Archive for May, 2012

Silbermond in their first ever performance in the UK at The Relentess Garage, Islington, London, May 19th 2012

Silbermond in their first ever performance in the UK at The Relentess Garage, Islington, London, May 19th 2012

As part of a special week of going to see artists from Europe – my favourite artists, as it happens ;  I finally got to fulfil one of my greatest wishes to see the German band Silbermond in London.  I first got to know of them 6 six year while holidaying around Germany and then later on the same year while learning German in Munich where I bought their second album “Laut Gedacht”, (Thinking Out Loud). I had to wait 3 years though until the release of their 3rd studio album to see them for the first time in the ubercool converted factory setting of E-Werk in Cologne.  It was a grand gig full of atmosphere and left me quite emotional at the end, especially after hearing the song “Unendlich” “Never Ending” which I consider one of the most beautiful non-English language rock ballads ever written.

So who are Silbermond? They are a 4 piece band who originate from the picturesque medieval town of Bautzen, located in a far eastern corner of Germany  near to the Polish and Czech republic borders not admitted a place admittedly that you would  associate immediately  with a popular national group; still I suppose Muse come from Torbay and the Steriophonics are from the Welsh valleys so maybe it’s not that unusual.

The band consist of Stefanie Kloß, Andreas Nowak on drums, Johannes Stolle on Bass and Thomas Stolle on guitar. The beautiful vocals of Stephanie Kloss’s mezzo-soprano pitched voice underpin and complete the band’s sound. Lyrically, the songs orientate towards astute and sometimes hard-hitting social observation or relate to relationships and feelings.  Their music spans the spectrum from soft melodic rock through pop-rock to belting guitar hooks riffs with metalesque undercurrents. Still in their twenties, they have been together since 2001/2 and hit the big time in Germany in 2004.

When I asked the band’s management back in 2006 whether they would be coming to London, they told me that as they sang in the German language there were no plans to travel outside of Germany.  I am glad to say as that as the band popularity has grown that has started to change. So, it was with great pleasure I made my way to the pocket sized Relentess Garage (formerly just The Garage) at Islington for the band first ever foray to UK.

The gig started early : they were already 2 minutes into opening number  when I arrived which happened to be “Unter der Oberfläche” (Under The Surface), a song about the superficial trawl through nightlife looking for love.  This was the first of many songs, Silbermond were to showcase from their fourth studio “Himmer Auf”  “Heaven On” and the title track was amongst those played, along with “Teil Von Mir” (Part of Me), the epic power rock sounding “Du Fehslt Hier” (You’re not here)  and “Waffen” (Weapons) –an anti-war song , which included a guitar solo from Thomas while Stephanie went off the stage briefly.

Stephanie Kloß, dressed in black with white trainers and looking every bit the classic cool European rock front woman, welcomed everyone to the show. She asked who was from Germany, naturally enough ; about half the audience put their hands up. And then she how many were from England,  and most of the remaining hands went up. Much to my surprise when she asked how many were Londoners and a good third of the room stuck their hands. Stephanie spoke English a little from time to time but for the most part spoke German.

You might think that for £17, which was the price of the gig, the duration would be quite short. This was far from the case. Like coiled springs waiting to be released, the band enthusiastically went through tracks not only from “Himmel Auf” but also their growing back catalogue.  We were treated to the up-temp pure rock tracik “Meer sein”, “Symphonie” – a Sarah Brightman Paige song , one of my personal favourites  – In Zeiten wie Diesen (In Times likes This) which is an inspirational song about coming together and the power of people and Nichts Passiert (Nothing Happens), a great accusatory pop rock song  about a relationship going nowhere with a fantastic guitar hook.

During this song  Stephanie, who during the performance had missed no opportunity to be up on what appeared to be a small raised podium with her arm and the mic frequently outstretched to the audience, conducted an organised crowd surf, something of a tradition with Silbermond, to the mixing desk and back to the stage. This is something I also witnessed in Cologne in 2009.

All told, this was as good a performance as I saw back on their last tour with the added bonus that the group came to London. I am delighted that they decided it was time to branch out from Germany.  I guarantee that even if you don’t speak German, you will appreciate the cool euopean rock musicality. I very much look forward to their return visit to London.

 

Five Star Garbage refuse to grow older gracefully – Live Review of Garbage, The Troxy, LondonMay 9th 2012

Garbage perform live at The Troxy in Limehouse,  London, May 9th 2012

Garbage perform live at The Troxy in Limehouse, London, May 9th 2012

Garbage have not played a live concert since 2005 when they cancelled the remainder of their world tour after six months on the road. The last time they played in London was June 9th 2005 at Brixton Academy. They had been due to play Hammersmith Apollo in October of that year. Since that time, I have regarded seeing them live as an unfinished business. This feeling was made all the more acute by the fact that I went for 6 weeks to Australia in September 2005; the group was playing at St.Kilda, Melbourne and due to family commitments, I was still unable to go. After that on the “Bleed Like Me” Tour they played just 3 more concerts in Australia before starting the current “Not Your Kind of People” Tour in April 2012.  So 9 concerts in to the tour, they finally hit London. Like an addict who has been off his former drug of choice for years, my anticipation and expectation has peaked. I am so excited on route to the concert I think I am going to explode. The queue outside only makes the anticipation stronger.

By the time I get in after a 25 minute wait in the queue snaking round into a dingy alley, I’ve just enough time to get myself over to one of the relatively spartanly populated side bars for a beer before the concert starts just – past 9pm. I find my place about half way back in the centre of the auditorium. The band, consisting of Butch Vig, Steve Marker and Duke Erikson trundle on stage in suits and crank up the guitars and drums, followed by a confident and radiant looking Shirley Manson in a black sleeveless teashirt and red and black stripey hot pants.  As the band launch into the first number, Shirley looks and feels every bit the rebel. She ploughs through the first 3 songs with gusto. A powerfully grungy “Supervixen” followed up by “Temptation Waits” kick the show off. Somewhat surprising, the band dust off one of their big hits (if not the biggest) – “Stupid Girl” early in the set. It takes a band confident of their stage performance and a big back a catalogue to do this.

Shirley Manson finally engages with the audience and go off into an amusing monologues. “So hello everyone, Where have you been for the last 7 years ?” she asks.  “Where have you been going on holiday, what have you been dreaming about, what have you been looking at ?”etc.

Shirley Manson of Garbage at The Troxy, May 9th 2012

Shirley Manson of Garbage at The Troxy, May 9th 2012

 

Then it’s back on the rock track again, Uptempo “Why do You Love Me” is the most rocking track so bring with sublime metal riffs . A brief flirtation with Madonna’s Erotic chorus transforms into the deliciously dark #1 Crush with its lyrics conveying the sense of obsession whereas Garbage’s flirtation with James Bond  “The World is Not Enough” shows a subtle and atypical mainstream side to the band recalling Shirley Bassey.

Garbage play a full-on proper rock gig at The Troxy, London, May 9th, 2012

Garbage play a full-on proper rock gig at The Troxy, London, May 9th, 2012

 

The crowd are really cranked up now and you feel it as many fists pump the air and chant “Go Baby Go” during the song “Cherry Lips”. There’s a great atmosphere for Garbage to try out a two new tracks from their forthcoming album “Not Your Kind of People” –  “Blood for Poppies” which has a scuzzy reggae feel about it, and “Battle in Me” is raw and conveyed with emotional full force by Manson. Then after musical lull for “Milk”, the crowd were up for it during “I think I’m Paranoid” as was Manson. She marches purposefully around the stage in full rock chick mode.  Many parts of the art deco venue turned into a mass of abandoned dancing thirty-somethings. This vibe continued on into “Bad Boyfriend” and “Only Happy when it Rains” where the latter saw a mass chanting of the chorus “Pour Your Misery Down”.  “Push it” may have closed the set but the grundge classic “Vows” provided barnstorming end to the concert.

 

Shirley Manson of Garbage rocks The Troxy, London, May 9th, 2012

Shirley Manson of Garbage rocks The Troxy, London, May 9th, 2012

 

Garbage may now be going into a 3rd decade but they have retained the aura of a real rock band that still feel raw and edgy. And Shirley Manson definitely gets my vote as one of the coolest older rock chicks still around.

Pumped Up Kids -Live review of Foster the People, O2 Brixton Academy, London, Saturday 28th April 2012

Foster the People perform an exciting set at London's O2 Brixton Academy, Saturday 28th April 2012

Foster the People perform an exciting set at London’s O2 Brixton Academy, Saturday 28th April 2012

A lively excited and young crowd greeted the arrival of American hipsters Foster the People. This is a group whose reputation and growing acclaim has been spread by word of mouth from their live performances so expectations were high and so were the Brixton chat levels.

Prior to FTP, though, the performance from support act Mini-Mansions had that relaxed west coast vibe going on mixed –up with elements of melodic psychedelia and strong prog rock overtures. Their rendition of “Heart of Glass” was quite the most original version I have ever heard. It was played at slow tempo sounding like a bit like a funerary chant.

Foster the People commenced with the gloriously snappy rhythm of “Houdini” that recalled elements of 80’s Talking Heads offshoot The Tom Tom Club . There was no need to work up the young crowd. They were already way ahead of the band in the enthusiasm stakes. The balcony was on its feet from the first bar being played. The band continued the tradition of having individual drums on stage for the non-drumming members to bash. Crude, but effective especially for numbers “Miss You” and “Life on the Nickel” with high tempo beats. It does add power to the gig and that feeling is conveyed to the audience.

Party Atmosphere at Foster the People gig, O2 Brixton Academy, London, Saturday 28th April 2012

Party Atmosphere at Foster the People gig, O2 Brixton Academy, London, Saturday 28th April 2012

 

The song “Love” with its prominent echoing vocals seemed to owe much to the Mamas and the Papas style of sunshine pop and I felt the presence of Beach Boys influence in “I Would Do Anything for You”.  The songs on the setlist were interlinked by mini prog rock instrumentals.

Other impressive moments were the Mark Foster’s dramatic vocal of the interpretation of the lyrics of “Broken Jaw” coupled with the electro indie disco vibe, the latinesque piano rhythms on “Call it What You Want” and the pumping psychedelic danceable pop of “Colour On The Walls”.  There was some really wild dancing by the crowd through the gig with arms flaying wildly yet rhythmically. The party was full on and reached its dance climax with “Helena Beat”, whose intro curiously resembled Spandau Ballet’s “The Freeze”. Predictably, “Pump Up Kicks” – a song with a catchy hook but creepy lyrics was left to the end and extended into an adapted techno section.

Party time with Foster The People at O2 Brixton Academy, London, Saturday 28th April 2009

Party time with Foster The People at O2 Brixton Academy, London, Saturday 28th April 2009

 

The sell-out gig could not be faulted for youthful enthusiasm and atmosphere but at times the sound production threatened to overwhelm the vocals. This effect has often been noticed at Brixton. Promising up and coming bands take an acoustic note. A special mention must also be made of the lighting. The lighting designer for the set should congratulated for producing perfectly balanced pin sharp primary colours that according with the set and the mood of each song which, in my view, made the show. There was even a glittery confetti shower at the end.  If the band produces more exciting shows like this, they will definitely foster a growing fan base.

 

Sharp lighting at the Foster the People gig, O2 Brixton Academy, London, Saturday 28th April 2012

Sharp lighting at the Foster the People gig, O2 Brixton Academy, London, Saturday 28th April 2012