this is definitely one performance where the draw is merely the music and little else, but what a performance it is.

2002-10-12 Megalithomania – Conway Hall, London, UK

Even though there is little to compare this set to, as every shortened version of “Drip Drop” really cannot do it justice, there’s no denying that this show is a fan-favorite for many, and rightfully so, because it’s an enigmatic and esoteric performance that begs for multiple listens. John’s wounded vocals filter in and out of the channels; sometimes he’s but a mere whisper, while other times he assumes control over the whole sound. “Where’s my unlucky rabbit?” Perhaps these references to the stuffed rabbit John tore apart onstage portended to the eventual classic song “Unhappy Rabbits.” Thighpaulsandra’s synths sound as crisp as chips and add dark density to the song. An achingly beautiful performance.

2002-10-25 St. John’s Church, Gdansk, Poland

This one bears an intimacy many of the other “Live Four” shows lack. Coil clearly took their commitment to church-goers and venue managers alike seriously, censoring their garb, set, and behavior so as not to offend anyone and be shut down. It seems John took his vocals equally as seriously, barely speaking between songs. Nowhere else will you hear him wail on “The Last Rites of Spring” like such a crazed animal, nor envelope the whole soundscape with his preaching on “Amethyst Deceivers.” This gig is certainly the best truncated set of the “Live Four” phase by far.

2002-10-26 Centrum Filmowe, Lódz, Poland

This one took some time to grow on me. If the previous show, St. John’s Church, featured a calculated, deep-thought performance, this one reflects the other side of the coin. John, apparently high on Psilocybin mushrooms, is quite unhinged, here, berating the audience for their lack of applause, mumbling throughout the songs, launching into strange rants and tirades, etc., resulting in Coil’s most hit-and-miss show. John stumbles terribly on songs like “Windowpane” and “Ostia,” while he shines “I Am Angie Bowie (Sine Waves)” and “An Unearthly Red” to a sterling sheen. I know not if the other band members were also high on shrooms, but they succeed in matching John’s intensity throughout the show, making the material sound particularly fresh, which is somewhat unusual for this phase. Best performances of “I Am Angie Bowie (Sine Waves),” “I Don’t Want to Be the One,” and “An Unearthly Red.”

2002-10-29 Flex, Vienna, AT

Some of the “Live Four” shows start to sound the same over repeated listens. Sure, you get the odd unique bit of banter from John and of course “Drip Drop” and “Bang Bang” sound different every time because they were played without any dedicated backing audio tracks, but after a while the material rarely feels especially tight, similar to some of the later “Backwards / Remote Viewer” shows. Usually, the “Live Four” material sounds more ambient, resulting in a looser overall feel. You can chalk a lot of that up to the personal strain on the band at the time, as John’s addiction to alcohol and significant intake of other drugs took its toll on the band, to the point where Flex might have been Coil’s last gig ever. But suddenly, for the last gig of the era, all the planets aligned, and Coil turned in a vicious and excellent performance that beats everything else. John was surprisingly on point for every song, finally starting to sing at an appropriate measure on “Ostia,” delivering devastating screams on “A Warning from the Sun” and “I Don’t Want to Be the One,” and revealing his vulnerability on a powerful “Bang Bang,” while Peter shined in his mixing on “Windowpane,” Thighpaulsandra with his synth notes on “Bang Bang,” and Ossian with his synth hisses on “The Last Rites of Spring” and “Amethyst Deceivers.” Even Massimo delivered his Pasolini poem with greater fervor and directness, as opposed to soft disinterest often heard previously. This is also Massimo and Pierce’s best choreography with Coil ever – a wonderful sendoff to the ghost boys. A monumental performance that definitely earned the right to dominate 2003’s Live Four album…Funny how we still do not have “An Unearthly Red”!

2003-04-06 All Tomorrow’s Parties – Camber Sands, Camber, UK

Like with Megalithomania, with the exclusive setlist, it’s difficult to compare this material to other Coil material in terms of performance, but there was undoubtedly lightning captured in a bottle here. Peter and Thighpaulsandra had worried whether John would be able to come up with anything lyrically at all, meaning he gave almost everything off the top of his head rather than off of lyric sheets, and considering John had always relied on them, his performance is a miracle. Nervous textures in his vocals enhance the disturbing moods of the songs at the best of times – certainly “Snow Falls Into Military Temples” is one of the greatest ambient tracks Coil ever recorded, “A Slip in the Marylebone Road” one of the most enigmatic, and “Triple Sons and the One You Bury” one of the most heavy-hitting – while at other times sadly his vocals falter a bit and the song suffers. This mainly just affects “The Dreamer is Still Asleep – The Somnambulist in an Ambulance,” as the line “Somnambulist in an ambulance” repeated a thousand times gets a little old. Tom also returned to play with Coil almost a year and a half after his last show with them, 2001-09-15 Moscow. It doesn’t sound like they gave him much rehearsal time, as most of his marimba riffs sound like they’re made up on the spot, but where they fit perfectly with the music, they’re exceptional. Definitely some of his best work here. You don’t really need me to tell you how great this performance is; it’s a fan favorite for a reason.

2003-06-21 Casa da Música Festival, Porto, Portugal

The last three gigs in 2003 certainly lack a lot of love that the others revel in, and to be fair, I think there’s a good reason for that: John was easily half the magick all by himself, and without him, a core element is simply missing from the show. Nevertheless, these gigs certainly deserve more attention, and of them, this one is definitely the best. Peter, Thighpaulsandra, and Ossian really sound like they know what they’re doing here. For 2003-05-29 Mutek, it was hard to tell how much was actual performance and how much was the computer, and as for 2003-07-12 Supersonic Festival, badly compressed recordings bury a lot of the spirit of Tom’s marimba and the overall nuances. Here, the familiar riffs of “Triple Sons and the One You Bury” and “The First Five Minutes After Death” bear riffs tuned up, which makes for surprisingly great enhancements. “Snow Falls Into Military Temples” is given one more go in evolved form, and it’s actually quite effective, if a little simple. The other songs all sound like how you’d expect, though. This was also Ossian’s last show with Coil – thank you for all your hard work, man.

2004-05-23 La Loco, Paris, France

This was the only time the all-star lineup of Thighpaulsandra, Tom, Cliff, and Mike were all present at a Coil gig. The music sounds immaculate and amazingly intricate because of it – you can’t say that about any of the other “Black Antlers” shows! Though Tom was always present (except for the last two songs at the 2004-06-03 Melkweg) show, Cliff only appeared at two other gigs (2004-07-11 Jesi and 2004-07-25 Ocean respectively) and Mike never played with them again. Every member, even when just improvising, never detracted from the rest of the music. Peter and Thighpaulsandra, of course, were brilliant as always. “Teenage Lightning” might very well be Coil’s finest moment live, especially the climax five minutes or so in. The only missing component was John’s vocals. Sadly, he was very drunk and stumbled/mumbled over many of his lyrics throughout the whole show, hurting a lot of the multitrack stems Peter later used on song remixes. Had his performance been totally on point, this would be the best show Coil ever played BY FAR.

2004-07-25 Ocean, London, England

Approximately 500 people attended this show, and numerous people on the Coil Facebook group have lauded its brilliance as a performance. Sadly, it’s the worst-recorded gig of the “Black Antlers”-era, but that doesn’t stop a magnificent performance from shining through. Pretty much every song is in top form, here, but the last three songs are where the gig really shines. Tom applied an effect to his marimba throughout the show that raised its octave and made all of his riffs sound much more fantastical and dream-like, while John sang worth a damn following the largely mumbled Jesi show. “Sex With Sun Ra” really improves thematically from this effect, but it absolutely makes “All the Pretty Little Horses” – no version of the song by Coil or any other band even remotely touches this flawless gem. “Tattooed Man” has lyrics later incorporated on “Unhappy Rabbits” on this version only, which is pretty cool too. Again, though, the gig becomes legendary once “Edgeways” starts up, the only time in the set it ever followed “Teenage Lightning” instead of “All the Pretty Little Horses,” which I think was a necessary swap. A flawless performance breaks through any lo-fi recording of the gig we have. John’s screaming is constantly recut and played over the rest of the music, giving the song the most maddening feel it has ever had. The song seg-ways right into “Wraiths and Strays,” again, in top form and perhaps unbeatable. “Black Antlers” manages to be insanely hypnotic and captivating, despite it only appearing in poor quality. This is my personal number one request for a properly recording / SBD to surface. If one ever does, I swear, this one will become a universal fan favorite by all. Hopefully we’ll hear it someday.

2004-10-23 “Stranded With Gifts” – Dublin Electronic Arts Festival – City Hall, Dublin, Ireland

Do I even need to explain this one? I suppose I don’t often hear people laud John for improvising particularly telling lyrics during “The Beginning is Always the End” – “And by the stroke of luck, dissolved in a fit / That’s the way it is, that’s the way it is, that’s the way it is / I had a stroke of luck, dissolved in a fit / That is the way it is, the way it is, the way it is.” The demented waltz instrumentation and incorporation of two backing video projections during “Tom’s Radio Weston” is also pretty cool. But yeah, everything else, I’m pretty sure you already know. Brilliant, sad, beautiful, and heartfelt show. What a way to go out.

Top 7 Overall Shows/Recordings

In no particular order. Factoring in every aspect of the shows I previously ranked, here are the very best Coil shows.

2001-05-30 Luchtbal, Antwerp, Belgium

2002-06-07 New Forms III – Theater aan het Spui, Den Haag, NL

2002-10-12 Megalithomania – Conway Hall, London, UK

2002-10-29 Flex, Vienna, Austria

2003-04-06 All Tomorrow’s Parties – Camber Sands, Camber, UK

2004-07-25 The Ocean Club, London, England

2004-10-23 “Stranded With Gifts” – Dublin Electronic Arts Festival – City Hall, Dublin, Ireland

Totals

Concerts
“A Manifestation of the Will” set – 1
“A Slow Fade to Transparency” / “How to Destroy Angels” set – 1
Coil / Zos Kia set – 2
eLpH / “Zwölf” set – 1
“Time Machines” set – 2 (both with exclusive sets)
“Constant Shallowness Leads to Evil” set – 7
Anarcadia Tour / “Backwards / Remote Viewer” set – 11
Transitional set – 1
“Live Four” set – 12
“Megalithomania” set – 1
“All Tomorrow’s Parties” set – 1
Instrumental set – 3
Even an Evil Fatigue Tour / “Black Antlers” set – 5
“Dublin” set – 1
Total Number of Performances – 49

Band Members’ Number of Performances with Coil
John Balance – 45
Peter “Sleazy” Christopherson – 49
John Gosling – 3
Marc Almond – 1
Min – 2
Thighpaulsandra – 34
Ossian Brown (Simon Norris) – 33
William Breeze – 1
Tom Edwards – 14
Cliff Stapleton – 15
Mike York – 10
Massimo Villani – 16
Pierce Wyss – 17
John Contreras – 1
Danny McKernan – 1
Matthew Gibson – 1
François Testory – 1

Song Performances (not counting soundchecks)
“Silence and Secrecy” – 1
“How to Destroy Angels” – 1
“Sicktone” – 2 (1 unsurfaced)
“Baptism of Fire” – 2
“Rape” – 2 (1 surfaced)
“Poisons” – 2 (1 unsurfaced)
“Truth” – 2 (1 unsurfaced)
“Everything Keeps Dissolving” – 2
“Queens of the Circulating Library” / “Circulating” – 2
“(Blue) Chasms) – 2
“Sipping Birdsong Through Bedsprings” – 1
“Amethyst Deceivers (Version 1)” – 9
“The Universe is a Haunted House” – 1
“Elves” – 1
“Something” – 7
“Higher Beings Command” – 7
“Titan Arch” – 2
“What Kind of Animal Are You?” – 5
“Blood from the Air” – 7
“I Am the Green Child” – 7
“Constant Shallowness Leads to Evil” – 7
“Untitled” from Leipzig 2001 – 1
“Anarcadia: All Horned Animals” – 11 (2 are extended)
“Amethyst Deceivers (Version 2)” – 12
“Slur” – 9
“A Cold Cell” – 9
“Broccoli (Version 1)” – 9
“Paranoid Inlay” – 8
“Sick Mirrors” – 6
“A.Y.O.R.” – 10
“Backwards” – 11
“I Am Angie Bowie (Sine Waves)” – 12 (2 unsurfaced)
“The Last Rites of Spring” – 13 (2 unsurfaced)
“Are You Shivering?” – 13 (1 mostly unsurfaced)
“Amethyst Deceivers (Version 3)” – 10
“A Warning from the Sun” – 12 (1 unsurfaced)
“Lake View” – 4 (1 unsurfaced)
“Drip Drop (Megalithomania)” – 1
“Drip Drop” – 7 (1 mostly unsurfaced)
“Windowpane” – 3
“Ostia” – 13 (1 unsurfaced)
“I Don’t Want to Be the One” – 12 (1 unsurfaced)
“Bang Bang (Sonny Bono Cover)” – 13 (1 mostly unsurfaced)
“An Unearthly Red” / “Captain Clark Welcomes You Aboard Flight 23” – 11
“Triple Sun Introduction” / “Triple Sons” and the One You Bury” / “Triple Sun” – 5 (4 instrumental)
“Snow Falls Into Military Temples” – 2 (1 instrumental)
“A Slip from the Marylebone Road” – 1
“The Dreamer is Still Asleep – The Somnambulist in an Ambulance” – 1
“Blue Rats” – 3
“Drip Drop (ANS)” – 3
“Radio Weston” – 3
“The First Five Minutes After Death” – 3
“The Gimp (Sometimes)” – 5
“Sex With Sun Ra (Part One – Saturnalia)” – 4
“Sex With Sun Ra (Part Two – Sigillaricia)” – 1
“Broccoli (Version 2)” – 4
“All the Pretty Little Horses” – 5
“Tattooed Man (The Dark Age of Love)” – 5
“Teenage Lightning (10th Birthday Version)” – 5
“(I Can’t Get a Word in) Edgeways” – 3
“Wraiths and Strays” – 5
“Black Antlers (Where’s Your Child?) (Bam Bam Cover)” – 4
“White Rainbow” – 1
“The Beginning is Always the End” – 1
“Unhappy Rabbits” – 1
“Stranded With Gifts” – 1
“Tom’s Radio Weston” – 1
“Going Up (Prelude)” – 1
“Going Up” – 1