Joining the pack. Ulver in Concert. 11/11/’11 Circolo degli Artisti, Rome

By Claudio Consoli


Ulver live in Rome 11-11-‘11 (©  Claudio Consoli)The palindrome date noted on the calendar eventually came, I began preparing myself as for a documentary, gathering the latest information and ideas about the “prey”, asking questions in my mind I’d like to ask for real, spending some time to decide which photographic equipment would be best and deciding to bring something easy and light:“Better being able to shoot fast than trying to win a Pulitzer Prize!” I said to myself, then: let’s go! Ready for the final rush I jumped on my scooter heading towards the “Circolo degli Artisti”, historical and known venue in Rome, hoping I’ll have the chance to get in and above all to interview the band as kindly asked to the press manager of the club… but that’s another story I’ll save you from.


This was my first concert in the site of the club on Via Casilina Vecchia, since I was used to attend happenings in the earlier one, close to Vittorio Emanuele, where I even had the chance to have a party for my eighteen year’s birthday, back in those 90’s in which I also enjoyed in the club an unforgettable and wild concert by Carcass presenting their album “Heartwork” in 1994 if I’m not wrong; I was then approaching the concert hall with cuirosity, especially about the acoustic, since everything I knew of the new site where the external areas I attend a couple of time for theatrical events or expositions.

At first glance the hall looked a little small but, honestly, considering the reasonable number of fans  present to the gig I was sure we would have fit comfortably inside it; the stage by the seemed kind of overcrowded of instruments and devices, there was even a big screen behind the band, which suggested a video support to the show: my foretell was that there wouldn’t have been much chance to move on the stage, not a big issue by the way, the group isn’t known and respected because of athletic and choreographic performances but for granting the audience an emotional, musical and video experience, then once more I got rid of any doubts and got ready for the opening act by the surprising Stian Westerhus, about which I’ll have the pleasure to write a full reportage very soon: don’t miss it!


After Stian performance, which unlikely confirmed some of my worries about the acoustic, especially considering the complexity of the sounds produced, the audience began claiming the Norwegian band so, after a short delay mainly due to an extra sound check, the show finally started: six elements were guested on the stage, two people dealing with mixing and sound engineering in the bottom left corner, the drummer with his discrete set in the bottom right and in the front line, from right to left, Daniel O’Sullivan (guitar, bass, keyboards and backing vocals), Tore Ylwizaker (keyboard, bass, synth and other “alchemical” sound tricks) and Kristoffer “Garm” Riggs (voice, sampling and dj-set).

Garm, the Ulver’s frontman (even if I’m quite sure he’d not agree with this term…), with his dark and long beard ending in a tail worth of a Middle Earth’s dwarf from Moria or, more simply, of a proud viking, with his countless tattoos visible on his arms and hands, could mislead us, letting us think that a certain metal heritage is still predominant in the group, but getting stuck on the surface or to appearances would be a huge mistake when you’re dealing with the Wolves.

After a brief and shy introduction it’s finally the moment for music: the tracklist was mainly made of songs from the recent “Wars Of The Roses”, quite sure there were “February MMX”, “Norwegian Gothic”, “September IV” and “England”, one excerpt from “Perdition City” which was “Lost in Moments” if I’m not wrong and some tracks from “Blood Inside” among which the highly appreciated “In the Red”; the fact I’m not sure about the tracklist even if, as a good scholar, I could have easily note it, depends on my decision to enjoy the concert in the only way possible in my humble opinion: open mind, sharpened senses and  a liquid will to melt in the sea of sensations that Ulver’s music can offer.

Throughout years of changes and metamorphosis Ulver gave shape to the musical matter achieving an artistic product hard to catalog, overfilled of soundsUlver live in Rome 11-11-‘11 (©  Claudio Consoli) of any kind and origin, electronic, acoustic and “computerized”, by subliminal suggestions made even easier during their live gigs through the use of video clip shown behind the band, clips whose cut would deserve an article on its own; we’re then confronting our perceptions with many levels of listening and understanding, whose goal is mainly allowing each of the travelers of this sensory journey to choose his own oniric and imaginative experience.

Once you’re hit, mesmerized and lead in this multi-sensory trip, multimedia stimulated and stimulating, we find ourselves as in front a Morpheus offering us the two different and well known pills, which reminds us of Lewis Carrol of course, so we’ve got to choose if we want to look for our personal “Ariadne’s thread” and through its help find the way out of the maze of our visions, our sensations sprouting within us and promising to bloom into lysergic flowers; on the other hand we could choose the more “dangerous” yet full of tempting promises path and decide to pull down every brake and unleash each of our synapses in the creation of a new universe whose creator and only god is our inner creative inconscious.

Everything I tried to tell was possible thanks to the bravery of this band and their musical and sound processing know how, thanks to their peculiar musical taste they granted us a show which is surely not traditional at least considering the usual audience of Rock fanatic, with their usually crystallized habits which, I guess, Ulver tried to overcome throughout their whole career; once more they showed us how is it possible to siege unbreakable opinion too hard to disappear even nowadays as the “Platonic Idea” of the structure of a song or the need to give rhythmic  roles only or always to drums and the bass while, as the more and more spread and beloved electronic music, from chillout to hypno-trance, should have taught us, the rhythm can be beat easily and in a massive way by samples, computer loops, sounds or noises of every kind and this is something that every music lover should have learned clearly at least from the Industrial scene onward.

Ulver’s live performances even more than their studio albums are, according to what’s exposed before, neither easy nor immediate but, for those who manage to smell their tracks, to understand the mood and the instinct of the pack, becoming a part of it by joining their musical adventure is a hard task but, if it’s fulfilled, can gift a wide specter of feeling and emotions that the Ulver, more than other bands, are able to let the listener/follower produce by himself and not only to serve them as pre-made food as it happens too often in an usual dialectic artist/fan.

In conclusion I’m extremely satisfied of this live experience with Ulver and above all happy to have been able to discover the kind, easy and funny character of the artists that spent much time hanging around in the opened courtyard of the club, talking with fan, taking pictures and signing vinyl copies of their albums: I’d like to thank Garm who kindly promised to send me some feedbacks about my articles (my fingers are crossed Garm…) and a special mention for Tomas Pettersen, the drummer, and Stian Westerhus that spent some time with me, having a drink, a chat and some laughs about music and funny subject that will become another article soon: god (or whatever u prefer) bless you guys for not being the usual self-esteemed wannabe star!







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