Few live recordings successfully rise to the challenge of capturing the spellbinding spirit and excitement of the musical magic created and experienced at a concert. There is absolutely nothing quite like the infectious thrill, the vibrancy, the energy and exhilaration of a live show which sweeps you away on a joyful tide of happy exuberance and contentment. Capturing those moments of elation and doing justice to both the sounds and feelings which make such moments is an elusive and unenviable task.
From the moment you first hear A Song for the Homeless, however, all such reservations are instantly dispelled. Yogi Lang’s mix is mesmerising in the clarity it brings to the dynamism of the performance as a whole. It captures perfectly the scintillating synergy and alluring prowess of a band who consistently delight with music which is as wonderfully diverse as it is inventive. Close your eyes and you can feel the strength of resonance with the audience and the euphoria of fans lost in songs delivered with passion and focus on the night.
Passion is exactly what this recording communicates. It doesn’t really matter how much time you spend with a band’s studio albums or how long you have followed and grown with them across the years. Seeing them perform live is utterly unique in the ways in which, for a couple of ecstatic hours at least, you can truly experience how it all fits together, how they interact with each other, how the setlist lets you feel it all come together as a glorious whole. That is exactly what A Song for the Homeless does – with a quite breathless brilliance.
The band are magnificent. Whilst the song selection beautifully showcases the superb skills and musicianship of each individual band member, you simply can’t escape the pulsating organic power, the intensity, the intimacy and the sheer sense of vitality they create together. The set demonstrates a masterful focus from start to finish which cradles moments of delicacy and uplifting melody alongside songs that demand driving force, crunching riffing and grumbling, domineering bass work.
In fact, the setlist is one of the revelations of this recording in that it opens your eyes to the impressive range of material Subsignal have created over the years – again, something not naturally obvious if you stick solely to studio recordings. Opening track Touchstones is a thunderous reminder of heavier roots, The Bells of Lyonesse progressively melodic in structure and arrangements, Walking with Ghosts refined, melancholic, reflective before lifting to almost art/pop rock in Even Though the Stars Don’t Shine and the joyous Paradigm to finish.
Nor is this some kind of slavish parroting and reproduction of album tracks. Everything is comfortably familiar yet excitingly new. Ashes of Summer sparkles with carefree, playful jollity that lifts the spirit; The Sea is enthralling in the subtle tweaks and careful embellishments added to the arrangements. Markus Maichel’s keyboards cushion, lift and then uplift, giving the set richness and presence. Ralf Schwager’s bass work infuses spirit and momentum whilst creating depth and substance.
Markus Steffen’s guitar work is spellbinding without ever being overwhelming; there is a striking virtuosity which is deliciously uncomplicated in the way it illuminates each song. Dirk Brand’s drumming is the driving force which permeates each song, yet equally deft in the expressive restraint which comes with it. Above it all, the bewitching vocals of Arno Meneses entwine the layers of the soundstage, feeling every nuance, coaxing shades of lyrical meanings and roaring in exultation in response to a rapturous audience.
This is a singularly impressive recording, an imposing testament to anyone who listens that Subsignal are a band of absorbing depth, dramatic inspiration and imaginative creativity. The music is heartfelt, eloquent, naturally spirited and contagiously buoyant. With A Song for the Homeless, Subsignal have captured something special which will excite and thrill anyone who spends time with it.
01. Touchstones (7:59)
02. Ashes of Summer (5:36)
03. The Bells of Lyonesse (5:05)
04. The Sea (7:07)
05. Walking with Ghosts (7:48)
06. Even though the Stars don’t shine (4:59)
07. The Passage (incl. drum solo) (10:21)
08. La Muerta (6:05)
09. My Sanctuary (5:28)
10. Time and Again (1:10)
11. Paraiso (4:51)
12. Paradigm (7:18)
Total Time – 73:47
Dirk Brand – Drums
Markus Maichel – Keyboards
Arno Menses – Vocals
Ralf Schwager – Bass
Markus Steffen – Guitar
Record Label: Gentle Art of Music (GAOM)
Country of Origin: Germany
Date of Release: 22nd May 2020