Archive for June, 2013

Zaz Pizazz at Scala, London, UK June 12th 2013

Zaz Pizazz at Scala, London, UK June 12th 2013

Having chalked up from her first two albums, 10 top 5 places in 5 European countries including 5 No.1 spots, Mademoiselle Isabelle Geffroy, better known by the stage name of Zaz, had every reason to be smiling as she hit the London lights at the Scala venue in King’s Cross. Blending a variety of different styles in her set ranging from old “chanson Française” to folkish ska rhythms through to ballads and jazz fusions, 33 year old Zaz has had a steady rise since breaking through in France in 2010 picking up a European Border Breakers Award in 2011 along the way. She is now a well-known established European artist.
Since Zaz has not yet reached the mainstream of these shores and as she sings almost completely in French (with the odd Spanish language thrown in), you were left to wonder why London was a destination on the tour in the first place. Sure, there were a lot of french people, some of whom had queued for several hours to get the best places at the front in the 1000 capacity. But certainly there also a significant minority of English speakers.
Always smiling, Zaz, started with “Les Passants” (The Passers by), arranged in a light folk jazz fusion whose lyrics reflected upon the rush of everyday life , the passing of time and personal growth from this. In fact, the interpretation of free spirit is a theme that Zaz would return to a number of times in songs during the set, notably in her current single On ira (Let’s go) and best known track “Je veux”, (I want).
Also notable was her use of scatting during a number of songs such as Je Saute (I jump).
Slightly more poppy was “La Fée” where the band tried to work up the audience to sing vocal instrumental bit of the song to only limited success. There was a much better attempt at working the crowd into another number where Zaz got 3 sections of the audience to sing in melody. The bulging crowd did a lot of work that evening, one audience member even going so far as to translate the detailed synopsis Zaz gave her of the story behind Piaf song “Dan La Rue”. You couldn’t help thinking that the poor soul should have been on a commission rate. Still, it was needed. it was evident neither Zaz nor her band’s command of English was the best, in particular unwittingly mixing up the words joke and play.
Zaz was to perform another classic Piaf “La Vie en Rose” very competently with an up-tempo beat from the band as well as a very chilled-out cover of Jacques Cabrel’s “Petite Marie”.
The end of the show was wound up in a very lively fashion with Ni Oui Ni No (Neither Yes or No), a lot of jumping which only added to the sweltering humidity in the building and proper rock track “Auz Detenteurs”. Zaz was also to give an impromptu stint on the drums.
Zaz’s enthusiasm for the show was infectious and she was backed up by an excellent band. However , the sheer number of the crowd made the venue feel small and cramped. In addition, at times, particularly while doing the links to the songs in French, she struggled with the incessant crowd chatter which I personally found irritating . Next time, I see her it will have to be in a bigger venue or nothing but this lively charming singer definitely is worth seeing again.

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Siouxsie leaves us Spellbound in her Happy House.

Siouxsie commands the stage at Yoko Ono's Meltdown, Royal Festival Hall, London, June 17th 2013

Siouxsie commands the stage at Yoko Ono’s Meltdown, Royal Festival Hall, London, June 17th 2013

Widely regarded as one of the most influential artists of the late 70s and early 80s post punk scene, it’s been 5 years since Siouxsie Sioux graced these shores with a performance. But after the thrilling treat that was put on for the audience on Monday night, the organiser’s behind the year’s Meltdown festival as well as the curator herself Yoko Ono must be very glad at having sent the invitation.
And there was no messing about; the scene was set with a stage backdrop of giant venetian blinds and a lighting display that flashed through the colour spectrum giving a alternate felling dinginess and a faint air of seediness. Siouxsie was simply stunning in her white latex outfit as she prowled about the central stage, totally in command of her craft and kicking off with a barmstorming rendition of “Happy House”. But this was no ordinary show . I did not twig until she came and said “Is everyone ready to get kaleidoscopic”. Much to my surprise she and her backing band played the whole of the Banshees 1980 3rd album “Kaleidoscope” in full and in order. It was dark, wondrous and atmospheric but also slightly surreal being staged in a grand orchestral setting of the Royal Hall festival. Futhermore, the exotic goth/punk element that I had expected never arrived (with a handful of exceptions), having giving way to the sensibly attired crowd of a certain age. Still, that not stop sections of the crowd,especially towards the front, from over-exhuberance. Siouxsie flashed her anger at someone in the audience, looked fearsome and used the f-off expression.
No matter, it played to the image rock and punk image and it passed as quickly it arrived. After 10 minute interlude, the pace and exuberance stepped up again as we were treated to Banshees greatest hits in succession “Israel”, “Arabian Knights”, “Cities in Dust” and biggest hit “Dear Prudence written, of course, by John Lennon. There was much air punching and singing-along by swathes of the crowd, quite at odds with the formal surroundings but close your eyes, you could imagine yourself back in the early 80s when Siouxsie and the Banshees reigned supreme in the indie charts.
Fine material from Siouxsie’s debut 2008 solo album – Mantaray was also dusted off for a re-hearing. “Loveless” played out like an electro-gothic tragedy tinged folk elements. “Into a swan was delivered forcefully” and “Here comes that day” would have fitted in nicely to an Adele or Shirley Bassy back catalogue.
This magical musical evening from the undisputed queen of post-punk was rounded off in an unequivocal style by a pummelling rendition of “Spellbound”. This surely has to be a contender for gig of the year.

The Sounds of Change (Chime for Change) Concert at London's Twickenham Stadium, June 1st 2013, UK

The Sounds of Change (Chime for Change) Concert at London’s Twickenham Stadium, June 1st 2013, UK

Americans steal the show at the Sounds of Change (Chime for Change) benefit concert, Live review from Twickenham Stadium, London, UK, Saturday 1st June 2013, featuring Beyoncé, Ellie Goulding, Timbaland, Jennifer Lopez, Haim, John Legend, Florence and the Machine, Laura Pausini, Rita Ora, Iggy Azalea, Jessie J

Jessie J at the Sounds of Change (Chime for Change) Concert, June 1st 2013, London, UK

Jessie J at the Sounds of Change (Chime for Change) Concert, June 1st 2013, London, UK

Iggy Azalea and dancers shake a leg at the Sounds of Change (Chime for Change) concert, London, June 1st 2013,UK

Iggy Azalea and dancers shake a leg at the Sounds of Change (Chime for Change) concert, London, June 1st 2013,UK

Rita Ora shimmers at the Sounds of Change (Chime for Change) concer, London, June 1st 2013, UKt

Rita Ora shimmers at the Sounds of Change (Chime for Change) concer, London, June 1st 2013, UKt

Laura Pausini appears a tad chilly with an overcoat and scarf, Sounds of Change (Chime for Change) concert, London, June 1st 2013, UK

Laura Pausini appears a tad chilly with an overcoat and scarf, Sounds of Change (Chime for Change) concert, London, June 1st 2013, UK

Famous pop names came together at London’s national home of rugby – Twickenham Stadium on Saturday for Sounds of Change , a Gucci sponsored event that was as much about the political message as the music. That message was essentially about female empowerment and was drilled home to a 50,000 strong crowd and so, it was claimed, to global audience of 1 billion in 159 countries with a series of thought provoking short docu-videos and speeches from activists and A list celebrities such as Selma Hayek, Jessica Chastain and Madonna, the latter of whom vociferously challenged the audience “to commit to my revolution”.
These messages were interspersed throughout the musical interludes from range of pop artists leaning towards the commercial but occasionally going leftfield with contributions from Florence and the Machine and BBC Sound of 2013 winner – Haim.

Angelic vocals from Florence Welch and accompanied by her classical machine, Sounds of Change (Chime for Change) concert, London, June 1st 2013, UK

Angelic vocals from Florence Welch and accompanied by her classical machine, Sounds of Change (Chime for Change) concert, London, June 1st 2013, UK

Musically, although the billing gave a relatively even spread of UK and US artists, there is no doubt the wow factor (with the exception of Florence Welch) belonged to our over-the-pond cousins who stole the show. Each artist up until Jennifer Lopez performed about 3 or 4 songs . True Brit Jessie J kicked off the concert with the anthemic “Price Tag” and was creditable enough. Newcomer Iggy Azalea was probably too new for most people as many in the audience struggled to recognise her, though her dancing troupe was impressive enough. Italian superstar Laura Pausini, who in a heavy coat, looked more like she was dressed for winter gave a high powered performance with “Io canto” (I sing) to the delight of many enthusiastic banner waving Italians in the crowd. Spangly dressed Rita Ora was, what I can say, er, Rita Ora and no, I am no fan of heavily electronically based R n B, in case you hadn’t guessed. She performed her big hits “Hot Right Now” and “RIP” and at least the kids in the crowd seemed to enjoy it. The only Brit that really held up her end up well was Florence Welch who sang an abridged rendition of the classical music version of “You Got the Love” that was almost identical to the one described in my review of Florence at the Royal albert hall last year. She also performed “Dog Days are over” where the crowd did not prove equal to clapping in rhythm – the cause of much hilarity. Florence’s voice though, as usual was impeccable as it effortlessly filled the humongous stadium and once again caused the hairs on the back of my neck to stand up. Less impressive was Ellie Goulding who had the unenviable task of filling the slot between Timbaland and headliner Beyonce. Though probably not her fault her usually distinct and penetrating voice struggled to make headway over the erratic and at times crackly sound system (at least from where I was sitting).

John Legend lives up to his name, Sounds of Change (Chime for Change) concert, London, June 1st 2013, UK

John Legend lives up to his name, Sounds of Change (Chime for Change) concert, London, June 1st 2013, UK

Haim give out sisterly attitude, Sounds of Change (Chime for Change) concert , London, June 1st 2013, UK

Haim give out sisterly attitude, Sounds of Change (Chime for Change) concert , London, June 1st 2013, UK

J-Lo is back at the Top of her Game, Sounds of Change (Chime for Change) concert, London, June 1st 2013, UK

J-Lo is back at the Top of her Game, Sounds of Change (Chime for Change) concert, London, June 1st 2013, UK

The star turns really commenced with the arrival of John Legend on the stage who achieved the rare feat of successfully performing ”Bridge over Troubled Waters” while not being Simon and Garfunkel, so much so that it got the first ripples of a sing-a long going. But it was the song “Ordinary People” that really put a mellow vibe into the Twickenham crowd.
That may have given a pleasant chilled out feeling but Jennifer Lopez was second only to Beyonce as the star turn of the evening. The moment J-Lo stepped on stage with her dance troupe; it was like a bolt of electricity coursing through the stadium. Doing what American artists do best she worked it in a well-choreographed sexy vibrant set. Booties were shaking and numbers were being sung along to all over the stadium especially during “Love don’t Cost a Thing” and 2011 hit “On the Floor”. But without a shadow of doubt the highlight of the day was the surprise duet of “Come Together” with Mary J Blige.
Timbaland gave a crowd rousing performance of some his collaboration songs like “Promiscuous” and “The Way I Are “only without some of his collaborators which felt a bit strange – the exception being Simon Le Bon who put in a cameo appearance on a re-worked version of “ The Reflex”.

Timbaland works up the crowd, Sounds of Change (Chime for Change) concert, London, June 1st 2013, UK

Timbaland works up the crowd, Sounds of Change (Chime for Change) concert, London, June 1st 2013, UK

Despite sound issues, Ellie Goulding pulls it off, Sounds of Change (Chime for Change) concert, London June 1st 2013, UK

Despite sound issues, Ellie Goulding pulls it off, Sounds of Change (Chime for Change) concert, London June 1st 2013, UK

Then after Ellie Goulding, it was time for the main act– the Artistic Director of this event – Beyonce herself. She strolled down casually but purposefully down the centre of the stage flanked on her right by a 6 player string section. The concert did not follow the lines of the current Mrs Carter world tour. Instead, echoing the political theme of the event she started with an impeccably delivered version of “A Change is Gonna Come”. The string accompaniment gave a relaxed air to the opening. This vibe continued with a cover of Etta James’s “At last”.

Beyoncé - Star turn of the show,  Sounds of Change (Chime for Change) concert, London, June 1st 2013, UK

Beyoncé – Star turn of the show, Sounds of Change (Chime for Change) concert, London, June 1st 2013, UK

The set shifted up gear with “Run the World” (a very appropriate song for the event ) and thereafter it was hits all the way with “Survivor” , “Irreplaceable” with the slightly naff “To the left , to the left” hand movement done on mass by the 50,000 crowd , “If I were a Boy” and “Crazy in Love”, which saw Jay –Z make a quick appearance to do the rapping part and give his wife a quick peck on the cheek. The crowd obviously went wild to this. As we moved through the reduced hour long set, the lights dazzled and flashed, the choreography was energetic and slick and the crowd on one occasion forgot the words on a sing-a-long. However, at times, it felt like a roller coaster ride as there several interludes where more videos were played concerning worldwide womens’ issues – good for getting your point across but it does kind of dampen the flow of the concert. Nonetheless, we are talking Beyonce here and such was the quality of the performance that you were not going to come away feeling short changed. The last songs “I Will Always Love You” which “Mrs Carter” dedicated to Whitney Houston and “Halo” gave the Twickenham audience a rousing send off.

Tour de Force -Beyoncé's set reinforces the message of female empowerment, Sounds of Change (Chime for Change) concert , London, June 1st 2013, UK

Tour de Force -Beyoncé’s set reinforces the message of female empowerment, Sounds of Change (Chime for Change) concert , London, June 1st 2013, UK

I am not generally a great lover of mixing politics with music (other than in the lyrics of songs) but this show was well-constructed, the messages concerning women’s empowerment were balanced and put forward an important issue in a succinct and informative way, stopping just the right side of being preachy. Another nice touch was that all the proceeds from the tickets sales go to women’s projects and you can chose which you want the value of your ticket to go to. Did this benefit concert achieve what it set out to? Yes, I think so. Musically, it please most of the people most of the time and got its message out about the importance of world-wide female education and empowerment.