Archive for December, 2012

Londongigger’s Live Performance Song of the Year 2012 – Billie Jean (Terra Naomi Acoustic version)

I have been priviledged to see many suberb songs performed live this year. These included Cristina Perri’s “Jar of Hearts” followed by straight up “Tragedy” , both of which provoked a heartfelt singalong by the audience at my opening gig of 2012 in January at Shepherd’s Bush Empire. “Band on the Run” and “Hey Jude” had a similar response at Sir Paul McCartney’s Teenage Cancer Research Trust concert at the Royal Albert Hall in March. Sir Elton John’s “Rocket Man” got people out of their seats at Wembley Arena and swaying in the aisles in September and for their closing song at their O2 Arena gig in November, Keane’s new song “Sovereign Light Cafe” was personal and heartfelt.

However, none of these worthy performances could match with the song I have chosen as my personal Live Performance Song of the Year. That accolade goes this year to the lovely Terra Naomi whose dark and solemn acoustic rendition of Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean was as beautiful and unexpected as it was subtle. I saw her perform this amazing version at her London gigs in February and October London and was priviledged to meet her after the show. The clip below is taken from the Wolverhampton show but it gives you the idea.

Londongiggers’ Top 5 London Gigs of the Year 2012

The last two years have been pretty much dominated by Art Rock and alternative bands with Fever Ray and Metronomy taking the crown in 2010 and 2011 respectively, so who does this year’s accolade belong to. Well, it’s been an extra-ordinary year, in fact, ranking as one of the best ever and certainly up there with 2005 and 2009 which I count as my two best ever for live music.

To give you some idea of the calibre of those years – top of the tree for 2005 was U2 with a no-holds bar show at the Millenium Stadium in Cardiff, Wales on their Vertigo tour and for 2009, the Blur reunion at Hyde Park, London.

Now as I have mentioned Cardiff which is clearly not in London at which, as my nom de plume suggests, most of live music experiences take place, I have to explain that when you cannot get tickets to see an artist in your home town because of exceptional demand, you go where you can. Occasionally I do venture to venues outside London and even abroad if required.
Now that I’ve that cleared up, I will digress for a moment into recalling this amazing venue that is the Millenium Stadium. The proud of home of Welsh international rugby matches and former FA cup final venue with its 70000 plus capacity, produced the most excellent crowd singing in response to a powerhouse of a set littered with hit after hit and interspersed with tracks from arguably U2’s greatest album since The Joshua Tree. It was crazy 24 hours as the night before I had just seen Coldplay in at the Crystal Palace National Athletics Stadium – a theme I shall return to when we finally get into the Top 5. It was an unforgettable night ; also with great support acts in the form of The Killers and Starsailor.
I will always regard the year 2005 as my personal gold standard for live music but who measures up this year. Well, I can honestly state this is the first time I cannot split the decision, such is the testament to the quality of music this year. So for the first time and hopefully the last there are 3 acts in the top slot.
Joint Number 1 are :

= No.1 – Coldplay, Paralympics Closing Ceremony, Olympic Stadium, Sunday 10th September

Coldplay (centre-stage) play "Paradise" during the Paralympics Closing Ceremony, September 9th 2012, Olympic Stadium, London

Coldplay (centre-stage) play “Paradise” during the Paralympics Closing Ceremony, September 9th 2012, Olympic Stadium, London

I mentioned just before that I saw Coldplay play an athletics track in 2005. Well, they played another one this – only slightly bigger. Now I will be perfectly honest, Coldplay are not and probably never will be my favourite live band. I quite like some of their music on CD but in a normal year, it would not make me rush out and buy concert tickets. I’m sure that many in the Olympics Stadium that windy slightly chilly evening in September would have agreed. However, this was not a normal year. This was 2012. Moreover, this show came on the back of 7 glorious weeks of Olympics and Paralympics euphoria. Everything was seen in rose coloured spectacles, the only experience to which I could liken it was probably that of the Summer of Love in San Francisco, 1967 – only without the drugs. The combination of this euphoria, the spectacular set, the backdrop, the lighting, the stadium itself , the volunteers or games makers as they became known, the 80,000 spectators, the knowledge of millions watching on TV live around the world made for a powerful combination that conspired to make tracks from Coldplay such as “Yellow”,” Clocks” and “Paradise” sound epic. Rihanna’s grand entry on a pirate ship to the stage and subsequent duet with Chris Martin on “Princess of China” only added to sublimely surreal and grandiose feeling of the occasion. Was this epic £11million extravaganza worth it? You bet it was. Never mind 2012, this will go down in my Top 10 of time concerts.

=No.1 – Elton John, Peace One Day Concert, Wembley Arena, Friday 21st September

Sir Elton John tinkles the ivorie, Wembley Arena, London, September 21st 2012

Sir Elton John tinkles the Ivories, Wembley Arena, London, September 21st 2012

Sir Elton was back at his absolutely peak as he brought his rocking “A” game to this charity gig promoting Peace One Day’s objective to institutionalise Peace Day 21 September and highlight the activities of individual and organisation in bringing about peace and the reduction of violence in conflict areas. As Elton, looking relaxed and very lively, tinkled the rock ‘n’ roll ivories, he went through an anthology of seventies, eighties hits such as “Bennie and the Jets”, “ Philadelphia Freedom” and “I’m Still Standing” as well as more recent numbers like “Hey Ahab”. Yes the Rocket Man was on top form and after toe-tapping, knee-slapping and singing my way through the set, I remember coming out of the former 1948 Olympics venue (Wembley Arena) with a massive smile on my face.

=No.1 – Gotye, Hammersmith Apollo, Monday 12th November

Gotye's Musical and Cinematic Masterpiece, Hammersmith Apollo, London, November 12th 2012

Gotye’s Musical and Cinematic Masterpiece, Hammersmith Apollo, London, November 12th 2012

Had it not been for the aforementioned rocking powers of Sir Elton and the Coldplay/Paralympics Closing Ceremony combination, in another year Gotye would have been my choice pick as sole gig of the year. Most famous for this year’s world wide hit “Someone that I Used to Know”, the combination of the cinematic visual imagery, much of it involving animated characters or elements of pop art was perfectly in synch with the imaginatively crafted – sometimes darkly ethereal electro indie music of this Melbourne based artist and his band. The gig transcended music and became a piece of art. Absolutely masterful.

No.4 – Grace Jones, Lovebox Festival 10 Year Anniversary, Victoria Park, Sunday 18th July

Grace Jones bangs the Drum at the Lovebox Festival 10Year Anniversary, Victoria Park, London, July 18th 2012

Grace Jones bangs the Drum at the Lovebox Festival 10Year Anniversary, Victoria Park, London, July 18th 2012

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Up until the summer, this concert had been the frontrunner to take the top spot in 2012. Having seen Grace Jones twice before and enjoyed her gigs immensely, I didn’t think it could get any better. I was wrong. This set scaled the full gamut of Jones career from “La Vie on Rose” through to the soul-rock fusion of “William’s Blood” and for once, included a track I’d been dying to her sing live, her second UK single from 1980 – the seductively dark “ Private Life”. Jones, with her flamboyant costume and headpiece changes after virtually every song was the perfect Headliner to close the 10 year anniversary of the Lovebox festival on what was a deliciously camp final day line-up with Sam Sparro Nile Rogers and Chic & Lana Del Rey among the supporting line-up. The day felt at times like park life meets Studio 54. The 64 year old Jones demonstrated the energy of someone half her age and finished off in spectacular fashion hula-hooping her way through final song “Slave to the Rhythm”. I did not stop dancing throughout the whole gig.

No.5 Florence and the Machine, Royal Albert Hall, April 3rd

Florence and the Machine at the Royal Albert Hall, London, April 3rd 2012

Florence and the Machine at the Royal Albert Hall, London, April 3rd 2012

What I can say – Florence Welch is the darling at present of the UK art and indie rock scene. I wrote 3 years ago when I saw at the intimate Shepherd’s Bush Empire that while there still some rough edges her performances could only improve. And so it came to pass as this performance at the Royal Albert in spring saw her come of age. Taking many tracks from the aptly named 2nd album “Ceremonials” and a few from first album “Lungs” she bravely gambled on a concert where “the Machine” turned into an Orchestra and the song arrangements became classical and choral in nature. Most in the audience had not been expecting this change of style but in the context of the grandiose venue of the Royal Albert Hall, the gamble payed off and the concert was a triumph. Standing ovations all-round!

Ellie Goulding – A little bit of fizz,  A little bit of pop , A little bit of wiggle.
– Live Review from O2 Brixtion Academy, London, UK, Wednesday 12th December 2012

DSCF9291[1]Ellie Goulding' s passionate performance at London's Brixton Academy, December 12th 2012

Ellie Goulding’ s passionate performance at London’s Brixton Academy, December 12th 2012

At the end of 2009 I named my famous five of female singers who I thought would a serious impact on the UK music scene in the coming years.  The list included Florence Welch, Bat for Lashes’s Natasha Khan, Phillipa Brown from Ladyhawke , Victoria Hesketh aka Little Boots  and La Roux’s Elly Jackson.  I should have added a sixth at the time in the form of another Ellie – Ellie Goulding.

I believe the reason I didn’t was that the others had just established themselves in what proved to be a quality year for music and were already headlining their own major gigs but Ellie Goulding was still the understudy albeit a very promising one.  It wasn’t until 2010 that she broke through with the multi-selling Lights album and the cover  of Elton John’s  “Your song”.

Now, having spent a good part of 2011 touring and quietly  away from the UK spotlight, it seems she has surpassed many of contemporaries  (with exception of Florence) and has broken America with the single “Lights” – this having  registered  2 weeks in the No2 slot in the US Billboard charts and having just passed 1 year in the Hot 100.

Ellie has hardly stopped touring in the last 3 years with only a hiatus of 5 months this Spring and Summer.  She has chalked up well in excess of 230 concerst in the last 3 years which must make her one of the hardest working artists in the business.  It’s just as well she has a strong fitness regime

So out on the road again to promote sophomore album Halcyon it was to home shores to play her first gig at the Brixton Academy ably supported by another promising upcoming group Sons and Lovers.

Ellie Goulding and her band at Brixton Academy, London, UK, December 12th 2012

Ellie Goulding and her band at Brixton Academy, London, UK, December 12th 2012

Her band shuffled on stage to their instruments fairly innocuously but then there was no messing around. Ellie briefly acknowledged the crowd but went through at least 4 songs before any kind of audience conversation. Kicking off with “Don’t say a Word”,  she bashed away almost ceremonially  on the a drum with two sticks, setting an almost temple like atmosphere with the solemn yet soaring sound of synth and vocals.

Little Drummer Girl - Ellie Goulding drum up the crowd at Brixton Academy, London, UK, December 12th 2012

Little Drummer Girl – Ellie Goulding drum up the crowd at Brixton Academy, London, UK, December 12th 2012

 

The eponymous “Halcyon” was performed with heart and soul. During “Figure 8”.  Ellie moved around the stage with little bounces and skips, no mean feat given the killer 5 inch wedge heals ankle boots she was wearing; and she cutely wiggled her way through “Salt Skin”. Then, it was off with the jacket as Ellie gushed about how she’d always wanted to play the Brixton Academy and later how “mental “  it was.

Ellie Goulding goes acoustic for a song during her Brixton Academy show in London, Wednesday 12th December 2012

Ellie Goulding goes acoustic for a song during her Brixton Academy show in London, Wednesday 12th December 2012

An acoustic section was performed tidily with the majority of the audience singing-along to “Guns and Horses”.  There were folkish elements in the verses of the lyrically tender song “I Know You Care”, which contrasted with the anthemic Florence and the Machine quality of the chorus.  However, my favourite moment of the whole concert was when Ellie entreated everyone to “start moving a little” and then launched with full wiggle and supremely passionate voice into “Only You” during which she went to the edge of the stage and actually went down on her as per the lyrics of the song, finishing off with a drum bash.  Another highlight was Ellie’s slight vibrato soprano voice combined the euphoric synth hook on “Anything Could Happen”  that was simply glorious. Ending the pre-encore section with  “Lights” that morphed into a Dub-step outro, sent the teens in the audience crazy and prompted  some wild dancing at the back of the auditorium.

Ellie Goulding lets it all out - Live at the Brixton Academy, London, UK, December 12th 2012

Ellie Goulding lets it all out – Live at the Brixton Academy, London, UK, December 12th 2012

Her most popular release in the UK , Elton John’s “Your song” provoked another mass-singalong in the encore and the set finished with an energetic Ellie enthusiastically banging  her drum.  All in all – a good evening’s entertainment that fizzed and popped.

BAT FOR LASHES – SOMERSET HOUSE, LONDON, THURSDAY 16TH JULY
NATASHA KHAN PROVES TO BE HIGH PRIESTESS OF THE ELEMENTS.
In what should have been the idyllic mid-summer setting of the resplendent neo-classical Somerset House, Natasha Khan of Bat for Lashes had to contend with the full fury of the elements just as her show began. She and the crowd, many of whom did have umbrellas or waterproofs, had to contend with torrential rain, wind and at some points nearby lightning, which I am sure was the special effect intended, yet both singer and crowd proved equally resilient, sticking it out to the last.
The show opened with the haunting drum thumping “Trophy” that owes more than a nod to the influence of Björk. After that the show went quickly into works from latest acclaimed album “Two Suns”.  The lyrics from “Glass” could have come straight out of a fantasy novel and the music proved equally ethereal. Khan voice was truly awesome, especially when she hit the top end of the range. It was pure cut crystal. “Sleep Alone” could only be described as a piece of ambient electro –romanticism. For “Moon and Moon” and “Siren’s Song” Natasha returned to the piano for these soaring ballads, the latter of the two finishing with dramatic glorious piano crescendo. The singer, backed by her excellent band, returned periodically to past work such as the harpsichord inspired “Horse and I” and “The Wizard.  And indeed, dressed in a silver, purple and red cape, dark pvc and slightly shimmery looking one piece with long lengths of fur coming off the arms, she could have been taken for one. But as she performed little hops skips and jumps, around the stage for the most danceable her of her repertoire “Pearl Dream”, she more likely resembled a new age High Priestess invoking the elements. The elements did finally stop for the last song at which point Khan expressed herself grateful as finally seeing everyone’s face. Current best known song the darkly romantic “Daniel” finished off the sodden proceedings leaving everyone to reflect on what a brilliant show they had seen. Next time I see Bat for Lashes, though, it will be undercover.

ROAD WEARY JACK LIFTED BY EMPIRE CROWD FOR FINAL “GLORY DAY”  ON UK TOUR

The year 2007 has been a great for Jack Allsopp aka Just Jack who broke through into the mainstream with a number 2 single, that was used as the intro on the BBC’s Glastonbury coverage and a top ten album with his soulful funky garage style. His lyrics are well observed and intelligently written.  However, 2007 has seen spend most of his time spent on the road including visits to numerous festivals.  So like a footballer who has done one too many games in the season but know that they have to put on one good final performance in front of home fans (Jack is a Londoner), Jack and his band arrived for their ‘end of season’ gig at Shepherd’s Bush Empire like true pros. However, the Jack that emerged on stage was not the bouncy energised Jack I saw at London’s Wireless festival this summer. The show opened up with “Life Stories”  followed by “Writers Block”. These and the other tracks such as “Glory Days” in the first half were performed competently enough  but like a champagne that had been left out too long lacked a little sparkle. Nor did the rather dingy lighting help matters, especially for those seated in the upper two balcony levels of the theatre. Of interest, to those who had not heard not heard them before, Jack also performed a couple of tracks from his little known first album. Jack professed to only slowly warming to accoustic music and there, was, indeed, an interesting accoustic version of “Hold On”.  Then something remarkable happened. Encouraging a bit of crowd of participation with everyone waving there hands furiously like windscreen wipes, rather like a “game of two halves” the gig was transformed and energised along with Jack.  The funkiest beats had been saved for the second half. By the time, “I talk too much”, “Goth in a an Disco”, “No Time” and  “Disco Friends” came on, most of the Empire crowd were up on their feet, dancing and cheering (and believe me if you have ever been to Shepherds Bush Empire, you will know what a special experience that is, for both artist and audience). With everyone bouncing up and down  to Starz in their Eyes at the end of the show, even the balconies could be felt to move. The song nearly brought the house down literally. At the end, it was nice to see Jack back to his old perky self and his was clearly moved by the reception he received. When he has finshed the four shows he left to do in Europe this coming week, he can kick back,finally put his feet up and reflect on a year in which his sunny tunes and live performances gave thousands up and down a real feelgood factor.

Snow Patrol Review – O2 Arena, London, Monday 16th March 2009

The O2 Arena has never been my favourite place to watch any band. Superficially, to the un-initiated, it appears a brash cavernous temple to famous stadia filling rock bands or mainstream artists. As such it can be be a tricky place to play .  The show has to be big to fill this space and engender some kind of atmosphere. So, it was with some trepidation, I went to this concert, wondering if Snow Patrol would be up-to the job. Neither with the site of a mainly middle aged or thirty something audience, (certainly where I was sitting) many with children did my hopes rise. But appearances can be deceptive and soon all prejudices disappeared. As Gary Lightbody from Snow Patrol himself observed, this did not feel a Monday night crow but a Saturday night crowd. The band fed off this “vibe” but they prepared a show that was the equal to the size of the venue. With obviously , the new album “A Million Suns” as the central theme to the show and with the album cover image as the opening  backdrop, the Northern Irish band threw themselves into the gig with gusto with the overwordy titled first track from the new album “If there’s a rocket tie me to it”. The concert ebbed back and forth nicely between tracks from the current album to previous albums , notably Final Straw , which was also the 2nd track of the night and from which, occasionally we were to see the album cover as a animated backdrop. Then a track sung with real passion, “Hands Open” from the Eyes Open album.  There were of course, the crowd pleasing Snow Patrol classics. “Run” was particularly memorable as the O2 arena showed itself in fine voice , singing along with the acoustic start singer and then finishing with booming full band . Lead singer Lightbody was visibly overcome  and clearly emotional soaked up the deserved 5 minutes ovation awarded the band at the end. Predictably “Chasing Cars” also produced another good sing-a-long as did “Shut you Eyes” where Lightbody got a boys versus girls singing contest. This was very entertaining but it has to be said the boys out-sang the girls by about 3 to 1 in volume. Two tracks from the new albums “Crack the shutters” and “Take back the city” were edgy and the latter played thrillingly raw while all the names of Great British cities appeared one by one onto a backdrop.

The encore proved the artistic point of the show with the band playing behind a thin curtain , which was the focal point for cinematographic swirling patterns of stars , the cosmo and flowers while the band played the concept instrumental “The Lighting Strike” and “You could be happy”. There was certainly a feeling of the hypnotic about this section of the concert. But the final satisfaction went to the anthem rock lovers with the show being rounded off nicely with a barnstorming rendition of  “You’re all I have”.  There have been a few detractors of Snow Patrol of late with some accusations of the band producing only middle of the road rock. However, anyone with these thoughts should have attended the O2 and witnessed a first rate, entertaining and engaging show with plenty of  rock n roll spirit on offer.