Archive for January, 2012

Christina Perri at Shepherd's Bush Empire January 18th 2012

Christina Perri's loveliness charms the crowd at Shepherd's Bush Empire January 18th 2012

Sweet charm can go along away and relative newcomer Christina Perri exuded it in spades to a packed and expectant crowd at the Empire who just been ably regailed by support acts Jack Martello (who himself had just won the crowd over with his boyish charm) and Marcus Foster. 

Album reviewers in some quarters had commented on her debut  album Lovestruck being oversentimental.  However, I’d have anyone sing to me all night long if they could sing a ballad like Christina Perri does live. Music after all is about touching the soul  in what whatever way it moves you. There’s nothing wrong with written constructed ballads  about love and emotions.  But it wasn’t all about the ballad and in fact the show started off in a vary different vein. As if almost to prove a point. Christina strolled confidently onto the stage with her band and started with two up-tempo numbers including “Bang Bang”, a song with a chorus that was almost too chirpy for a song about the payback of having your heart broken.  The concert, then plunged back into a ballady phase with Chrisitina on piano as she sang and played  a rather dreamy sounding “Distance” and a track that’s not on the album but is in the Twilight saga lastest outing  – the gushy but good “A Thousand years”. To those  who are familiar or older enough to remember  the Moody Blues or Justin Hayward,  “My Eyes “ had a sort of dark drama about it in the style of Nights in White Satin or Forever Autumn only with a harder edge. Christina’s provided an acoustic section with “Crazy” and “Sad Song”. There was even a rendition Don McLean’s” Crying”.

It must be said Christina never stopped smiling throughout her show, even for the sad songs. She radiated so much niceness it hurt. At times, you could have imagined  her in the Disney film Snow White with cute  little birds coming down and chirping while sang. I’m not sure, though, about the references she made to have given birth to her album “Lovestrong” and about it being her baby.

Christina Perri tinkles the ivories at Shepherd's Bush Empire January 18th 2012

Christina Perri tinkles the ivories at Shepherd's Bush Empire, London, UK, January 18th 2012

My favourite moment in the concert was The Lonely, which Christina explained to the audience that he had written at a time when she found herself alone in Los Angeles and started thinking about what it meant to be alone.  This lyrics of the song, the awesome production bordering on mini piano concerto and the immense range of the artist’s voice made my hairs stand on end. The song “Mine”  total contrast   The audience were strongly urged to let them go and participate. With a musical backing ska rhythm, that was worthy of  the nutty boys of Madness only a few in the crowd took to dancing, though. In the end,  I could not stop smiling and was thinking all the way through the number of  the tune to Baggy Trousers. This brought the pre-encore part to a close.

Christina Perri at Shepherd's Bush Empire, London, UK, January 18th 2012,

Christina Perri at Shepherd's Bush Empire, London, UK, January 18th 2012

On the desert menu for the encore was  the top quality ballad ” Jar of Hearts”. This was the song that gave Perri her break into the big time and she acknowledged this. It’s a great song lyrically and was executed perfectly. Christina encouraged everyone to sing their hearts and they did.  Also notable was “Tradegy” that had an epic folky feel to it reminiscent of All About Eve’s “Martha Harbour. It also got another singalong going with its simple chorus La, La La …. Love.  The show reached a fabulous crescendo with  “Arms”.

I was pleasantly surprised by this show and how much I enjoyed it . Christina Perri was so lovely on stage  that you just want wrap to her up in cotton wool and take this young singer’s sunny personality home  to cheer you up. She lit up a dark January night. A great start to my gigs of 2012.

Advertisements

Well, it was another busy year in London town for gigging, full of interest and some surprises. If you had told me at the beginning of the year what my favourite gig  would be, I wouldn’t have believed you. Pure pop will always have its fling but it’s quite clear to me that artistic creative groups and singers are in the ascendancy. That makes 2 two years in row that shall we say an Artrock group has won the gold medal in my affections. (The pick of 2010 was  Fever Ray’s ethereal performance at the temple of indie, namely, Brixton Academy with its forest of rhytmic flashing Edwardian lampshades – yes I’m a sucker for a light show).

It’s hardly suprising though that I should look around for something original when you consider the number of bog standard indie groups there are around. I went on one ticket agent website and found anyhthing between 300 and  600 Indie groups touring the UK at any one time and with some of these bands, it feels to me sometimes like – been there, seen that, done it.  There are notable exceptions, of course, such as great bands like The Kooks, The Rakes and The Wombats – apparently anything with “The” in the title.

But to get back to the point, great pure indie performances have been hard to come by of late.  So with that mind, here is my Top 5 of 2011. Many may say where is Adele in this list? I say show me the person who could get a ticket to one of her concerts.

1. Metronomy – Royal Albert Hall, London,  October 3rd

Mighty Metronomony, a band from tiny Totnes, a Devon seaside town, were little known at the beginning of the year. They had played UK festivals but in the biggest performance of their career so far, they blew the roof off with their dreamy electro-Wurlitzer style of Art rock. They had the whole of the Albert Hall crowd dancing their socks off. This show saw them graduate from the little to the major league of live performances. Quite unforgettable.

2.KT Tunstall – The Forum (HMV Forum), Kentish Town, London, March 8th

Early in the year KT Tunstall gave a masterclass in how sassy, cool Rock and Pop should be delivered in this intimate venue. Looking every inch the rock star as she assertively and rhythmically strummed her Gibson dove, she was totally engaged with the audience and served up rock newbies from latest album Tiger Suit and crowd pleasers such as Suddenly I See and Black Horse and the Cherry Tree. This was a performance from a musician absolutely at the top of  her game.

3. Caro Emerald – Shepherd’s Bush Empire (O2 Empire Shepherd’s Bush),  London, December 13th

She is extremely popular in Europe with a cult status in her native Holland. With her 40s and 50s swing style mixed with old time jazz, 80’s scatching  and contemporary rhythm, this entertaining newcomer to the UK was  classy and  spell binding throughout her 1 and half  hour long show.  In my view, she should have been shortlisted for Best International newcome for the BRIT awards but sadly it didn’t happen. Who are these people who sit on the panel anyway?

4. Pulp – Wireless Festival, Hyde Park, July 3rd

What can I say, Jarvis Cocker is legend. It takes a hell of a performer to keep 30,000 people (many the worse for wear from a day’s drinking) engaged but this was a fantastic trip for the nostalgia junkies – myself included. Cocker’s weird geeky dancing, almost nonchalant demeanour and wit added to the charm. You could not imagine anyone less likely to be a rock star but at the same time also superb at it. I and thousands of other bounced up and down and belted out Common People at the top of our lungs with a feeling and intensity I have seldom witnessed at any other concert.

5. Take That – Wembley Stadium, London, Thursday 30th June

Its unusual for me to list boy bands and pure pop groups amongst my favourite live acts but with songs from an exceptional latest album –Progress, Robbie Williams return to the group and his 30 minute solo spot, a stage set to rival Star Wars and a giant hydraulic man going from sitting to standing – standing, morever, at the height of the stadium, you cannot fail to be anything but impressed. The most expensive ticket I ever payed for a concert in London at £105 – remember Take That sold over a million tickets for the UK tour. The price and demand reflects the enduring popularity of the group. Would I spend the money again? No! Was it worth it? – Yes, absolutely . The sight of more than 70,000 people singing Robbie Williams’s Angels, one of the most beautiful and enduring songs ever produced in the UK, was worth the price of admission alone.

Emilia Martensson, Consort Cafe, Royal Albert Hall – London Jazz festival series,  17th November 2011.

Emilia Martensson performs at the Cafe Consort , London UK , November 17th 2011

Emilia Martensson - Rising Star of the UK Jazz Scene performs at the Cafe Consort, London, November 17th 2011

It was a curious experience indeed to walk into an upmarket cafe/restaurant at midday, struggle to get a table in what proved to a venue for ladies and tourists that lunch and yet witness a full-on jazz gig of  an hour and half that could have equally taken place in a smoky jazz club in Paris or Chicago.

But Emilia Martensson and her band delivered in spades. Opening the show with “If You Go Away” Emilia showcased her charming soothing voice accompanied with light touch piano solos as she conveyed beautifully a sort of mournful longing but in a considered and controlled delivery. A contingent of Emilia’s family and friends were present in the odd banana shaped room as she dedicated the song “Something in the Way she moves” to her sister , a song whose lyrics about a close intimate relationship with an extremely melodic and soulful piano as the main accompaniment,  reminded me stylistically of Nerina Pallot combined with the quiet power of Eva Cassidy.

There were certainly a diverse mix of styles in the first set including a song in Swedish about the seasons which evoked the power of nature in its composition; and another with a bossa nova beat where at one point bass and piano played so frenetically off one-another, it was like two pieces string twisted up together, pulling apart to try to unravel the knots but in doing so creating further tension. Somehow the musical conundrum resolved itself in the end. In spite of it being midday, this particular musical piece definitely had me imagining being at that smoky jazz club .  Credit to bassist Sam Lasserson , pianist Barry Green and drummer Jon Scott for bringing that atmosphere.

The final song at the end of the first part of this two set show called “Everything Put Together Sooner or Later Falls Apart” contained a strong message about drug addiction against the backdrop of Broadway style melody. This melody masterly transformed into an off-soul slow jazz funk solo with a mellow bass before bringing the half to a close.

Emilia Martensson and Barry Green on piano at the Cafe Consort, London, November 17th 2011

Emilia Martensson and Barry Green on piano at the Cafe Consort, London, November 17th 2011

In the second set the versatility of this captivating singer was shown again when she slightly altered the tonality of her voice to convey an “easy listening” style while ably covering James Taylor’s “Another Day” juxtaposed by the equally versatile jazz funk piano of Barry Green.

A second Swedish ballad “Krystallen den fina” in 3:4 time revealed an almost child-like pop side of Martensson’s voice and contained a laid back jazz piano melody bordering on classical that was ingenious in its subtlety. Do not ask me for a translation I do not speak Swedish but it was charming

“And so it goes”  –  an intimate love ballad with great lyrics and a gorgeous piano intro and solos played immaculately  – the title track of Emilia Martensson  and Barry Green’s new album brought the whole concert to a close.  

Martensson, already a winner (along with Jon Scott as part of the Kairos 4tet) of a MOBO award is rapidly rising star on the British Jazz scene and this understated but nonetheless musically versatile performance demonstrates why.  In spite of the unusual time and setting on the concert, in spite of the constant two and fro of waiters, I really enjoyed the show. This was also one of the Best Value for Money concerts I have had the privilege of attending. For the price of a pot of tea I came out into the cold Autumn sunshine feeling relaxed and serene. Not many artists can make me feel that way.