All said and done he is beautiful to watch. A young Warren Beatty with the charismatic presence of a sixties Mick Jagger. At times you werent sure if Tim Delaughter was selling you Jesus or LSD. It didnt matter. You wanted in, either way. In fact a pseudo-religious air punctuated the atmosphere all evening. No one would have balked if Tim had stopped mid-song and declared Yes, it is about Jesus. Thats why the keyboard player looks like John the Baptist. The relief in the crowd when Tim finally said fuck was palpable.
There was much to enjoy here. Indeed much to be moved by. At times the Spree lifted you to new levels of joy, powered by their euphoric wall of sound that for once wasnt driven by a guitar switched to feedback. Their music has a celebratory quality, both uplifting and inspirational. In practice this meant much pointing and staring upwards, but it was no less potent for that. My personal favourite was the exquisitely crafted Light and Day/Reach for the Sun, which suggested a musical dexterity and sophistication greater than much of their material. Still waters were also found within the menace of Soldier Girl, which briefly darkened the mood at the Concorde.
Not all of it works. Occasionally it felt like watching a childrens end of term review, such was the giggling and chaos on stage. And I havent heard a line as trite as suicide is a shame (Its the Sun) about this human tragedy since Morrisseys Sing me to sleep, Im tired and I want to go to bed. Indeed anyone with a sensitive stomach should avoid listening to Tims frankly preposterous ramblings between songs. These minor blemishes however should not deflect from an iconoclastic performance. Never before I have seen a Stella drinking, black clothed indie crowd silent and spellbound by a harp solo. In the coolest venue in Brighton.
I read somewhere the Spree defy genre. Of course they dont. For those of you in need of some reference points there are plenty to be had in the big soup of the Sprees 24-carat sound. Shut your eyes and it could have been Devo singing La La, accompanied by a seriously cross Special AKA. Days Like This Keep Me Warm is disturbingly reminiscent of Babybirds Dead Bird Sings. Hanging Around the Day has more than a dash of Talking Heads. Overarching it all is the omnipotent presence of Bowie.
Yet it is wrong to distil The Polyphonic Spree to the sum of their parts. What matters are the feelings they stir in you. The rush of happiness. There is a magical essence to their choral sound that touches the soul. Makes you feel warm inside. Sometimes last night it was hard to decide if we were witnessing the most radical alternative music seen in Brighton since the Clash, or a folk band booked at the wrong venue. After years of watching indie bands define their worth by the depth of their disdain for the audience Ill plump for the former.
May flights of angels sing thee to thy rest
|LIBERTINES (HMV Oxford Street, London)|
A special free gig and signing event at the HMV for the essential Up The Bracket album. Not an ideal venue; CD racks and columns occupy most of the space, so were herded into aisles between the crash barriers that have been set up to protect the stock. The security are over zealous, possibly assuming that the crowd is there to rip off the goods or cause mayhem.
But as The Libertines take the stage you could easily forget where you are and imagine you are at the 100 Club, such is the excitement and passion with which they chuck themselves into a full set of songs. Petes denim mini skirt and bare legs cause a momentary diversion before the band jump like escaped lunatics into the verbal and rhythmic mayhem of Horrorshow (one of the albums highlights). Full of sweat shaking, amphetamine energy, the music [part early Clash, part Small Faces, part oh fuck it] gives you a quick body search and runs off smirking with your small change, but not before spilling words like beans over you. Like someone whose forgotten his ritalin Pete is never still, staggering about, often into his foil Carl (and vice versa), shuddering epileptically to the songs. Its exhausting stuff, so not sure if it's this that causes the lack of cunts in What A Waster (surely no gagging policy from His Masters Voice?) although the rather central Fuck Em of the finale I Get Along, which gets the best crowd reaction of the evening, is shouted out loud and clear to all and sundry. Then back they come with an encore of The Boy Looked At Johnny and its cheeky dick van dyke Li-De-Di chorus. Exciting, thrilling, the Libertines are THE most exciting band to see, once, twice, oh sod it as many a times as you can. Get Up The Bracket, get What A Waster but most of go out and see The Libertines before the guttersnipes burn themselves out. (Ah but what a beautiful way to burn).
Great band, great music, great gig (and 'don't-fuck-about' security) make it a memorable event. Jeez, after that we needed to go the pub for a medicinal pint so it hardly mattered that the signing was cancelled. (Which was lucky we did as the band spent time outside afterwards to sign stuff and chat with fans. Hope you enjoyed the Soundsxp Bud, Pete!).
|INTERPOL (Kings Cross Scala, London)|
For a brief period in the post punk very early 80s, every other English band seemed to want to be the new Joy Division. Theyd dress in black, look cool and perform with the minimum of effort; statues silhouetted against a minimal light show. Ten years later the style was back again with the Home Counties of England churning out streams of shoegazing middle class students. Now here we are once more with Britdrone wannabe New Yorkers, Interpol.
So why, have I mentioned all of this? The problem is not so much that weve heard it all before because what is all guitar music if not different shoes treading a familiar path? No, the issue is one of making a show worth paying your hard earned cash for. For those of us who have the admittedly excellent album we want more than a fairly faithful reproduction of it by five statues. One improvement would be a slide show to at least break the visual tedium. Ok thats the moan out of the way, back to the music. They played twelve tracks, ten of which were from the album, evoking memories of The Smiths (Say Hello to the Angels), Joy Division (Roland) and snippets of Psychedelic Furs, PiL, Swervedriver and the Bunnymen.
Final word, on the revamped Scala superb. Plenty of great viewing points, balconies, etc, nice size and more than adequate acoustics.
Setlist: Untitled, Stella Was A diver and She Was Always Down, Roland, Specialist, Hands Away, NYC, PDA, Say Hello to the Angels, Song 7, Obstacle 1, Leif Erikson, Obstacle 2.
LEMON JELLY (93 Feet East, London)
A 3 night debut outing for Lemon Jelly. The walls have been decked out with the psychedelic spots which grace KY, the stage backdrop is from Lost Horizons and changes from day to night and back again, whilst a Lemon Jelly emblem rotates on a marquee-like structure in the centre of the room. And when the UV light is switched on the mandatory-for-entry LJ t-shirts light up, making everyone in the audience part of the spectacle. And a bit if eye-candy is needed because there is no getting away from the fact that watching a group push buttons and twiddle knobs can be a bit unengaging (not that they dont get up/out and play the odd stringed instrument, mind).
Oh yes, the music. Thats what were here for and Lemon Jelly do not disappoint us. So if you dont know, LJ serve up an entertaining, groovy electronica with a witty mix of samples, beats and styles. Its a colourful concoction of feelgood instrumentals ethnic, classical, jazz, rock, film scores are all part of the palette, as are the voiceovers which augment the music. Spacewalk provides an astronaut dialogue which becomes an essential part of the lyric over the tinkling rhythm, Elemental seeks to hypnotise you with its spoken list of ..uhm, elements, taken from some science programme; whilst The Staunton Lick which ends the event, take its dialogue and riff from a guitar tutorial. Inventive and humourous (who else would have their set list written on inflatable banana?) Lemon Jelly create a pleasant music for those relaxing times at home, recalling a vocal-less Foxbase Alpha-era St Etienne or I Am The World. Listening to the music at a venue makes it a different experience and at times the sheer repetition which is trancelike on headphones at home can begin to wear after an hour of standing still (the venue is small and crowded). However, thats a minor gripe when the music is as good as this. Set-tle down to Lemon Jelly and put a smile on your face.
Set List (courtesy of Boffin): In The Bath / Spacewalk / A Tune For Jack / Elements / Page One / Return To Patagonia (sic) / Come / Pushy / Ramblin' Man / His Majesty King Raam / Closer / Nice Weather For Ducks / The Staunton Lick
|KICKER / The Playwrights (Arts Café, Toynbee Hall)|
If The Playwrights had distilled their set down to their three or four best songs, wed have been walking out stroking our chins and mouthing brilliant!. As it is, we heard a lot of stuff which filled the time before the next cracker came along. Its not bad but were left wanting more songs like Me Decade. Musically, theyre a sort of stew of Super Furry folk rock and 80s word-heavy Peel bands like the Nightingales or the Yeah Yeah Nohs. Fun in small portions for now and hopefully theyll have graduated to the full three courses soon.
Kicker told me after the gig that they hadnt practiced for weeks and, on this performance, slacking does them good. The result is less polished and more exciting, producing a musical tension that makes the set move in unexpected directions. Maybe it was the volume of Bens guitar but a number of songs were off down a country road courtesy of the Byrds before the soul tendencies of the rest of the band peddled them back to indie-central. The lack of keyboards is more than compensated for by the brilliant trumpet, sounding like a full brass section, shedding warmth and emotion on songs like Said and Done, while their treatment of Since You Left is a page of the dictionary of soul left open as an object lesson to fakers like Ocean Colour Scene. The set closed with Get Rid of Him which turned into a virtual hoedown, with every member playing full-tilt till the song comes to an enjoyably shambolic ending. A stomping evening!
Set list: Boy, Have You Got It?/ One Fine Day/ New Fella/ Since You Left/ Tomorrow Always Comes/ Said and Done/ No More Tears/ Get Rid of Him
|COLDPLAY / Idlewild (The Point, Dublin)|
|A wet, windy and murky
October Friday evening saw Coldplay in fine fettle at Dublins Point Theatre.
Not being a huge fan myself, I was more than a little apprehensive about this gig-
and like the majority of neutral music fans, fed up with the hype surrounding their latest
and second offering A Rush Of Blood To The Head.
But how wrong I was. Following a fine set from support act Idlewild- a band almost worthy of headlining, themselves- Chris Martin and co. took to the stage with the rousing Politik, followed by the sublime Shiver from their wonderful debut album Parachutes. Indeed, there was a fair share of the old and new, with the first half of their set being mostly dedicated to Parachutes material; and it was tracks like the poignant Spies, slushy ballad Trouble and Everythings Not Lost that seemed to get the best reception from the sold-out crowd.
Inevitably, there was also the standard crowd sing-along with Yellow (groan) before they finally encoring with recent single In My Place and Parachutes hidden track Life Is For Living. I had had my doubts, but it was genuinely an extremely enjoyable and all-round brilliant gig.
Coldplay are an extremely tight band and Chris Martin, as a frontman, is an absolute joy to watch. Theres no half-hearted effort on his part- he gave 100% - and got 100% back from the crowd. What a nice change it is to see such good energy from such a big name. As a band, theyve definitely matured and the new album material is evident of this- songs like God Put A Smile Upon Your Face and the superb Clocks brush away the student-y angst tag theyd acquired with Parachutes. Coldplay are sexier, louder, and better than ever before.
|HOGGBOY (London Garage)|
Last time Sheffields Hoggboy graced a stage in London they blew me away. Brash, cocky and fun, they powered their way through a set of punk pop nuggets, leaving me and others in my party breathless and hopeful that maybe, just maybe wed witnessed the start of something pretty big. A few months later and they are back in London with their debut album under their belt and they no longer seem quite so fresh. They look the same (uniform skinny fit cheap LJs and jeans), they sound the same (the set hasnt really changed) and vocalist Hogg is as cocky and chatty as ever. And thats just it, they are the same. Theyve not moved on, not stepped up a level as many of their gutter punk contemporaries have. And a year into their existence they should be delivering more than just 40 minutes worth of familiar tunes as headliners.
They open with Left & Right and then pile through the highlights of the album, with the addition of the cover Say Mama. Shouldnt Let The Side Down remains one of the sonic highs of 2002 and album track Dont Get Lost, still sounds brilliant if a little too similar to the Strokes for comfort, even down to the mock Casablancas delivery. This wasnt a bad gig (far from it) and Hoggboy arent a bad band, its just they seem too happy standing in the gutter getting splashed by their rivals speeding by.
|DEATH IN VEGAS / Electrelane / Support DJs (Hackney Ocean, London)|
The Ocean is my local venue but also happens to be one of my least favorites
in the capital. I would have a moan but I am sure the editors would cut it out although
queuing up 30 minutes plus for a pint is, I am sure you agree, a crime in anyone's book.
|QUICKSPACE / Saloon / Wigwam / The Projects (London Institute of Contemporary Arts)|
The Projects kick off proceedings and if I had to choose Id say they were the best band of the evening, simply because I wasnt sure what to make of them. They can write angular indie pop with melody and hooks but then they can equally confound you with broken, uneven tempos or tunes which are simply too fussy. Arty? Probably. Clearly a band with lots of ideas and not content to stick to one thing for too long. I barely care that a refusenik keyboard awakens the band out of their stage ennui (sorry but any vocalist who has their arms crossed all through the set looks bored to me) when it stops, turns up its volume or goes out of tune of its own accord. It all seems a part of things. Golden Age of Space sounded impressive with its shared guy/girl vocals, funky drumming and Joy Division bassline but well have to wait for the Track and Field single Entertainment to hear what they sound like on record.
Wigwam were challenging/irritating depending on your point of view. A 2boy/2girl percussionless, cardy wearing folkie throwback it sounded dreary and meandering and I had no time for it. Judging by the people around me and the heave at the bar I wasnt the only one. A bad gig or a wrong gig?
New Orders Ceremony plays just before Saloon begin. Madness! How is anyone supposed to follow such a fantastic record? Mind you I hear Adam Loon has a JD fetish and he is even beginning to look like Ian Curtis in brownshirt and tie nowadays. This might, in part, explain the quiet intenseness of Saloon. There is a distant aloofness about them and their music: the cool vocals of Amanda Gomez, the sweeping keyboards, and viola of Alison Cotton over neverchanging rhythms. But this is belied when the ever threatening-to-explode frenetic rhythm guitar of Matt Ashton eventually does explode and Michael Smoughtons drums break out of their railtrack rhythm into something more expressive and emotive to shake up your lulled senses. And then back again; relax. Songs from the excellent (This is) What We Call Progress album are aired and the (remixed) single Girls are the New Boys perfectly captures the two elements of Saloon.
Quickspace are definitely the rockiest band of the evening and seem the audience favourites. Ok I confess to knowing little about them but things start well with some very good heavy indie rocking stuff. Alas I become increasingly less impressed with the more overt Andrew K poses and bludgeon riffs and tempos which occur. Perhaps its just me but I find this tedious, dreary stuff. Its music that doesnt care so why should we bother with it? But for balance, it has to be said that some down the front seemed to be entranced. Perhaps they were just stunned. But no, the band are called back for encores by which time my boredom threshold is exceeded and my tinitis screams its time to leave. Ear plugs next time, please nurse.
|ELECTRIC SIX / The Black Madonnas / The Crimea (The Barfly)|
DJs eh? Tuh! I was just looking forward to
Electric Six taking the stage when Zoe 'tall' Ball comes out of nowhere and stands right
in front of me. Why couldn't it have been Radio 2's 'Diddy' David Hamilton? Still, with
six guys on stage my blocked view still allowed me to see half the band.
|BIS (Underworld, London)|
Last year's support slot with Arab Strap aside, this is Bis' first twenty-first century London gig. Talk about keeping your fans waiting...
Bis have previously fallen into "love them or loathe them" categories; that is, up until the last album, "Return to Central" when the entire world decided to ignore them. Well, it was the band's own fault - ditching guitars for synthesisers, indeed! Nevertheless an enthusiastic if slightly more wrinkly audience has managed to find reasons to reaffirm their allegiance with Bis and fill out the Underworld.
Playing to their strengths, the band open the set with "Eurodisco" and consequently get off to a flying start. Indeed, all of the older songs have the audience hopping like cretins. However, Bis have far too many ideas to simply rest on their laurels by playing a greatest hits set (yes, they *have* had hits!). Much of their back-catalogue is eschewed in favour of newer material which, if truth be told, doesn't quite have us bopping as much as the old stuff would have. But who wants to watch a band playing it safe, anyway?
A cover of Joy Division's "Love Will Tear Us Apart" closes the show, whereupon the entire audience hopes that it won't be another three years or so until Bis' next London gig. It's difficult to ascertain just who Bis' target audience is nowadays; I'm here primarily for cathartic reasons in order to purge my misspent past (or is that too much information?). Still, I did get to give Sci-Fi Steven (if he still uses that appelation) my plectrum after he misplaced his. And, hey! I've been through thick and thin with that plectrum; I expect great things from Bis from now onwards..!
|THE WHITE STRIPES (Union Square, New York City)|
I arrived for a holiday in New York to find large portions of the city gripped with Rolling Stones fever in the midst of three nights of mega gigs to promote the latest CD-rehashing of when they were good. So expectations for finding a good music time were not high. But, there I was thumbing through a sleazy singles rack, looking fruitlessly for Dressy Bessy and Apples in Stereo singles for my SoundsXP fellows when someone dumped down a pile of flyers announcing this free appearance the following day. Along we went at noon, expecting a run through of one song for video purposes any Stripes being good in my book only to be treated to a full hour of the band at their finest in front of a few thousand early lunchers and skivers and many more baffled onlookers from local office buildings and bookstores.
Outdoors at the height of a New York Indian summer (80 degrees in the shade), with their studiedly pale complexions rapidly turning the colour of their stage garb, obviously aint Jack and Megs first choice of venue, but the music was as blistering as their skin. The songs ranged from the old (Sugar Never Tasted so Good, St James Infirmary Blues, and an awesome Death Letter), through the well-known (Dead Leaves, Hotel Yorba), and B-sides/cover versions (their punked-up Jolene and the duet on Rated X were especially fine), to a smattering of new stuff I didnt recognise, but kept the super modern bluesy garage rock standard flying. All were carried out with the familiar over the top guitar genius and ironic showmanship which will have won over a fair few of the uninitiated passers-by who wandered along to see what the racket was. Certainly there was a crescendo of boos when the organisers pulled the plug promptly at 1pm, part way into a final song. Jack though finished it off, in true trooper style quite literally unplugged, audible only to those of us nearer the front, who spread the joy by indulging in a bit of a singalong.
Id like to dream that the gig resulted from some philanthropist sensing the need to wake the city from its Stones induced slumber, though the reality is that it was part of a series of late announced gigs to push Nissan cars (and by a Motor City band too!) that has also included Enrique Iglesias and C***ting Crows. And to top that a support slot with the Wrinklies is due to follow. Still, corporate whoring has rarely sounded so good, and judging by the Nissan website - which only has half a setlist, strangely missing out the likes of the Big Three Killed my Baby - perhaps the Stripes nod to some sort of rebellion) theres at least one music fan at Nissan still pinching themselves that theyve managed to convince the company to bankroll them. I love the White Stripes for their sheer joy in making music and their ability to share it, not for some dubious straight edge credo. For all their glorious retro leanings they provided New York with a reminder that rock n roll is still very much alive and vital Now to buy a video camera in case it happens again perhaps the Stripes could hook up with an electronics firm so Ill know which one to get
|THE LIBERTINES (100 Club, London)|
We are indeed fortunate to live in a time where there are so many good garage bands around. The Strokes and The Hives have opened the door for a plethora of young angry guitar bands, who not only know how to right a good tune, but can cut the mustard on stage. Ive made no secret of my admiration of these bands in previous reviews, waxing lyrical about just how good a live experience they are, but it has stuck in my throat the fact that our own country didnt have a band capable of standing shoulder with them. Well readers, thats about to change. Where The Strokes are a marvellous band, you cant help but know that they arent from round here. How can I put it, they ooze New York. With The Hives, again a fantastic act, but thats exactly what it is - an act - a set of almost choreographed routines to rock and roll music. The Libertines on the other hand are natural. They play hard, enjoy themselves on stage, and have something quintessentially London about them (though not in the Blur cheeky cock-er-ney patois way). This lot are ours and we should be proud of them!
A 40 minutes sweat soaked set of rock and roll jammed end to end with quality tunes. This was a night to be savoured, played at breakneck speed and leaving you frankly breathless. The front-men are the focus of the band taking turns to sing the lead vocals, tag teaming between the microphones and bouncing across the stage. Theres no time to draw breath before theyre into the next tune. What a Waster and Up the Bracket stick out as the best received songs, but this was mainly due to the buzz that flowed through the audience when they started playing them. I didnt detect a duff moment all night.
What actually set them apart for me though was the quality of their rhythm section. Its easy to forget that they are a 4 piece when your attention is held by the singers, but this band wouldnt be half as good without this engine room behind it. Neither the drummer nor the bass player receive half the plaudits that they deserve. The fact you dont notice what they are playing unless you concentrate on them in isolation speaks volumes in itself.
Far be it for me to put pressure on them, but on this performance alone I was blown away by their stage presence and passion. I'm not one to pin labels on a band, but here I feel compelled to. Most Important Band of the moment? Yes. Best Live Act I've seen this Year? Yes. The future stars of British Garage Rock? Undoubtedly. See this band. No more no less. I just hope I'm not cursing them by saying that!
Loads of exclusive pictures from this gig can be found here.
|MORRISSEY (The Ambassador Theatre, Dublin)
here's the deal. I've written and re-written the opening paragraph to this review about
six times now, but none of it looks right. The thing is, I don't want to sound soppy or
sentimental and Bejaysus, as the man might say himself, I don't want to gush. Let me
try to put this gig into perspective for you. I'm a relatively new Morrissey/Smiths fan
(about two years) and this was my first time to witness the great Mozzarella live. Cliché
#1: It was genuinely everything I expected. An amazing evening of music,
singing, dancing, laughing, and worship. But no, wait. That still doesn't sound right.
Nothing I write here will do Morrissey justice. This man has to be seen to be believed. Cliché
#2: It's not just a gig; it's an experience. Honest, Guv'. Everyone should experience
the absolute surge of emotion, the chaos and the sheer adulation that this man inspires.
And so was he, yes, umm...so was he. Let's not forget who we're talking about here- this is the same Morrissey (as if there could be any other) who hasn't released an album since 1997's Maladjusted; the same Morrissey who hasn't even got a record deal at the moment; and the same Morrissey who's been selling out venues across the US and the British Isles despite the aforementioned facts. Indeed, both nights at Dublin's intimate Ambassador Theatre have also sold out. After 20 years of this whole performing malarkey, you might ask 'hasn't his performance/voice/songwriting become a bit stale, then?' The answer to that, my dubious friend, is an emphatic no, no and no and these recent gigs bear witness to that.
Taking the stage at 9.30pm following his two support acts (Pony Club and the mediocre Sack), Morrissey, wearing a wonderful frilly yellow shirt and brown combat-type trousers- ah, and the standard cardigan, of course- greeted the adoring crowd (a real mixed bag, ranging from the hardcore Smithy fan complete with matching quiff and sideburns, to teenagers like myself who weren't even born when the Smiths were formed) with a classic Dublin "Howayis! It's good to be back in my hometown...of course, this venue holds a special place in my heart, as I was born next door in the Rotunda in 1970.....What? Was it something I said?" Witty, charming, humorous, as always. But the music, of course! Where to start? Opening with the sublime I Want The One I Can't Have (one of several Smiffs 'choons' to pop up throughout the evening) he had the crowd singing along note-perfect to his first single all of those years ago, Suedehead. A lot of Viva Hate material cropped up, including Little Man, What Now?, the anthemic Everyday Is Like Sunday, complete with Boz Boorer on banjo and an absolutely beautiful Late Night, Maudlin Street, one of my personal favourites. I welled up, I really did.
Some new material was also showcased- he's back courting controversy National Front Disco-style with the brilliant Irish Blood, English Heart- which Cliché #3: has Moz stamped all over it- and the midtempo The World Is Full Of Crashing Bores which was preceded by the remark "Westlife can kiss my arse...if they're lucky". The new songs sound terrific. But when will we hear them? He teased us by saying "You probably don't know this, but we've recently signed a deal... (rapturous applause from audience)...Super Valu made us an offer we just couldn't refuse, and here's the song we're going to crash into the charts with" before breaking into possible future single The First Of The Gang To Die. Other highlights included another favourite, Sister I'm A Poet (I was really spoiled with this setlist- cheers, Moz!) a touching Meat Is Murder ("Be careful what you bite into") and unbelievably, a Gilbert O'Sullivan cover (Nothing Rhymed) with (long time songwriting partner) Alain Whyte on keyboards!
The gig seemed to go on forever, but after a mere ninety minutes of sheer bliss, it was time to leave. Unfortunately, there were no stage invaders, though there were a few futile attempts, which were met by a handshake and a smile by the man. He's in incredible shape, his voice sounds better than ever and Cliché #4: he is the consummate performer. Really- you should take my word for it. The love this man inspires has to be seen. The audience seemed shell-shocked, yet deliriously happy after a raucous Speedway, but there was still more to come. Taking the stage for the encore, Morrissey said "Thank you, you've made us very happy! But please, do one thing for me- don't talk about me when I'm gone". Now that may be asking a bit too much, Moz....
He ended a phenomenal performance as he'd begun- with a Smiths song- and I daresay one of the best he's ever written- There Is A Light That Never Goes Out. And then he was off into the night, to the strains of My Way, a satisfied smile playing on his lips. Now my heart is full. It's been said a million times before, I know, but it's so very, very true and now I understand. (Final cliché, I promise:) Some lights just never do go out.
|THE CORAL / The Zutons
(Shepherds Bush Empire)
Main support were mates and label-mates of the headliners, the wild west mad Zutons. They inhabit a similar sound world to The Coral and Dave McCabe is in the James Skelly mold of vocalists. Now augmented by a sax player, the band played a heady mix of Beefheart, country, the 60s, soul, one song even sounded like I wanna be like you from The Jungle Book; The Zutons are a bunch of musical magpies but everything gels. They were tight, energetic and went down a storm. They ended with an instrumental that sounded like a rocked-up version of Indian snake charming music. These guys are going places and by this time next year should be headlining venues like this themselves.
Any doubt that The Coral would have trouble following that were obliterated when they came onstage and burst into album opener Spanish Main, complete with psychedelic backdrop. From the Specials-go-Egyptian Shadows Fall, the exuberant single Dreaming of you, the madcap Skeleton Key, and slower numbers like Waiting for the heartaches, this was a showcase for the excellent debut album, though live theyve got heaps more balls.
Blending ska, psychedelia, Cossack dances, and poppy Merseybeat songs that wouldnt be out of place in Heartbeat, it was a triumphant gig; people were heard coming away saying it was the best theyd ever been to. The only minor blight was that Nick Powers organ (fnar fnar) couldnt always be heard above the rest of the band. The set ended with Goodbye, including a greatly extended middle section, until James Skelly started the countdown, 10, 9, 8, 7 , that led back into the song. It was a dramatic moment and a real showstopper.
This was a band near the top of their form, oozing swagger and confidence through every sweaty pore. Anyone that can get away with lyrics like calendars clocks and hickory docks and his arms and soil are in cahoots and still manage to be cool deserve an enthusiastic thumbs up.
|DAVID BOWIE (Carling Apollo)
came on stage in a blue silk suit looking far better than any 55 year old has a right to,
and began his nearly 3 hour tour through the "Noughties, nineties, eighties,
seventies, sixties, fifties, forties and into the minus numbers" with an awesome Life
on Mars accompanied only by Mike Garson on piano. The band then joined in with Ashes
to Ashes before going through a set of old favourites mixed with a few from Mercury
prize nominee Heathen, and a few more surprising choices such as the Bewlay
Brothers in only its second ever live performance, which was "for the
obscurists" and which went down a storm. Ziggy Stardust was resurrected,
in the place where he 'died' nearly 30 years ago, for a couple of songs, complete with boa
which Bowie claimed to have found under a seat where he left it last time he was there
"when I was just 14".
Appearing a lean, mean, pumped up er sex machine Brett gyrates, contorts and poses his way through 45 minutes of Suede songs new and old. But boy, has he got an arse on him tonight: he looks in a foul mood, sneering at everyone/no-one in particular and berating the crowd with a that was bollocks and that was rubbish as they fail to please him with their singing. But no one really minds as we are treated to a set peppered with material from the new album [the gig is after all part of the promotion and signing session for the new LP] the single Positivity gets a muscular work out and all the better for it, Beautiful Loser is classic Suede with trebly distorted guitars and soaring chorus, and a solo acoustic number from Brett lamenting the oceans between us and fading to grey and such like [BTW its the surprise track on the LP after the bonus track!]. But from the back catalogue we also get the stomping Cant Get Enough, the glamrocking Trash, the majestic Beautiful Ones, and from the distant past Metal Mickey sounds as anthemic as the day it came out and Killing of a Flash Boy (oh) has been deservedly dusted up from b-side obscurity: all going to show that when Suede get it right its in the choruses that they surpass with superb singalonginess. Oh, here they come, the beautiful ones .Brush up on yer Suede (oh).
|WHITE BUFFALO / Munkster / Fin (London Marquee)
The new Marquee is a pleasant surprise; the acoustics are good, the auditorium just the right size, the facilities pristine (slate tiles in the gents!) and the bouncers omniscient but helpful. All in all, its not far off the perfect venue. The main two acts were less impressive. Munkster are pretty formulaic indie rock, Jeff Buckley turned up five notches on the amp. White Buffalo may not look ordinary with their rather elderly bassist resembling Catweazle following an attack by an apache but average is precisely what they are - The Red Hot Chilli Peppers without the tunes or humour.
Unfortunately for both bands they had to follow a band who were impressive. Fin have a front man who has that crucial combination in rock good looks, a a terrific voice and a cock sure arrogance that will ensures he gets noticed. Fortunately hes backed by a very competent band too and their six excellent tracks pitched somewhere between rocky and anthemic U2 and angsty OK Computer era Radiohead. This was one of those occasions where you suspect you are witnessing the start of something pretty big. Whether that means they are at Wembley to do more than just watch footy in the future, only time and luck will tell.
|VIOLENT FEMMES / Spiraling (Irving Plaza, New
First up, Spiraling (sic), who I would call a definitive American band, if the word I was trying to define was rubbish. This wasnt through lack of trying, but the singer (who looked uncannily like he might be Ben Stillers younger brother) certainly didnt help matters by twiddling away on his keyboard like Ross from Friends. Depressingly enough their new CD is one of the worst efforts Transmitter and their pumped up take on A-has Take on Me performed the near impossible feat of making me hanker for the original!
Ill own up now to not being a huge Femmes fan, but my other half has fond memories of them and Gordon Ganos recent solo album is more than a decent listen, so we thought an evening of college rock would be a good way to try out a New York venue. However, Gano seemed at best distracted on this second of two nights and, with a couple of what look in retrospect like noble exceptions early on, all hope of a fun and tuneful evening went the way of his attention. Instead the band seemed wedded to seemingly endless improvised instrumental noodlings in the middle of songs even inviting the Sound of Ross guy and his Spiraling mates to join in on a couple. The mood wasnt helped by the lummox-headed frat boy element in the audience, one of whom actually crushed a beer can on his forehead (at the fifth attempt) in the misguided impression that it would impress the girl he was hassling. I thought that only happened in films. So, all in all, it was a bit of a relief when, 45 minutes in, a slightly sheepish voice in my ear declared that she couldnt take any more piffle and so, for the first time in over 15 years of gig going, an early exit was made. We were in New York after all, there had to be better things to do.