- Tom Ellard has spent the past decade trying to wriggle his way out of the spotlight. After announcing the end of Severed Heads in 2008, the band was coaxed into reuniting for a farewell show in Sydney in 2010. Some more shows followed in 2011, at which point Ellard signed a document stating that he'd never play live again—a document co-signed by Gary Numan, who Severed Heads were touring with at the time. But Ellard's arm was twisted, and in 2013 the final, this-time-we-really-mean-it Severed Heads gig took place at the Adelaide Festival.
This all happened before a run of Severed Heads reissues in 2014 sparked yet another wave on interest in the Australian outfit. Since The Accident, City Slab Horror, Dead Eyes Opened and 80s Cheesecake all resurfaced thanks to the work of Dark Entries and Medical Records. Now, with another batch of reissues on the way, Ellard finds himself in the midst of a seven-date Severed Heads US tour.
The LA date was the second stop on the tour, following a gig in San Francisco. It was hosted by long-running goth night Das Bunker at Complex, a venue equipped with a beefy soundsystem well suited to noisy industrial acts. Ahead of the tour, Ellard announced that he'd be playing some "oldies" at the shows, and asked fans to tell him which tracks they'd like to hear. Performing with Boxcar's Stewart Lawler, Ellard worked his way through a setlist that clearly thrilled the Severed Heads devotees in the sold-out crowd. They played "Petrol," a gem of a track that's soon getting reissued on Dark Entries, and a succession of other classics like "Hot With Fleas," "Greater Reward" and "All Saints Day." There was a rendition of 1994's "Heart Of The Party," a nod to the more Eurodance-y end of Severed Heads—"we wrote a pop song, did pretty well in Australia, may as well play it here," said Ellard as the track's pinball visuals zipped around behind him.
The performance was tight from start to finish. Both Ellard and Lawler seemed enthused by the packed turnout, and Ellard's vocal delivery was spot on. Lawler regularly took photos throughout the set, eventually earning himself a playful scolding from Ellard—"put your fucking iPhone away!" Cries of "Aussie Aussie Aussie" rose from the back of the room as the duo left the stage after performing "Dead Eyes Opened." "We're such sluts," said Ellard as he and Lawler came out for an encore and performed EBM chugger "Bless The House." A second encore followed and it was marked by perhaps the most ridiculous visual backdrop of the night—a cat's face pulsating in time to a kick drum.
However reluctant Ellard is to accept plaudits, and however wary he is of reissue culture, his creative fire is clearly still burning. (Reissues aside, 2015 has seen him slip out a new solo album titled Rhine.) And with performances like tonight, he's going to find it more difficult than ever to keep a low profile.