Death in June

The Steeple, Waregem (Belgium) / 30 April 2002
with Boyd Rice/NON

Two legendary acts on one evening: Death in June and Boyd Rice/NON. That was a chance I couldn’t let go. Although Boyd Rice and Douglas P. are active now for over 2 decades, I had not see them on stage before. I wasn’t present at the Der Blutharsch concert in Brussels, where Douglas P. had done a surprise performance a few months ago (with moustache). This time Death in June was touring Europe, to promote the All Pigs Must Die album. Also present was Boyd Rice, who recently released the Wolfpact album, which he made together with Douglas P. and Albin Julius.

The concert location was The Steeple in Waregem (Belgium), a venue which I knew well, but where I hadn’t been in years. In the past I had seen The Moon Lay Hidden, Arcana, The Protagonist at The Steeple, as well as many more illustrous acts. Also various dancenights have I attended there, including the legendary ‘Die Letzte Nacht’ at New Year’s Eve. But in recent years not much interesting seemed to be going on there, only the usual electro and darkwave bands. So I had not expected to visit the Steeple again…

After a tiring train journey I was happy to arrive in Waregem. We quickly brought our stuff to the hotel and then walked down the long Stationsstraat, past the lovely Sint-Amands church at the market, towards The Steeple. We were afraid we were rather late, but outside the entrance a big crowd was still waiting. When the doors opened the crowd progressed slowly inside. Later I noticed that there was a inspection if visitors were not wearing any ‘questionable’ symbols. I heard for instance of someone who was not allowed to wear a pin with a runes symbol. Death in June has always been a controversial act, and usually there are protests from extreme left circles when this band performs somewhere. Luckily the Belgian authorities saw no reasons to abolish the concert. But the organizers had asked in advance not to wear militant clothing, which Death in June fans often do, to not give any offence.

It was an international crowd that was waiting inside The Steeple. Besides Belgians there were many Dutchmen, Germans, Italians, English speaking people and more. I took a quick glance at the music stalls, I could refrain from buying Death in June calendars or plates. Then suddenly the lights went out and we rushed for the stage. Boyd Rice was ready to go, and we were soon overwhelmed by the volume. We were directly treated to the NON classic ‘Total War’, which was great to hear live. Boyd used very simple means, just a sampler and his voice and the powerful drumming of John Murphy. But is was very effective and powerful. Most songs started with Boyd blowing or shouting into the sampler, which sound then was repeated by the sampler to form the rhythm of the song. When Boyd blew very loud on a whistle that wasn’t a real pleasure for my ears… Boyd Rice only did a short set, it was over before I knew.

The waiting for Death In June seemed to last endless. But finally Douglas P. entered the stage. He was wearing his white scary mask and waving a black flag with the Death in June logo on it. Then the concert started with the old classic ‘Till the living flesh is burned’. In the background a ‘piggie’ sample was playing. The first few songs started with only drums and Douglas singing and playing additional percussion. After a while he grabbed his acoustic guitar, then things really started for me. Although Death in June had a rather minimal two-man occupation, I didn’t miss a whole band. For me the songs stayed upright and they were performed very convincing by these experienced musicians.

We were treated to all the Death in June classics, from Heaven Street (1981!) till songs from the last All Pigs Must Die album. A few highlights were ‘But what ends’, ‘Fall apart’, ‘Kameradschaft’, ‘Foretold’, ‘Rose clouds’, ‘She said destroy’, ‘Smashed to bits’, ‘Giddy giddy caroussel’, the list could go on and on.

Douglas made various references to actual subjects. ‘C’est un reve’ was started with “Ou est Bin laden?”, instead of Klaus Barbie in the original. There were more references to the Taliban later on. I also noticed that on ‘The enemy within’ he sang “These are strange days for you, me and Europa”, instead of Germany. Also noticable was the outfit of Douglas P.: the mask of the beginning was soon swapped for very original headgear, which reminded me of a swab… Only at the end Douglas showed his true face.

Death in June played for a long time, and came back for various encores, four if my memory serves me well. Towards the end Boyd Rice joined Death in June on stage. First he added some spoken words, like the introduction to ‘Tick Tock’, the text about “People who like to waste time…”, the subtle reference to World Serpent. Then some tracks from the recent ‘Boyd Rice and friends’ album followed, and the older song ‘People’, another highlight. The very last song of the evening was ‘Death of the West’ (when Douglas returned to the stage again to do this song he said ‘I’m sorry, I forgot this one”). When he thanked the public he also said something which could be interpreted as this being the last European tour for Death in June…

Although someone told me that the concert reminded him of Leonard Cohen and campfire music, I was more than satisfied with this overview of all the highlights of the impressive Death in June career. Unfortunately there was no suitable afterparty. The announced Dutch DJ’s were unable to come, the replacement DJ offered a standard gothic dancenight with popular dark danceable tunes, from EBM to Rammstein. This could not entertain me for too long, so at a Christian time we returned to our hotel…