Archive for November, 2011

Friendly Fires Review, Brixton Academy November 26th 2011

Arriving early at London’s Brixton Academy, negotiating several groups of several dozen teens, we did not expect to be greeted by the thumping sounds of a band of Brazilian Style carnival drums and percussion but in this barn of  a temple to live indie music, that’s what awaited us as a support act. A band of older school age kids, a couple of slightly older drummers and an enthusiastic older man with a drum , perhaps in his fifties conducting them.  Not being able to obtain the name of this band was frustrating as, although we did not realise at the time, they were to set the tone of the evening.

Friendly Fires’ music is lively to listen on CD – you can easily dance around your kitchen doing the cooking to it. However the live version is positively exuberant. Indie disco number “Lovesick” got the party started to the delight of the large amounts of teens in the front row mosh pits. Upstairs large section of 20 and 30 somethings were also on their feet. The dreamlike second track on the setlist – “Jump in the Pool” that provided the generic music intro to the BBC’s coverage of Glastonbury 2009, ended in a brilliant 5 minute brazillian drums and samba party, complements of some the aforementioned drummers and some rather fetching carnival festooned dancers just covered in all the right places with feathers.

The point of the show was also to showcase new music on the Pala album and the band embarked upon this task with “Running Away”, a track that had a feel of early Depeche Mode in parts. The high treble tinkly synths and rhythm  and echo effect recalled to me elements of Enjoy the Silence and Blasphemous Rumours though Ed Mc Farlane vocal range and style is very different to Dave Gahan’s and I would say unique.

The new UK top ten album Pala  has moments of nostalgia , escapism and holiday . This was sort of evident in the live versions of “ Blue Cassette” and “ True Love” but the mood of some of these great songs did not come across fully in the live set as the lyrics were at times threatened to be drowned out by the booming sound. The tracks that were most were appreciated were those more familiar from the group’s first album such as the very funky “On Board” and “In the Hospital. The band tried to get some rhythmic clapping going on “Live Those Days Tonight” and that worked to a degree. Mention must be made also of  Ed McFarlane’s unique twisty style of dancing. I have only before seen dancing as awkward and entertaining as that when I saw  Andy McCluskey of OMD.

The set lighting laid out across the stage in various rectangular blocks were quite impressive especially the multi-coloured patterns layed out in Rubik cube style.  I also loved the stars backdrops during the dreamy sounding Paris that closed the pre-encore part of the set.

The encore saw the re-appearance of the dancers in hoola-skirts this time for “Hawaiian Air” and distributing garlands and a paper confetti spectacular being shot air into air. “Kiss of life” closed the show with more Brazilian style percussion.

 

Friendly Fires were certainly engaging and put the crowd in the party mood. They tried to put on a great show and it almost came off. The problem was the music production was not subtle and at times overwhelmed.  As I know the music and the lyrics of the songs quite well, I was, however, entertained. Hopefully, though, when they come to do their next tour, they will considered some constructive advice – less is more, guys, less is more.

Adam  Ant proves that Ridicule and Critics are nothing to be scared of as he turn in  a quality performance.

Adam Ant – Live at The Troxy, London, UK, Sunday 20th November 2011 – Concert Review

As I approached the rather incongruous art deco theatre /former cinema in an unfashionable (some would say rough corner) of London with my gig companion of the night, I could not help wonder what sort of show we were in for. Entry to the venue was a convoluted process having to go through security that did not recognise an e-ticket as a ticket. This was not an auspicious start. In addition, having seen a number of number eighties revival acts, it is difficult to know what you’re going to get in terms of quality.  As Adam and the Ants and in particular the album” Kings of the Wild Frontier” are one of my iconic musical teenage experiences, there was a lot riding on this gig.

Nor did we have hardly any time to get drinks from the rather gaudy neon bar and down a couple of sips before Mr Ant and his band latest band came on stage.  The opening paid homage to Adam’s punk roots with “Plastic Surgery” and this was followed by Adam and the Ants first hit 1980 hit “Dog eat Dog” but in truth Adam and the Band took a little time to ease into the gig. When the set reached new wave pre “Kings….” hits – “Car Trouble” and “Deutsche Girls”, some parts of the crowd had just started to sing. That was when Adam, in a pirate costume and three-cornered that reminded me of Captain Sensible, addressed the audience for the first time. From thereon, the pace and quality of the gig soared beyond my expectations. The first mass sing-along occurred not unsurprisingly with the playing of “Stand and Deliver” – a massive hit UK hit back in ’81 and this continued along with some weird bopping during “Puss in Boots” and “Kings of the Wild” frontier. The backing band “The Lovely Posse capably replaced the “Ants” . The double drumming in “Kings….” was especially impressive.   It was quite a testament to Ant’s back catalogue that he dusted off so many hits but there was variety in the gig as well with a new song about the 50s and 60’s star rock star Vince Taylor and old Ant stalwarts like “Desperate But Not Serious” and “Vive le rock”.  “Antmusic”, to which Adam warned the crowd not to request in a Chinese restaurant (reference to the unique drumstick intro), is probably the most loved track from Adam and the Ants.  It is fair to say that Adam faithful rendition of this new wave classic had everyone in raptures and was like being injected with a big nostalgia high. “Goody Two Shoes” that followed it was also immensely fun.

Then it was in the encore section that Adam and the band tackled probably his most well known and iconic hit “Prince Charming” like a man who was now ready to embrace  his heritage for a song that received a mixed critical reception back in the day, probably due in some part to its flamboyant video.  Yes, it even had The Good , The Bad and The Lovely posse’s two backing singers doing the arm crossing dance which many in the crowd duly imitated.  The other notable moment in the encore was a slightly punky rendition of T-Rex’s “Get It On”.

At  1 hour 50 minutes this show was a lot longer than I had expected but goes to prove great performers never really fade away and that mental health issues are not necessarily a bar to achievement. Well done Adam Ant. My fond teenage memories are still intact and in fact have been enhanced by what was an excellent concert.

 

 

Evanescence, Hammersmith Apollo, Saturday 5th November

 

 

In a week when their self titled new album went to No.1 in the US, Hammersmith Apollo theatre in London  was the venue to welcome back Evanescence after an absence of 4 years to UK shores.    Amy Lee, costumed as strikingly as ever came on stage in a black sleeveless top, purple tutu and goth boots. Commencing with the first track on the new album, What You Want, was a great re-introduction to the raw power of the group and the heartful piercing angst of Amy Lee’s voice.  This was followed up with the distinctly gothic and ethereal “Going Under”  in which Lee’s beautiful soprano voice  held extended notes  that could  be said to have  almost transformed perfectly pitched howls or wails. Weight of the World – the 3rd number played, had a kind of metal meets dramatic folk feel . You could have imagined the group “All about Eve “would have sounded similar had they had the metal guitar riffs behind them. Julianne Regan would be proud.

This concert was of course airing tracks from the new album and about two thirds of the tracks from that album were played making up about half the concert. They packed up a punch.  A mid section of the gig saw 4 played back to back – “The Change”, “Made of Stone”, “Lost in Paradise” and  “My Heart is Broken”. These last two had Lee demonstrating her deft skills as a classically trained pianist.

In general, the volume from the concert was loud – very loud making it into my top 5 loudest of all time but Lee’s voice was more than a match for the powerful grinding metal riffs.  The pace was quite constant and frenetic barely dying down and only at moments when Lee at the piano for ballads.

 

Throughout the concert the rest of the band remained more or less in place letting Amy march around the stage only breaking to go behind her keyboards stage left and the piano that was wheeled as required. There was not that much chat from Amy except to thank the fans for putting the band where they are now.

The set featured a fair smattering of tracks from the first two albums towards the end of the gig : Lithium ,  Good Enough , Call me when you’re sober from and Your Star  “The Open Door”  and “Imaginary” from  “Fallen”.

Predictably, the crowd exploded when “Bring Me Back to Life” brought the main set to a close. The sweetly sentimental song “My Immortal” brought the encore down to a relaxed conclusion and gave my ears a well rest from the battering volume. That said, Amy Lee’s voice was mesmerizing and at times felt like an emotional pic twanging away on the strings of your heart.

 Masterful Metronomy triumph at the Albert Hall.

 Metronomy, Royal Albert Hall, October 3rd 2010

Considering Metronomy are not well know yet in the main stream, it was a big risk to take on such an August venue at the Royal Albert Hall even at the incredible price of £12.50. The fact that I was in the gods with a slightly awkward position on the side did not detract at all from the incredible atmosphere and excitement generated by group. The support acts included ethereal Arthur Beatrice and Django Django who music sounded like a kind of experimental electro with a primal jungle feel. These two provided credible enough support, albeit to a reduced audience number since most had not come in until the arrival of Metronomy.

Metrononomy themselves practically turned the Royal Albert Hall into giant dance hall from the get go. I had seen Metronomy at the Wireless festival: they were good there but the set was too short and in open air which changes the atmosphere. This performance at RHA was on a different scale and class. What especially impressed was how tight the band was as a unit. Anna Prior, dressed spangly in sequins, was amazing on drums and even sang on “Everything goes my way”. the penultimate number on the set

The only moment that was slightly naff and strangely endearing at the same time was when one of the band – Oscar Cash, I think- declared he never dreamt he’d be performing on the same stage where The Corrs performed in ‘98.

Other than this, it was high quality music most of the way. “The Look” had slinky seductive bass chords and riffs that could come of straight out of a Japan song.  “This Could Be Beautiful” was an ethereal synth and woodwind instrumental.

By the middle of the concert most of the Hall were up on their feet even in the balconies and the 5000 strong resembled a mass of swaying reeds during the numbers like “Corinne”, the boppy Wurlitzer sound of “The Look”. But the serious dancing was reserved for the electrofunky uber cool “The Bay” that even had this seasoned old 40 something blogger moving his stuff in the aisles. And it has to be said Joseph Mount’s voice and lyrics were standout.

Metronomy, playing their biggest ever headline gig in a perfect location have arrived.  This for me was the best concert of 2011 so far and felt myself privileged to witness it. Make no mistake, in these days of bland identikit indie, this group stands as a class act. My advice is get yourself down to a venue and go see them when they are nearby or even travel if you have to.

Anna Calvi, O2 Empire, Shepherd’s Bush, Tuesday 1st November

Anna Calvi captivates on guitar at Shepherd's Bush Empire, London, UK

Anna Calvi has a remarkable gift. It ‘s a rare thing that an artist and her band Mally Harpaz and Daniel Maiden-Wood, with just a guitar, drums, percussion and considerable  unique voice can produce a live sound that can fill up a space as if there were four or five more instruments in the band. But that exactly what Anna Calvi did at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire. First outings for a new artist are not always good but one of the benefits is that, you get to hear most of their debut album. Well, I was counting and I believe all tracks from Calvi’s self album were played. Each rendition was good with the occasional bits of brilliance thrown in. Appropriately starting with the instrumental guitar number “Rider’s to the Sea”, appropriate because it’s the first track of her eponymous debut album, she introduced virtuosity from the start with the guitar. The melodies sound simple but the depth in the sound was plain to hear. The telecaster guitar was played like a swirling harp on certain solos.  “Rider to the Sea” crept directly into “No more words” as in album order, the vocals resembling a kind of angelic deep voiced femme fatale lightly playing off a style of twang guitar Duane Eddy would have been proud of. Black out, the most played Calvi track this year was performed competently enough but could not compete with the edgy tension of “I’ll be your Man or the pounding drum beat of Suzanne and I, the latter giving clearly having taken its inspiration from a mix of late 70’s Bowie’s Heroes and 80’s band like Echo and the Bunnymen with Calvi’s rich voice having similar qualities to Siouxsie Sioux.  In fact there were many nods to the late 70s and early 80s. In “Desired”, you could even the influence of The Pretenders.

Dressed in her ubiquitous red shirt and high heels, Calvi at times looked unduly nervous and kept the audience interaction to a minimum. At least she has now lost that rather annoying Billy Idol type pout that used to appear in some performances in 2011. Other notable moments from the show was the Elvis Presley track “Surrender” delivered like a brooding aria, an amazing guitar solo on Love, won’t be Leaving that took my breath away.  In the encore she played The Devil and her own unique version of Edith Piaf’s “Jezebel” with a Mexican sounding guitar. Calvi’s voice remarkable though it is, is nothing like Piaf’s. Maybe that is a good thing as it gives the song a new interpretation?

Anna Calvi and Band at Shepherd's Bush Empire, London, UK, Tuesday 1st November 2011

Anna Calvi and her band are musician’s musicians and for that , the venue of Shepherd’s Bush Empire  was a perfect showcase for their talent. Calvi has been much hyped this year but she should not listen to this. In this age of fleeting band and the next big thing, Anna Calvi, needs to hold to her core base and remain true to her music. If she does this and produces quality performances like this one at the Empire, she will be here for the long term.