Archive for March, 2012

This year will mark the 10th Anniversary of the Lovebox festival, held every year in East London’s  Victoria Park. Apart from the Under the Stars festival held literally round the corner round my house in East Ham , Lovebox is my local festival. Forget Glastonbury, I only have to travel 4 miles to this delightful non-camping festival to see some of the best and collest contemporary acts around. Proof of the the quality of the festival is shown by the fact it was voted in 2008 the Best medium size festival in the UK. It was founded by the DJ’s who make up Groove Armada. I went 3 year’s running from 2008 to 2010 and I will go again this year.  In this post which is published on www.bluesandsoul.com , I reviewed one of the best new acts I saw at the festival – Paloma Faith.

Paloma Faith in Sumptuous Dress at the Lovebox 2010 festival

Paloma Faith in Sumptuous Dress at the Lovebox 2010 festival

Retrospective : Concerts of 2010 – Paloma Faith Live at the Love Box Festival, London, July 17th 2010

Paloma Faith surely went from musical starlet to star at the 2nd day of the, as ever, diverse Lovebox Festival.  She stunned the thousands of people present as much with her fabulous dress sense as her sassy jaw dropping performance.

She marked her entry onto stage in a figure hugging full length velvet green dress with a giant orange white and black pleated attachment that fanned out like a peacock. This was complimented an orange fan headpiece. Understandably, she moved gingerly at first in her spangley platform high heels onto the raised podium but eventually found enough footing to stroll from one side of the stage to the other. She deftly moved through tracks from her debut album from belting numbers like ‘Stone Cold Sober’ and ‘Do you want the truth or something beautiful’.  There was a little banter with the crowd between songs.  Paloma reminded everyone she is an “ackney girl” and she made clear her delight at in front of a home crowd as  she doesn’t  “gets home these days”.

The adaptability of Paloma Faith voice is remarkable. Jools Holland has compared  Paloma’s voice with blues, soul and jazz singer Etta James and she duly obliged with a classy version rendition of  ‘At Last’.  But then she went all “Winehouseque” – maybe slightly too much with ‘Smoke and Mirrors’.

The track that the crowd clearly loved was the finger snappy up-tempo ‘Upside Down’ but the most impressive was the sophiscated  ‘New York’ in which it felt like the soaring chorus was where R’n’B almost met cabaret.  Maybe not in the tonality of voice but there was something reminiscent of Candi Staton in Paloma’s style of delivery.  Until this point the festival had not sparked for me, but  with the aid of her very good backing band and singers Paloma delivered star quality in as good a performance as I have ever at Lovebox. I hope her management and record companies take note. This is one class act. Words

Paloma Faith surely went from musical starlet to star at the 2nd day of the, as ever, diverse Lovebox Festival.  She stunned the thousands of people present as much with her fabulous dress sense as her sassy jaw dropping performance.

She marked her entry onto stage in a figure hugging full length velvet green dress with a giant orange white and black pleated attachment that fanned out like a peacock. This was complimented an orange fan headpiece. Understandably, she moved gingerly at first in her spangley platform high heels onto the raised podium but eventually found enough footing to stroll from one side of the stage to the other. She deftly moved through tracks from her debut album from belting numbers like ‘Stone Cold Sober’ and ‘Do you want the truth or something beautiful’.  There was a little banter with the crowd between songs.  Paloma reminded everyone she is an “ackney girl” and she made clear her delight at in front of a home crowd as  she doesn’t  “gets home these days”.

The adaptability of Paloma Faith voice is remarkable. Jools Holland has compared  Paloma’s voice with blues, soul and jazz singer Etta James and she duly obliged with a classy version rendition of  ‘At Last’.  But then she went all “Winehouseque” – maybe slightly too much with ‘Smoke and Mirrors’.

The track that the crowd clearly loved was the finger snappy up-tempo ‘Upside Down’ but the most impressive was the sophiscated  ‘New York’ in which it felt like the soaring chorus was where R’n’B almost met cabaret.  Maybe not in the tonality of voice but there was something reminiscent of Candi Staton in Paloma’s style of delivery.  Until this point the festival had not sparked for me, but  with the aid of her very good backing band and singers Paloma delivered star quality in as good a performance as I have ever seen at Lovebox. I hope her management and record companies take note. This is one class act. Words

Three years ago today, March 25th 2009, I got the chance to witness the singer and model VV Brown performing one her quirky set when she had just started to promote the Travelling like the Light album at the pocket size Bush Hall in Shepherd’s Bush,West London. Although she had been tipped to be one of the new sound of 2009, she was still a relative unknown.  We were even given a free promotional EP at the end.  Here is the review I did for Blues and Soul Magazine.

VV Brown at Bush Hall, March 27th 2009

Quirky and Original VV Brown performs at Bush Hall on March 25th 2009

VV Brown, Bush Hall, London, March 25th 2009

Vanessa Brown, the 24 year old English London based songstress is surely plotting her upward course. She has, evidently, come a long way since parting company with her former record company and returning toLondonfromLos Angeleswith little money two years ago and has been widely tipped by music industry insiders as a future great. But before all that – the hard work of getting there. And that involves playing at such unique stepping stones like the diminutive Bush Hall.

This is a venue that tends to sort the wheat from the chaff. And like many who have played previously, VV Brown  was not the first to fall victim to the whims of the sound system, which had been excessively tuned and tinkered with for a future Channel 4 recording.  The zealous pre-show sound-check did not prevent the mike from failing for the singer’s first number “Crying Blood” and even then when vocal mike did come back on line, the booming sound from the band on the deeply funky edgy bass and an equally piercing treble balance threatened to drown the singer altogether

VV Brown puts her heart and sould into the gig at Bush Hall, London, March 29th 2009

VV Brown puts her heart and sould into the gig at Bush Hall, London, March 25th 2009

on the aptly named next track “Game Over” as VV tried to animate the crowd.

Not a very auspicious start but then something happened. As if suddenly coming out of a muffled fog, her voice, conveying in equal measure sweetness and drama, came shining through, to the train-like beat of “Bottles”.  This dramatic sentiment was also pushed much further in “Back in Time” as the soulful drama ridden angst in her voice combined beautifully with the indie- rich minor chords on the keyboard that slid eloquently down the scale. There were also more upbeat up-tempo numbers paying homage to the bubblegum era of the 60’s such as the infuriatingly catchy “Quick Fix” , where all you wanted to do was to get down and Twist, as well as VV’s single Single of the Moment “Leave” .  What made VV’s 40 minutes set so endearing and original, though, was her style that encompassed so many genres and fusions of style. Nowhere was this demonstrated more so than with probably the most engaging version of The Smiths “This Charming Man” that I have ever heard. Though, this was  probably not the best gig she has done to date in terms of sound quality,  VV did all she could to engage with the small 200 person audience and nonetheless made this mid-week gig a very enjoyable one for a wizened old critic. I look forward to seeing her again in the future.

Florence and the Machine, Live at Alexandra Palace,  Saturday 10th March 2012

Taking a long walk up the energy sapping hill from the station to Alexandra Palace, “The People’s palace” of entertainment built in 1876, I was reminded of why I don’t go to this venue very often. However, it is a beautiful giant Victorian masterpiece with stunning views in London, especially pretty at night-time with twinkling lights of the city in a 180 degree panorama. And it’s totally appropriate place to see one of the London legs of the Ceremonials tour of Florence and the Machine. Capable of accommodating 10,000 standing, the venue undoubtedly reached its capacity for this very special concert.

Having arrived later than planned, we caught the tail end of Alpines support gig. With some similarity to the vocal style of Florence, the electro-pop duo sounded fresh and are worth a future look – possibly a review.

The other support act was The Horrors , a group from Southend-on-Sea, whose music has a grungy electro feel. And they introduced a surprise guest into the proceedings – Florence Welch herself to sing on what I believe was their recent single Still Life. Rapturous applause went up and the hall was not even yet full. The Horrors were on for about 50 mins – long for a support and they effectively showcased much of their new album “Skying”.

Florence Welch performs duet with The Horrors, live at Alexandra Palace, London, March 11th 2012

Florence Welch performs duet with The Horrors, live at Alexandra Palace, London, March 11th 2012

At around 9:15pm, the curtain that had been veiling the main stage set was rather unceremoniously and awkwardly tugged off by stage crew and made to drop to the ground. The Machine part of Florence and the Machine came on, not just guitars keyboard and but vocalists and an impressive looking string section. Expectations rose but curiously Florence did not appear for another 7 or 8 minutes. Then it all became clear, an announcement from the BBC Radio 6 presenter, the show was being broadcast live : that gave the atmosphere a special buzz.   Shortly after a tall caped figure strode purposely onto the stage.  Gone was the slightly reticent, slightly quirky figure with flowing robes from the Lungs era. This was a confident assured personality who was completely focused and meant business. She was in character as she delivered for opening song “Only if For The Night” , the first of many, many gymnastic-like vocals.  Next  song “What the Water gave me” gave vent to the raw emotional power of  Florence  voice as a well being a very full and round musical piece involving the whole band and orchestra, reminding me rather stylistically of 70’s Fleetwood Mac. The taut baseline was slightly less pronounced than on the studio album but that did not detract from a beautifully delivered piece as Florence swished her cape around.

Florence Welch's Caped Performance, Florence and the Machine, Alexandra Palace, March 10th 2012

Florence Welch's Caped Performance, Florence and the Machine, Alexandra Palace, March 10th 2012

The banter was only occasional with Florence making reference at one moment to the fact she was wearing a cat suit with her mother present. She waived in our general direction as her mother and family were standing – on a raised scaffold platform built specially for the VIPs just next to us.

Florence and the Machine, Live at Alexandra Palace, London, March 10th 2012

Florence and the Machine, Live at Alexandra Palace, London, March 10th 2012

This concert was very much centred on the fine album “Ceremonials” and many anthemic tracks were played. Particularly lively and enjoyable from this new album were “Shake it out” and “Heartlines”, a song that was written about being away from home and the importance of friends and family, “Strange to be doing it in London while I ‘m in my home town”, she said.   Later on, in the show Florence announced she was giving us one for the girls -“Rabbit Heart” and one for the boys “Say my Name”.  She let loose during these numbers bouncing from one side of the stage and then to the other. The crowd were in full flow by this time, hands in the air, pointing, fisting pumps. The climatic and dramatic power of “No Light No Light” was like a musical out of body experience. Off the stage for about 3 or 4 minutes, Florence came back and after introducing The Machine, we were all getting down to probably the best rendition I have ever heard her sing of “You Got the Love”. The passion and fire with which this was sung radiated throughout the audience.  Final song “Never Let Me Go”, with reference to sea and oceans had a feel good choral part providing an almost angelic aura that got the audience waving their outstretched arms over their heads slowly and rhythmically.  My niece who went with me to the show was overcome emotionally. I can understand why. Florence Welch’s voice for every song was technically awesome and she oozed performance from every pore. She was hailed a couple of years ago as the Queen of Indie, now she can rightly be crowned the Queen of Art Rock.

I’ll be seeing Florence and the Machine’s second London show in April at the Royal Albert Hall with a further review to follow.

Mel C, live at Scala, London December 9th 2011

Mel C, live at Scala, London December 9th 2011

Mel C, Live at Scala, King’s Cross, December 9th 2011

This was one that got away from me. Well it was approaching Christmas and I had other matters on my mind as you do at that seasonal time of the year.

I was prompted or rather reminded that this review is long overdue by the fact Mel C performed again in London on March 1st at the O2 Academy Islington. Those wanting to see a review of that gig – sorry to disappoint but if she was half as good as at Scala in King’s Cross you will have had a great time.

I’ve been waiting a long time to see this singer – 5 years to be precise if we are talking live and 10 years if we talk about the first time I played her debut album Northern Star. Although she will probably never sever the link in the public’s collective mind with the Spice Girls, it is definite a case that the part is greater than the sum of the whole.  Since I heard her duet back in 1998/99 with Bryan Adams on “When You’re Gone”, I always thought this girl had a lot farther to go in the music business. She had an edginess that the other Spices simply didn’t possess and out of all them, she was always the one I preferred. Her longevity is a testament to the quality of music that she consistently puts out as well as the energy of the live shows. Ironically, just as she was kick-starting her solo career, the Spice Girls were having their penultimate Top 10 hit and a No. 1 to boot with “Goodbye”.

What of the Scala show? Well, it was intimate because that’s the nature of the place but it was also lively. The problem with Scala and that is nothing to do with the artist is that literally 600 people are squashed in to a small square in front of the stage. The stage thankfully is very visible from all angles. It was just a case of jostling your way into a good position. The problem was holding on to that position. Trying doing that for more than half an hour with people coming and going. Unfortunately, the wait was long until Mel came on.  It was, however, worth the wait.  Wearing a skin hugging black trousers and top, Mel launched into a power opening with with “Rock Me” a sort of fusion between high energy pop dance and rock. This was taken from new album “The Sea” and had the crowd going ecstatic. The camera were clicking and the video phones in the crowd were rolling from the off. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many at a concert. Another song from the new album, Weak, showed Mel’s capacity for funnelling raw emotion and vulnerability through her voice.

Melanie Chisolm proved the consummate professional throughout always looking in control of the stage. She made the occasional commentaries between songs asking the crowd “how you doing”  but also provoked a laugh when admitting  to “feeling snotty” and asking if anyone else felt the same.

Music-wise, there were many crowd pleasing moments some taken from the Northern Star album including the title track and the soft pop ballad “Never Be the Same Again” with its R n B-esque rhythms; but the crowd were also treated to a delightful acoustic  of Reason and a very expressive “Here It Comes Again” with very demonstrative hand movements from Mel and lovely backing harmonies. Then it was back to tracks from The Sea. “One by One” had more than a touch of influence of American country ballad about it and provided an uplifting feeling of optimism. It proved very popluar with the crowd who were cheering long before the song finished. But this proved nothing compared to the rock and roll end to the main part of the show. “When your gone” had everyone singing along at the top of their voices. OK, main show over : but  just when you thought there could be no more surprise a special guest was unveiled. Brian May from Queen appeared from amidst the stage smoke to perform the play One Vision with Mel on vocals. You almost could feel the electricity surging through the crowd. Never having had the privilege of seeing Queen live (I envy the people who have) , it was absolutely thrilling to watch Brian May at work at close quarters on the guitar.  If,  as that was not enough, a burst of high energy pop in the form of “I turn to you” saw the show to a climatic with the crowd dancing wildly.

Brian May makes a Special Guest appearance at Mel C's Scala show,, London, December 9th 2011

Brian May makes a Special Guest appearance at Mel C's Scala show,, London, December 9th 2011

Mel C proved in this concert showed why she successfully occupies a niche that straddles pop and rock and throws in to the mix a touch of R n B.

The only downside to the concert was that she did not play what is arguably her most popular song  – the grungey classic “Going Down” .  Of all the songs I wanted to hear, it was this one. I suppose now , I will have to go again to satisfy my desire. Still great concert anyway.