Archive for the ‘2000s’ Category

Elly Jackson of La Roux is achingly cool performing at O2 Empire, Shepherd's Bush, Wednesday 12th November 2014, London, UK

Elly Jackson of La Roux is achingly cool performing at O2 Empire, Shepherd’s Bush, Wednesday 12th November 2014, London, UK

It may have been 5 years since La Roux last performed at this venue but you would have known it. The wild raucous mainly teen audience of 2009 had gone to be replaced by a far more mature (some might even say old). It was almost complete transformation in the audience demographic which given the subtle changes in the musical style was surprising. Still, singer Elly Jackson, the driving force behind La Roux remains a constant. Gone was the signature large quiff and androgynous look replaced by black lounge jacket and casual beige trousers resembling David Bowie look from the Serious Moonlight tour of 1983. She still looked cool in fact effortlessly cool.
The intro was smooth on “Let me down gently” with some glorious synth riffs complementing Jackson’s intense soaring vocals. This show was all about showcasing the new songs from the excellent album “Trouble in Paradise”, notable tracks of which in the show were ” Sexotheque” and “Tropical Chancer” during which Jackson side shuffled and swayed in a very 80s style. There was a liberal smattering of hits from the first album like “Quicksand”, ” I’m not your Toy and Quicksand which closed the show with a well -deserved standing ovation from floor theatre balconies. The crowd were massively into the gig with cheers going up after every song. The gig was only about an hour and ten minutes long but the experience was so enthralling it felt like double that. This crowd pleaser was undoubtedly one of the gigs of the year but please Miss Jackson don’t leave it so long to come back next time.

Full of Melancholy -Lykke Li performs at Eventim Apollo, Hammersmith,  thursday 13th November  2014, London UK.

Full of Melancholy -Lykke Li performs at Eventim Apollo, Hammersmith, thursday 13th November 2014, London UK.

Lykke Li thanked the audience at the end of her 1 hour 20 minute performance for still being there after 7 years. Its not hard to see why. Li’s voice is very engaging; there’s a quality in it that gives the heart strings a quiver if not a full plucking. The gig was naturally themed around her new album “I never learn” which itself is a concept around loss and heartbreak. So I suppose it is a bit churlish to expect a brightly lit upbeat set. Yet, I could not help but feel that the exceptionally monochromatic lighting conveyed not heartache but rather extreme sombreness and melancholia. At times the singer was barely visible in the gloom going from dark to the occasional glimpse to shadowy profile. Her very capable band were hardly visible at all. This could been very frustrating for the less tolerant and it was just as well the emotional power of Li’ s voice and some excellent musical arrangements overcame this. There were notable moments. Opening the show, “I never learn ” was accompanied by an acoustically rich guitar and hauntingly pure vocals. “Sadness is a Blessing”had all the resemblance of atragic Shangri La’s song while “Gunshot”, although sung a couple of keys down impressed with its intensity of feeling. However none of these compared with a sublime cover of Drake’s ” Hold on, We’re going home” with a totally gorgeous synth hook. There was the odd twee bit in the show. “Never Gonna Love Again” had the audience out with the lighters and mobile phones. It was a nice touch to bring out support act Eliot Sumner (formerly I blame Coco) just before the encore “Get Some”. This proved to be the liveliest and rockiest track of the gig. Generally, this was good atmospheric gig but it could have done with lifting on occasion. A less sombre lighter mood would have gone way.

Zazie and her Band absolutely at the top of their game, Forest National Arena, Brussels, Belgium, Friday 6th December 2013

Zazie and her Band absolutely at the top of their game, Forest National Arena, Brussels, Belgium, Friday 6th December 2013

It has finally happened – the extra special performance that I have been longing for from one of my favourite French artists – Zazie has arrived. Zazie, with an eye watering real name of Isabelle Marie Anne de Truchis de Varennes served up not only one of the most intense musical experiences I have ever personally experienced but did it without overly obtrusive visual effects so that your eyes and ears were focussed firmly on the singer and her band.
Zazie first came to my attention in 1996/97 while I was living in France studying for my degree. The buses in which I used to travel around the university town of Besancon, constantly had on the radio, playing a mix of French and English pop music that was current at that time. Tunes that were frequently played included several singles from Zazie’s first commercially successful 2nd album Zen, such as “Larsen”, “Un point, c’est toi” and “Homme, Sweet, Homme”. These tunes, that juxtapose sweet tense harmonies with Zazie’s emotional almost folk-like voice, imbedded themselves on my psyche and took root.
Then in 2004, she released the album “Rodeo” which I consider to this day to be her masterwork and one of the best French language pop albums of all time. The next year in 2005 I decided to go and see her live but unfortunately the experiences were mixed partly due to the venues (in Bordeaux we could only see part of the stage) and technical difficulties (in Lille, although the set was visually iconic with Zazie arriving suspended from the ceiling on 4 straps, the sound system and occasionally the singer’s voice sounded crackly.
The year 2008 saw Zazie break new ground and come to London, playing the venerable Shepherd’s Bush Empire on my wife’s birthday weekend. New material was aired from the Album “Totem” to an overwhelmingly French crowd made up largely of expats, young French workers and students. In my favourite London venue, it should have been the perfect show. It was a good show. We had great seats in the middle of the Level 1 balcony. Zazie made some valiant attempts to speak English and there was a vibrant atmosphere particularly towards when the crowd got up and sang classics like “Rue de la Paix”. Like I said it was a good show but not quite perfect. This time it was the crowd themselves or at least the ones around me that took the shine off. I heard too many murmurings, petty criticisms and unworthy attempts at deconstruction. My frustration was palpable. I did not know if I would ever get another chance to see this great singer at her best.
Her 2010 Za7ie: l’Intégrale came and went and while interesting, at 49 tracks over 7 EPs, demanded some work and patience from the listener. Admittedly, I didn’t go to the 2011 tour in France.
Now fast forward to 2013 and the release of latest album “Cyclo”, an album with an altogether darker and grandiose feel. This album is almost as good as “Rodeo”; I knew had to go to a live show again and being the most convenient date, booked for Brussels.
All I can say is perfect, perfect, perfect.
For this show, the venue was acoustically completely right from opening number “Ou allons nous?” (where are we going) to the end.

Sometimes Zazie played a brilliant melancholy with her voice on such songs as “Les Contraires” (The Opposites) , a song which as many, throws the spotlight on the emotional differences in relationships between men and women.
At other times, delving back into her extensive back catalogue, you could feel the substantial drama put into songs like “Ca fait mal et ca fait rien” (It hurts and doesn’t matter) that explore warring relationship within a couple.
Zazie also appears as a keen observer of modern tendencies and trends. The song “Tout” with its up-tempo techno beats and club-like synth rhythms was delivered as a critique to the fast paced modern life and impatient consumer society that now extends into our private lives.
Some classics such as the 1995 release “Larsen” were heartfelt and played in full but others like “Un point , c’est toi , and “Je suis un homme” were incorporated into an amusing Brazil medley style where the Zazie’s band left their instrument to come the front of the stage and play samba drums. At one point, Zazie and the band donned pretend bishops mitre’s and sat on the edge of the stage to acknowledge St. Nicolas Day. After Zazie then went off into the audience to try and start a story going with occasionally bemused individuals in the crowd, with mixed but hilarious results.
Within the long set consisting of about 24 songs there was a liberally sprinkling from latest album “Cyclo” . “Je sais Pas” , another song that with its slow start long build-up into a crescendo projected a feeling of foreboding of a relationship coming to an end. But the title track was a masterpiece both in vocal and instrumental delivery that held me spellbound. The synth riffs were haunting and reminiscent in many ways of the dark atmosphere found in Depeche Mode songs.
The concert got into full electro dance phase with Electro-libre and an slightly more up-tempo and squeakier version of Adam et Yves than usual.
The end of the main set saw 3 live classics; first ,a note perfect version of the truly beautiful “La Dolce Vite” whose synth melody reverberated perfectly through the vast space of the circular arena like a wave; then the proper version of “Je suis un Homme”, a critique of the nature of man in society and history. Zazie exhorted the crowd to sing the chorus “Je tourne en ronde “ ( I go around in circles) to which duly obliged, same thing for next song “Rodeo” – another live classic . The crowd were singing “C’est la vie pas le paradis” long before Zazie started singing the song. All three of these songs were executed with perfect precision.
The first encore also contained crowd pleasers including the very danceable and very apt 20 ans (20 years old), considering most of the crowd were probably in their 30s and 40s, the popular singalong “Rue de la Paix” and the smooth melodic vocal harmonies of “Ca”.
The second encore and last song “J’envoie valser”was personally very special to me and my wife who was also at the concert with there with me as it was the music of our first dance at our wedding; very emotional and a perfect end to a show that was without any shadow of doubt the concert of the year 2013.

Goldfrapp perform the last leg of theeir "Tales of Us" World Tour,  Hammersmith Apollo, November 1st 2013, London, UK

Goldfrapp perform the last leg of their “Tales of Us” World Tour, Hammersmith Apollo, November 1st 2013, London, UK

Watching Goldfrapp performing can be a bit like a making a spaghetti Bolognese; you know you have all the right tasty ingredients there but depending on how you combine them and also the chef’s mood on the day, the dish could be one of the tastiest you’ve tried or something good but not exceptional. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am and remain a massive fan of the band. I have all 6 studio albums and have been to see them more times than you could shake a stick. However, while exceptionally talented and with a 4 octave voice that could melt crystal, lead singer Alison Goldfrapp’s changeable on-stage temperament could and did, in earlier years, affect the tone of the show.

As the years go by, though, and certainly evidenced by the last two shows I’ve seen – both at Hammersmith Apollo, Alison seems to have become more self assured and relaxed as a performer. The venue seemed to suit and the audience was respectful and appreciative. I’ve noticed that shows have not always worked so well in venues like Brixton or at festivals where the crowd tends to be more raucous. While parts of Goldfrapp shows can be fun and demand you get up and dance, other parts require listening rather then just hearing.

Goldfrapp’s lastest live outing was more subtle than the “In your face” loud and proud 80s style power extravaganza of 2010, and fell in line with the mood of latest album, “Tales of Us”, many tracks of which were showcased in the first half of the concert. Commencing with the first of the track of the new album “Jo”, the tantalisingly delicate strings and background synth riffs and simple piano repetition of a few notes interwove beautifully with the fragility of Alison Goldfrapp’s vocals.

The acoustic guitar melodies on tracks such as “Drew”, “Stranger”, “Alvar” and “Annabel” were well played, proving as haunting and notable as Alison voice – the perfect foil. “Stranger” and “Annabel”, in fact, almost felt as if they could have come out of the songbook of Goldfrapp’s first album “Felt Mountain”.

Alison Goldfrapp is not renowned for long chats with the audience but did take time out to explain the meaning behind some of the new songs, like the gender ambiguity behind the character in “Annabel”. In focusing on the music, the intimate lyrically rich content intricately bound up with each of the characters showcased in the songs from the new album should be not be underestimated or overlooked.

A couple more mellow moments from the Seventh Tree album in the form of “Little Bird” and “Clowns” were to follow as well the operatically tinged “You Never Know” but then the concert gave way about way in to the splendid electro-glam song tracks from 3rd and most commercially successful album “Supernature” and impressive laser effects. A section of the crowd downstairs got up and strutted their stuff (or rather wiggled) – mostly men, I think during “Number 1” but then more and more joined in for “Ride A White Horse” and “Ooh La La”. The set by now, already littered with crowd pleasers was crowned with a quite screechy rendition of “Lovely Head”, the pulsating “Train” and the deliciously sexy and euphoric “Strict Machine” with which the group have finished their set on a number of previous occasions. Great climax – a string of danceable electro-artpop numbers. Frankly, what was not to love?

The mesmerizing voice and lyrics of Alison Goldfrapp and the musical electro genius of Gregory’s compositions are as strong as ever as was the touring band. A special mention should also be made of Angie Pollock whose keyboard work was as dynamic and vibrant as ever. In fact, this final show of the tour was probably the most polished and artistically mature that I have seen from the band thus far. Long may they continue.

In 10 years of gig continuous gig going there has always been one venue that has stood out from the rest in London or anywhere for that matter. Sure, venues like Wembley or the O2 have size and scale on their side and that can lend an impressive atmosphere to the place and there are small boxy venues like the Garage or the Jazz Café that put you close up to the artist. However, for a combination of feeling being at a gig of importance but also with an intimate atmosphere, for me you cannot beat the 2000 seater, Shepherd’s Bush Empire. For these reasons, out of the 350 or so gigs that I’ve lucky enough to attend in the past ten years, 56 have been at this super cool venue. The building itself was built as an Edwardian music hall theatre in 1903 and continued in this form for the next fifty years, even surviving World War II relatively unscathed. From 1953 to 1991 it was owned by the BBC who produced many famous light entertainment shows there, including Hancock’s Half Hour, The Generation Game, This is your life and , of course famous UK chat show of the 1980s Wogan. After 3 years of renovation, the venue saw itself transform into a music venue in 1994 and next will see it celebrate its 20th anniversary as such. I was fortunate to attend during its 10th anniversary series where I saw Mike and the Mechanics and the performance was videoed. This was one among many memorable performances I saw but which made the grade to be worthy of inclusion in my Top 5. It has been very difficult to choose but finally here is my list.


Number 1 – Ray Davies, February 11th 2006

A worthy Londoner for a worthy London gig venue. In 2005, now without The Kinks since 1997, Ray Davies was on the comeback trail, recording his first commercially successful album – “Other People’s Lives – for a number of years. The hit the charts early February 2006 at the time of the gig and a seven song segment from the album was played during the show demonstrating Davies masterful songwriting and observational skills particularly in connection with London and English life. He then finished up the gig with such Kinks classics “All day and All of the Night”, “You Really Got Me”, “Waterloo Sunset” and “Lola”. I cannot describe the atmosphere so highly charged was it; the whole of the Empire audience getting to their feet, singing and dancing. Davies also received standing ovations. Without a doubt this was the greatest gig ever at this venue.

Number 2 – Kaiser Chiefs, March 4th 2007

The Kaiser Chiefs were at the height of their early powers. Ricky Wilson proudly announced at the show that their second album had just gone to No.1 in the UK charts and a week before “Ruby” had been the No.1 single. Though still a great band and one of my personal favourites, The Kaisers have never quite been able to recapture the heady triumph of those days. This gig, though, was an “I was there” moment. At one point, Mr Wilson dived off the stage into the frenetically swaying crowd which buckled under him. Standing on the first balcony was an equally unnerving experience and you could feel it moving underfoot to the vibrations of the beat and the pogoing crowd. ” I predict a riot” almost felt like one. This gig was one of the most high octane events I have ever witnessed. Fantastic energy.

Number 3 – The Human League with John Foxx supporting, December 18th 2003

This one is very special to me on a personal level for several reasons. It is the first gig I ever went to with my wife either at Shepherd’s Bush or anywhere. For all you lovers of Ultravox it also had John Foxx supporting. It was an absolute thrill to hear the glorious soaring synth of “Underpass” booming out filling up the theatre. Curiously, it’s also one of the very few times I’ve seen any trouble break in what is normally a problem free theatre. Some guy got into a row with a couple in the row below and thought it would amusing to throw a drink at her which , of course kicked things and involved the intervention of security. Just goes to prove, situations like this can arise anywhere if you’re unlikely. That said, it did not spoil our enjoyment of the League who played what was, in effect their anthology. It was great to sing along to belting tunes like “Mirror Man”, “Sound of the Crowd” and “Don’t you Want Me”?

Number 4 – The Killers (as a support act), March 5th 2004

I have already written in my previous blog entitled Londongigger’s Top 10 support acts that this was by far the best support gig I ever saw. That has not changed. With only a few hundred people in the audience, the band ran through most of the tracks from “Hot Fuss” thrilling the small crowd. None months later, The Killers were number one in the UK Album charts and the rest as they say, is history.

Number 5 – Juliette Lewis and the New Romantiques, October 23rd 2009

This gig was hard work physically and the last standing gig I did at this venue. Yes, Miss Lewis, renowned Hollywood actress and very credible rock and roll indie artist, made us work hard for a taste of her work. Standing through 4 support acts, 2 of whom were fun, 1 crap and 1 of which was so loud, I thought I’d had a free ear syringe was not the most enjoyable experience in a sardine packed crowd. However, it proved to be worth the wait and the pain on the feet as she absolutely tore the place down. Bedecked in a flamboyant outfit with feathers, and coming out with phrases like “if you’re too shy to shake your hips then shake your tits”, she exuded boundless energy , even coming down of the stage with no fear and singing and dancing with fans. It’s not everyday you see a Hollywood star do that. The gig was 65 minutes of pure mosh pitting bliss climaxing with title track of the album “Terra Incognito”. At £14 a ticket, this was probably also the Best Value for Money gig I’ve seen.

Kasabian deliver a stonking live show at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, London, June 29th 2013

Kasabian deliver a stonking live show at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, London, June 29th 2013

Being the inaugural headliner at a new venue if not a new festival was a challenge that Kasabian took up with relish. Given their credentials as a seriously good live band, it is surprising that they were not taken up by Glastonbury as a headliner. No invite so far but then Glasto’s loss was East London’s gain.
Having opted to see a resurgent Gaz Coombes (formerly of Surpegrass fame), whose slot had started late, I missed a good third of their set. So, it was disappointing to miss such gems as “Days are forgotten” “Velociraptor”. Nonetheless, from where I did pick the set – about 7 songs in and from what I saw, I can report that Kasabian were at the top of their game. Picking up the show at “I.D”, the atmosphere emitting from the 30,000 plus crowd was already very lively.
Tom Meighan, with several liberal doses of the F word declared himself to be buzzing and the band obviously were as well as they took us through the back catalogue with a couple of covers, such as The Korgi’s “Everyone’s got to learn sometime and Fat Boy Slim’s “Praise You” thrown in for good measure.
Meighan dedicated the foot-stomping classic “Empire” to Paul Weller who’d been on just before. The flashing lights and the barnstorming nature of the performance provoked a mass bounce-along in parts of the crowd while during “Fast Fuse” perfect strangers were dancing with each other and red flares were being lit. (I am sure that was in the plan of the site security).
L.S.F (Lost Souls Forever) wound up the main part of the gig with a mass audience sing-along that continued long after the band left the stage.

The crowd show flare at the  Kasabian Concert, London, June 29th 2013

The crowd show flare at the Kasabian Concert, London, June 29th 2013

After a short break the fun continued with “Switchblade Smiles” and a high energy version of “Vlad the Impaler”. Just to mix it up a little the band finished with a version of The Crazy World of the Arthur Brown’s “Fire” .
As evidenced by this live performance, Kasabian continue to grow in stature as a band. They take influences from across the decades, mix them up into cocktail and come out with a special flavour every time. This is the band Oasis would have liked to have been had they not got stuck in retro. Moreover, I do not believe Kasabian have yet reached their peak. Simply, for the creativity and the raw energy they generate at live performances they are one of the best live bands around. When they do reach their peak they will the best band in the country. That day is not far off. Watch out Muse.

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Killing Joke, were absolutely at the top of their game for their 34th/35th anniversary concert at The Forum, Kentish Town, March 16th 2013.

It was with some dedication that I made it to the gig tonight from my part of the Capital in East London to this oft difficultly accessible enclave of North London. After having to plan my route around part of the tube stopped for engineering works and 2 major traffic jams, including one leading right up to the venue, time was against me. I eventually gave up, got off the bus and walked at a pace the last half mile through the drizzly streets. But there was no I was going to miss this event; Killing Joke is one of the grandees of industrial rock and were playing their 35th or as lead singer Jaz Coleman claimed, their 34th anniversary concert (there is still some debate about this) and this was going to be the anthology night.
I arrived at the intimate 2000 seat art deco venue very late, resigned to getting a less than ideal view. In the end I was surprised to find a good place in the balcony seating area just in front of the standing area, so it was possible to both sit and stand without impeding anyone else’s view. Believe me, the energy that was to be released at this concert perfect proved it necessary to have both options; standing because there were songs you just wanted to freak out on and seating because you drained so much energy, a breather was needed from time to time, especially at my age. Jaz Coleman was his typically outspoken self, though a fellow fan remarked that he had mellowed considerably; the 3 surviving original band members Geordie Walker, Martin Glover and Paul Ferguson and their additional tour members were rock solidly tight . The band played sometimes as if their lives depended on it. This was a loud powerful in your face concert, that demanded engagement and to that end was reminiscent in terms of its raw energy of the sex pistols 2007 reunion concert at Brixton. On that occasion, I was in the main part of the crowd towards the front in the middle of the mother of all mosh pits. The Killing Joke concert had a manic mosh and particularly went wild during some of the most iconic tracks such as “Love Like Blood”, and “Eighties”. I was grateful to be out of this but I still put in my fair share of fist pump and chanting. “Eighties” song also recalled some of the controversial figures and moments of that decade on two big screen on either side of the auditorium.
Coleman made several controversial (depending upon your point of view) references including; berating the use of mobile phones, i-pod and and i-pad before launching into “The Beautiful Dead Play; telling the audience that he that money never had been and never would be his governor – that proceeded the song “Money is Not our God”; fierily raising the issue of children living under the poverty line and then playing “Corporate Elect”. The pre-encore section culminated with a tub-thumping rendition of “Pandemonium” that had every one cheering and the whole place wanting much more. The band duly obliged with 4 more songs.
Now, in previous reviews I sometimes go into a description of individual songs. On this occasion, there is no point. The lyrics like the music are often highly charged and carry many carry a amti-establishment message. So I will confine myself to listing the songs in order. What this concert was about was raw energy that from the point of view of the senses picked you up, slapped you about and threw you down. It was about letting loose and about celebrating the 35 years or so of a cult band that has had influence on the likes of such rock luminaries as The Foo Fighters, Metallica, Nine Inch Nails and Faith No More, to name but a few.
This was gig demanding but utterly engaging and sensational. I am still buzzing several days later.
Set List
1.Requiem; 2 Turn to Red; 3) Wardance; 4)European Super State; 5)Love Like Blood; 6)The Beautiful Dead; 7) This World Hell; 8) Empire Song; 9) Chop-Chop; 10) Sun Goes Down; 11)Eighties; 12)Money is Not our God; 13) Whiteout; 14) Asteroid; 15) The Wait; 16)Corporate Elect; 17) Pandemonium; Encore : 18) Follow the Leaders; 19) Tension;
20) Change; 21) Psyche;