Taylor Swift looks almost presidential as she glides on a rotating platform over the crowds in Hyde Park. June 27th 2015

Taylor Swift looks almost presidential as she glides on a rotating platform over the crowds in Hyde Park. June 27th 2015

On her transition from Country music star to pop music icon, Taylor Swift has had her detractors but not too many. It is worth reminding people, even before Tay Tay s love letter to the eighties in the form of the album “1989” came out, she had picked 7 Grammies and now in 2015 a Brit award. As she herself reminded the audience at the cavernous Lanxess Arena in Cologne, she has also been criticised for writing too many break-up or sentimental songs. Yet in the context of the “1989” album and World tour it works. During both the Hyde Park and Cologne shows, the music invoked a nostalgic feeling of cult 80s teen films like the Breakfast Club. The viewing was better in the arena but there is something magical about the atmosphere in Hyde Park with 65000 people in it -a real feel good factor.

Somehow though in both Cologne and Hyde Park fate contrived to deprive me of seeing all of the opening – power pop number “Welcome to New York”. In the Lanxess I was stuffing my face with a jumbo Bratwurst when the opening bars started and In London, Tay Tay caught everyone by surprise starting the set 10 minutes earlier than billed. I was still at the bar.

The next big number I did catch in full at both gigs; there was no mistaking during “New Romantics” the references to heartbreak and break-up as well as continuing the references to the 1980s groups in the title.

Taylor Swift on the 1989 World Tour at the Lanxess Arena, Cologne, Germany June 19th 2015

Taylor Swift on the 1989 World Tour at the Lanxess Arena, Cologne, Germany June 19th 2015

“Blank Space” provided a combination of flirty lyrics with a hint of sexual tension to dreamy synth powered music without being smutty, perfectly evoking the feeling of young adults playing the dating game while “How you Get the Girl” was a simple life lesson to the boys on how to get and keep a relationship. “All you had to do is stay” had the feel of a teenage cheerleader chant meets sweet regretful nostalgia for a lost relationship.

A particularly interesting part of the Cologne show consisted of 2 songs and Swift talking about the nature of friendship followed by “Bad Blood” and “We are never ever getting back together”. With the cinematic backdrop of a lookalike of one Katy Perry’s screen or stage personas, this was undoubtedly a very thinly veiled reference to the ” virtual ” argument in which the two singers are involved.

Proving she is no slouch when it comes to instruments, reverting briefly to her country roots. Swift came out on an extended platform into the middle of the crowd and unsupported played a small acoustic section with the song ” You are in love” . Others section saw her playing electric guitar, keyboards on a revolving platform, and piano in an elegant dress during the ethereally romantic “Wildest Dreams” which for me invoked the image of an 80s prom queen. And the costume changes were frequent -6 or 7 by my count – certainly rivalling other pop divas shows.

Shake it Off on a rotating platform at the Lanxess Arena, Cologne, Germany June 19th 2015

Iconic – Talylor Swift & Dancers perform Shake it Off on a rotating platform at the Lanxess Arena, Cologne, Germany June 19th 2015

There is a difference however; Swift did not go over the top with overly elaborate sets or costumes. These complimented the show but do not overpower it. There was a little bit more glitz at the Hyde Park concert during “Style” when Tay Tays’ pals, including Cara Delavigne, Kendall Jenner and Wimbledon Tennis champ – Serena Williams walked down the runway. And there was an interesting cinematic backdrop for the booming synth of “Out of the Woods”. The main feature, though in both Cologne and London shows was the raised giant revolving platform in the middle of the audience which saw Swift and dancers resolving above the crowd at a slightly unnerving speed while performing a routine to worldwide hit “Shake it Off”. The crowd went wild at both gigs and this proved the iconic moment of the shows leaving audiences going home with a simile on their faces.

Taylor Swift at the relatively tender age of 25 was already a successful musician and business woman as is proven her album sales, list of awards and the clout she recently demonstrated in dealing with Apple. However, what she has achieved with the “1989” album and tour is remarkable. She has created something that almost everybody likes, that appeals to old and young; she done what few artists have ever achieve, successfully crossed-over genres and broadened her appeal beyond country. “1989” is a Modern pop classic and the shows were a visual personification of this.

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Londongigger’s Top 10 Concerts of 2014.

And the winner is …. Kate Bush. Not on your life!

If picking your Top gigs of the year was a horse race,Kate Bush would be subject to a steward’s enquiry. While critics and celebrities raved about her performance, it was hard to find a mere mortal who had been able to get a ticket let alone for one of her 21 sold out shows at the Lyceum. Tickets prices exchanging on ticket resellers at obscene amounts of money were absolutely scandalous. Anyone who paid these prices would have been safe in the knowledge that were contributing to the Kate Bush retirement fund. At the very least tickets should have been balloted at face value for real fans with an average income. But enough of the bitchiness. Who were my real winners? This year had far more of a mix of commercial as well as indie and the odd unknown artist. Here’s the list  from 1 to 5 for which a longer review will appear in subsequent posts.

    1. Katy Perry. The O2 Arena, London, UK, May 28th 2014
Spectacular Katy Perry - flying through the air with the greatest ease, The O2 Arena, London UK, May 28th 2014

Spectacular Katy Perry – flying through the air with the greatest ease, The O2 Arena, London UK, May 28th 2014

Hats off to Katy Perry who managed to convert this sceptic with a fun lively commercial show that managed to visually overpower the senses while combining the insanely catch poppy tunes. The opneing – “Roar” announced the colour of the show. The highlights were seeing her enter after one of new numerous costume changes, on a giant model of a horse or camel, flying around the circumference of the arena on wires while singing and singing Happy Birthday  to a guy plucked out of the audience on giant podium in the middle of the arena. In short; a spectacular creative gig, finishing off with the anthemic Firework that showed commercial rivals how it should be done. Taylor Swift- time to step up to the plate.

    1. Stromae. Hammersmith Apollo. London UK, December 9th 2014
Stromae's stunning music and  cinematic backdrop hits the spot at Eventim Apollo, Hammersmith, December 9th 2014, London UK

Stromae’s stunning music and cinematic backdrop hits the spot at Eventim Apollo, Hammersmith, December 9th 2014, London UK

With a 26 week run at No.1 in France with second album “Racine Career” (translate.d as Square Root) between August 2013 and 2014 and a clutch of French Music Industry awards, this francophone Belgium had the world  or at least Western Europe at his feet. It’s difficult to define his style as he combines many but if you had to it would be a unique brand of R n B with a liberal dose of Cabernet, a smattering of Calypso, rap lyrics with some social commentary and a heavy dollop of electro. This, of course, with lyrics for the most in French. This may have gone over the head of some English speakers, but the largely French crowd cannot have been but impressed. If you did have some French, you would have been moved by the social indictment of Papaoutai or the theatricality of Formidable with Stromae playing the part of a drunk man rueing the loss of his partner. But then on the dance side, many in the audience clearly loved the house beats of Cesaria or the euphoric techno love letter to the crowd Merci. An absolute revelation were the cinematic effects second only to Gotye’s concert of 2012 (at the same venue) in their dramatic impact on the show. In short, this was an iconic performance.

    1. La Roux. O2 Empire Shepherds Bush, London, November 12th 2014
La Roux's Elly Jackson scintillate at O2 Empire, Shepherd's Bush, Wednesday 12th November, London UK

La Roux’s Elly Jackson scintillate at O2 Empire, Shepherd’s Bush, Wednesday 12th November, London UK

After a 4 year absence in which the landscape architecture of popular music has much changed, La Roux made a mighty comeback on tour to support synth riff laden album Trouble in Paradise. Dressed in an eighties style lounge jacket and trousers she glided and smoched around the stage with minimum with effortless cool to cool new tunes like Tropical Chancer and Uptight Downtown where you could almost imagine yourself in Club Tropicana on a holiday island in the eighties. She did not neglect her older material finishing off with a rousing rendition of Bullet Proof that had the crowd on its feet. In short – cool, cool, cool!

    1. Jeff Lynne’s ELO. Radio 2 Festival in a Day, Hyde Park, September 14th 2014
Jeff Lynne's ELO in the Best Outdood Live Performance of the year, September 14th, 2014, Hyde Park, London UK

Jeff Lynne’s ELO in the Best Outdood Live Performance of the year, September 14th, 2014, Hyde Park, London UK

The 2013 edition of the Radio 2 Festival in a Day proved to be a huge disappointment with bands not appearing at the time they were scheduled, an ultra territorial crowd each jealously guarding their patch of green for their picnic blankets, ridiculously long queues at the beer kiosks and food stalls running out of food long before the end of the day. The only saving grace was Smokey Robinson’s sparkling performance after the champagne and prawn sandwiches set started to disappear early to take their little darlings home to bed.

So fast forward a year and I was expecting more of the same. But what a difference a day makes and the line up. The picnic set were still there but not in such great numbers and it was actually possible to get to the bar.

ELO or rather Jeff Lynne’s version produced an absorbing masterpiece of a show with all the old stunning ELO iconography. Although there have been several version of ELO including the brilliant ELO II with former members, which I saw at Shepherds Bush Empire in 2006, Lynne had not performed in 28 years. And what he produced on that night back in September visually and audibly stunning. Most of the old classics were rolled out with the trademark orchestral symphonic sound. But Lynne’s voice is something other versions of ELO have not been able to replicate. Mr.Blue Sky at the end of the concert just before the encore was perfect concert moment. The whole event was a feel good factor from start to finish.

    1. Lords, O2 Empire, Shepherd’s Bush, London, June 5th 2014
A Star is Born - Lorde at O2 Empire, Shepherd's Bush, London , UK , June 5th 2014

A Star is Born – Lorde at O2 Empire, Shepherd’s Bush, London , UK , June 5th 2014

They say stars are born and not made and looking at Lorde’s stunning one women show you could believe it. It would have so easy to dismiss her as a one trick pony. “Royals”, although a great single has been played to death on the MTV channels in 2013. But having seen her live performance, what was striking was the depth and maturity of the delivery of songs of one so young. At the tender age of 17, she delivered a performance that artists twice her age would have dreamt of. Resembling in many respects a younger Kate Bush, with some wacky and creative dance and body movements, the subtle musical electro beat and riffs of her dreamlike indiepop sound, the hearfelt lyrics from songs on the Pure Heroine Album that succinctly conveyed the state of growing up between teen and adult, with songs like Tennis Court and the dreamlike 400 Lux, she put her body and soul into this concert. The climax of the concert with soaring rendition of A World Alone brought a standing ovation resulting in one of those nights that can only be experienced at such intimate venues.

Imelda May wows the coastal crowd at Folkestone, Friday 21st November 2014

Imelda May wows the coastal crowd at Folkestone, Friday 21st November 2014

Any regular followers of Londongigger posts will know that I don’t just confine my reviews to the London area so as I am regular visitor to Folkestone, I felt it was high time to pay a visit to the renowned Leas Cliff Hall, a marvel of 1920’s engineering, jutting out from the cliff side on the Leas Cliff promenade, to see a concert. And who better to see on a Friday night than the Queen of Modern Rockabilly Imelda May.
Currently engaged on a 2 month long European tour in support of latest album Tribal and playing such illustrious venue as Olympia in Paris and Shepherds Bush Empire, the people of Folkestone were obviously delighted that she and very capable band had descended on their corner of England for the evening, even if the crowd took a little while to get going. They were treated for the most part to a lively display of sassy rock n roll numbers like the title track, “Wild Woman”, “Five Good Men” & “Ghosts of Love”in this gig that lasted 1 1/2 hours. When the crowd did eventually warm up, Imelda had them singing and clapping “Its good to be alive” although even she commented that when she got them humming the rhythms that “you’re not the best”. Still no matter, the high class rock n roll tracks kept coming. ” Round the the Bend” & Mayhem were fast and furious but there were quieter moments. “Gypsy in Me ,for instance was enthrallingly sung with heart and soul.
Of course ” Johnny got a Boom Boom” was left until last and was received by an audience by now enthusiastically into the gig (or at least the left hand side of the hall). Apart of the right hang side were persistent in their loud talking. They were roundly told off by the left side whom Imelda came back to do the encore. She gave a fantastic rendition of Nancy Sinatra’s Bang Bang and Blondie’s Dreaming accompanied by a Ukulele.
All told, this a was fresh and sassy performance from musician in her prime. Shepherd’s Bush Empire be warned; you are in for a treat on Monday night.

Elly Jackson of La Roux is achingly cool performing at O2 Empire, Shepherd's Bush, Wednesday 12th November 2014, London, UK

Elly Jackson of La Roux is achingly cool performing at O2 Empire, Shepherd’s Bush, Wednesday 12th November 2014, London, UK

It may have been 5 years since La Roux last performed at this venue but you would have known it. The wild raucous mainly teen audience of 2009 had gone to be replaced by a far more mature (some might even say old). It was almost complete transformation in the audience demographic which given the subtle changes in the musical style was surprising. Still, singer Elly Jackson, the driving force behind La Roux remains a constant. Gone was the signature large quiff and androgynous look replaced by black lounge jacket and casual beige trousers resembling David Bowie look from the Serious Moonlight tour of 1983. She still looked cool in fact effortlessly cool.
The intro was smooth on “Let me down gently” with some glorious synth riffs complementing Jackson’s intense soaring vocals. This show was all about showcasing the new songs from the excellent album “Trouble in Paradise”, notable tracks of which in the show were ” Sexotheque” and “Tropical Chancer” during which Jackson side shuffled and swayed in a very 80s style. There was a liberal smattering of hits from the first album like “Quicksand”, ” I’m not your Toy and Quicksand which closed the show with a well -deserved standing ovation from floor theatre balconies. The crowd were massively into the gig with cheers going up after every song. The gig was only about an hour and ten minutes long but the experience was so enthralling it felt like double that. This crowd pleaser was undoubtedly one of the gigs of the year but please Miss Jackson don’t leave it so long to come back next time.

Full of Melancholy -Lykke Li performs at Eventim Apollo, Hammersmith,  thursday 13th November  2014, London UK.

Full of Melancholy -Lykke Li performs at Eventim Apollo, Hammersmith, thursday 13th November 2014, London UK.

Lykke Li thanked the audience at the end of her 1 hour 20 minute performance for still being there after 7 years. Its not hard to see why. Li’s voice is very engaging; there’s a quality in it that gives the heart strings a quiver if not a full plucking. The gig was naturally themed around her new album “I never learn” which itself is a concept around loss and heartbreak. So I suppose it is a bit churlish to expect a brightly lit upbeat set. Yet, I could not help but feel that the exceptionally monochromatic lighting conveyed not heartache but rather extreme sombreness and melancholia. At times the singer was barely visible in the gloom going from dark to the occasional glimpse to shadowy profile. Her very capable band were hardly visible at all. This could been very frustrating for the less tolerant and it was just as well the emotional power of Li’ s voice and some excellent musical arrangements overcame this. There were notable moments. Opening the show, “I never learn ” was accompanied by an acoustically rich guitar and hauntingly pure vocals. “Sadness is a Blessing”had all the resemblance of atragic Shangri La’s song while “Gunshot”, although sung a couple of keys down impressed with its intensity of feeling. However none of these compared with a sublime cover of Drake’s ” Hold on, We’re going home” with a totally gorgeous synth hook. There was the odd twee bit in the show. “Never Gonna Love Again” had the audience out with the lighters and mobile phones. It was a nice touch to bring out support act Eliot Sumner (formerly I blame Coco) just before the encore “Get Some”. This proved to be the liveliest and rockiest track of the gig. Generally, this was good atmospheric gig but it could have done with lifting on occasion. A less sombre lighter mood would have gone way.

MØ floors the crowd at Shpherds Bush, London, Saturday 1st November 2014

MØ floors the crowd at Shpherds Bush, London, Saturday 1st November 2014

Those who have never seen Mo before may well be surprised by the vigour that puts into shows and this was no exception at Shepherds Bush Empire.Mo (real name Karen Marie Orstead) is already a breakthrough star in Denmark and fast rising in other countries including the UK. She has ditched her punkish roots for an electro sound with occasional soft R n B electro-beats. Her performance at Shepherds Bush was vocally gutsy and stylistically forceful.

Ccaption id=”attachment_919″ align=”alignnone” width=”614″]Sister Sledge get down in the heart of East London, UK, August 14th 2014 Sister Sledge get down in the heart of East London, UK, August 14th 2014 [/caption]

If they had been performing indoor, you would have say they could have brought the house but as it happens it was the stars. At the Under the Stars festival in Central Park, East Ham, we are starting to get used to seeing bigg-ish acts. But,sponsored by the mayor of Newham the acts are getting bigger and bigger. Sister weren’t there definitely the most famous name to play this neck of thew woods. The experience of seeing and hearing some of the biggest disco hits from childhood and teenage years was surreal made all the more remarkable by it taking place in one of the poorest parts of one of the poorest boroughs. Still, the sisters did anything but patronise their audience. This was a full-on gig where,yes some of the finest tunes ever to grace dance in the last 40 years were played but their was also originality and musical mastery as some numbers were mashed up and other delivered with verve and charm that far exceed their effect played in a club.

The opening – All American girls was delivered with as much as could mustered given the dismal drizzly conditions. Thing of You was sentimentally sweet but the party really started with the playing of Lost in Music where the sisters go the crowd into a sing-along. Very engaged by now, they challenged the audience to prove who was the greatest during the song of the same name by choosing audience members to come up on stage and dance.

The hour and half set finished with an encore rendition Good Times where the tremendously good band played on when after the Sisters left the stage to a very rousing cheer.

The evening cost nothing. We were thoroughly entertained with some of the great dance music ever produced.