Archive for the ‘Alternative Music’ 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.

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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.

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.

I have been to see Martha Wainwright again recently in December 2012 but pending my publishing a review of that concert I thought it would be worth republishing my review of her 2007 concert at the same venue.

I first wrote this blog in Safeconcerts.com

Martha Wainwright’s reputation for brilliant live shows was completely justified when she played the Shepherd’s Bush Empire. Wearing the higest of heels that would have challenged even the most talented top runway model, she sparkled throughout the set. The guitar was strummed with gusto as she ehtusiatically played tracks from her 2006 self titled debut album and showcased some new songs from next years forthcoming album. The variety of song styles that were peformed, ranging from the angst ridden “Ball and Chain” to the wistful “Far Away” through to the early 70’s retro-feel “GPT”, was impressive. Nor did it even seems to matter to anyone when, ironically she momentarily forgot her lines during the aptly titled song “Don’t Forget”. The moment passed with a joke and this made her seems all the more endearing to her audience. Then, in the last third of the show a treat. With a grand announcement by Martha , Pete Townsend, from the Who complete with windmill arm and his partner Rachel Fuller may a low key entrance on stage and accompanied Martha on accoustic guitar on several tracks, notably “This Life”. Townsend appearance proved the icing on an already rich cake. Nonetheless, one final surprise lay in store. The show was closed with a Piafeseque song Dis, Quand reviendras-tu? , sung entirely in French.

Given that Martha’s music is quite distinct from that of the other illustrious Wainwright of the moment, it is, probably, not fair to compare the two. However, inevitably comparisons will abound and her performance more than matched if not surpassed that of her brother. The show did not contain the classical and cabaret elements that are associated with Rufus Wainwright but the show was impressive in its range of stylistic variation that can be attributed not only to her skills as a live performer but also her song writing abilities.

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.

Gotye’s Mix of Ambient Electro Indie with a Masterful  Cinematic Backdrop proves they’re no one trick pony.

Gotye and Band perform with Dancing Skeletons on the Cinematic Backdrop, Hammersmith Apollo, London, November 12th 2012

Gotye and Band perform with Dancing Skeletons on the Cinematic Backdrop, Hammersmith Apollo, London, November 12th 2012

Most will associate Gotye with the massive international hit of the year “Someone that I used to know”.  This tune that is as catchy as it is quirky has been reigning supreme at the top many country’s charts making it one of the biggest sellers in the world in 2012.

If truth be told, it is probably the main reason why many people have been going to the see this charismatic singer from Melbourne and his band in concert and I’m sure many just expected to hear a couple of decent tunes, a bit of padding, a lot of speech and the big climax with the one big hit. But then, that’s not taking into account that Gotye’s 3rd and most commercially successful to date has also broken into the Top 10 in most major music markets.  What the audience were treated to was actually breathtakingly good.  The ambient indie electro beat as well as Gotye’s  ( aka Wouter De Backer) vocals blended seamlessly with the amazing cinematic backdrop. It really was a case of the whole being greater than the sum of its two parts.

The band eased into the performance with the very short but relaxed sound of “Making Mirrors” the title and opening track of the album followed by a far more up-tempo but mournful eastern tinged song called “The Only Way” – about the last moments of death against a kaleidoscope of smoke filled shapes.

The sombre atmosphere continued on the somewhat gloomy sounding “What do you want” in amongst which from the cinematic backdrop were the animated form of a sinister looking pin striped suited man looking  down on the audience and lip synching some of the words as well as dancing monochromatic  animated skeletons.

The atmosphere lightened considerably for “The Easy Way Out” with its meaty baseline, drums, and symphonic dashes of synth, reminiscent of early solo Peter Gabriel. This was accompanied by another animation of running figures; characters that looked like they just dropped out of the latest Akira film.

Gotye and band performs "The Easy Way Out" with Japanese Style Animation, Hammersmith Apollo, London, UK, November 12th 2012

Gotye and band performs “The Easy Way Out” with Japanese Style Animation, Hammersmith Apollo, London, UK, November 12th 2012

“Eyes Wide Open”, with an A-ha style rhythm gave us  a series of beautiful desolate cinematic landscapes  whereas “Smoke and Mirrors” saw a series of sketched figures and heads bursting out of one another like a Russian doll as well as Gotye demonstrating his prowess as a drummer at the end of the song.

But surely the highlight of the show had to be “State of the Art” whose lyrics and cinematic concept had an average animated family taken over by a keyboard entertainment centre that gets ever bigger and more powerful and takes control of the  house. The house eventually takes off into outer space, passes a bemused astronaut and when its lands the family members are eventually integrated into the system as organ pipes.  The animation is perfectly in synch, especially when the animated organ pipes mouths the words of Mr De Baker vocals. It’s an amazing piece of concept art with amazing attention to detail but then this applies to the whole concert.

The Entertainment Centre takes over. Gotye performing State of the Art at Hammersmith Apollo, London, November 12th 2012

The Entertainment Centre takes over. Gotye performing State of the Art at Hammersmith Apollo, London, November 12th 2012

The BIG HIT was, of course not neglected but neither did Gotye fall into the cliché of leaving it until the end. Cleverly, during the verse that Kimbra should sing, he fell silent and the audience picked it up very well.

The encore proved equally brilliant for the animation on the instrumental  “Seven Hours with a Backseat Driver” with a  nervous naive purple elephant strolling tentatively through a town full of various malevolent looking animals , this obviously being an allegory of a country boy in the big bad city.

The fun continued with the band going full throttle on the soul tinged 60’s rhythmed  “I Feel Better”  and “Learnalilgivinanlovin” and many up on their feet dancing in the balcony. This was an uplifting end to the show and finishing with a drumming extravaganza by Gotye and his drummer, it brought the house down.

Gotye shows off his drumming skills, Hammersmith Apollo, London, November 12th 2012

Gotye shows off his drumming skills, Hammersmith Apollo, London, November 12th 2012

I can only say that Gotye is no one trick pony.  This music and cinema in this show combined to produce a masterpiece of iconic live artistic performance that will live long in the memory.

Field Day Festival, including Django Django, Afrocubism, Metronomy, SBTRKT, Franz Ferdinand : Victoria Park,  Diamond Jubilee Weekend, Saturday 2nd June, 2012

Franz Ferdinand headline Field Day festival, Saturday 2nd June, 2012

Franz Ferdinand headline Field Day festival, Saturday 2nd June, 2012

 

Field Day festival is a one day festival aimed mainly  at the younger indie /alternative rock  lover that has been going since 2007.  As well as bands, there are village fete type activities to enjoy. There are also plenty of areas with DJ playing various genres of dance music.

Last time I was there in 2009, I found it to be a small but quality festival with grade A music, organic food from a wide variety of stalls – none of the standard rubbish fodder you get at other festivals and pleasant in terms of limited crowd numbers that gave enough for an atmosphere but were manageable.  In the 3 years since,  the festival has obviously expanded and I wonder whether it has exceeded its original parameters.

Despite this being  my first festival of the summer, I wasn’t in a great mood having had to walk a good half mile from where we entered into Victoria Park to the entrance.  It’s a elongated site and a long walk around the perimeter. On the way to the entrance, we passed a throng of people, maybe numbering in the hundreds, queuing.  Then at the entrance there were further big queues, requiring a 15 minute wait and a heavy frisk down by Security before getting in. Upon arrival, and a little bit of orientation of the site by me and niece, we decided to head for the Village Mentality stage,  to see Django  Django ,one of the band’s marked out on my niece itinerary.  There was a ridiculous number of people in the area around the tent so we were clambering, tripping and pushing our through people. No space on the left hand side, a bit more on the right but we still could not get inside because of the numbers.  Never mind, we plonked ourselves instead by a shady tree and listened from outside while getting the odd glimpse of the band through a 1000 heads and multiple poles and guy ropes.

We get a glimpse of Django Django from outside the Village Mentality tent at the Field Day festival, June 2nd 2012, London

We get a glimpse of Django Django from outside the Village Mentality tent at the Field Day festival, June 2nd 2012, London

Django Django play a abstract kind of alternative electro. Tracks like “Waveform” conveyed more of a mood than a story, almost a feeling of communing with nature.  The light African style drums rhythms juxtaposed with the mysterious sounding synth chords of “Skies over Cairo” also impressed as did the electro-rootsy blues rhythm of “Firewater”. The type of music may an acquired taste to some but personally I enjoyed it and would enjoyed a whole lot more still if only I could have fully had sight of the band during the show.

Members of Afrocubism take the well deserved audience applause at Field Day festival, June 2nd 2012, Victoria Park, London

Members of Afrocubism take the well deserved audience applause at Field Day festival, June 2nd 2012, Victoria Park, London

 

After light refreshment and a rush to answer the call of nature (where standing at the urinal staring out at bloke dressed in penguin costume proved surreal), it was back to business as we finally managed to get in to a tent and get to the front for one of the main acts that we had specially come to see, namely the cubo-malian fusion that is Afrocubism.  This group is one part members of the Bueno Vista social club and one part  leading musicians of Mali, including Kora master Tourmani Diabete . This falls into what is generally categorised as World Music, but seems quite out of place with the orientation of this festival. Nonetheless this group proves to be brilliant. There is a cast of thousands on the stage with assorted instruments including 2 trumpets , 1 rhythm guitar, a bass,  maracas, double bass, conga drums, a West African stringed instrument called the ngoni (which was played with such virtuosity by Bassekou Kouyate,  it left me speechless), the balafon – a kind of West African glockenspiel and what looked like a Tama drum. Completing the line and looking very commanding in the centre of the stage was Eliades Ochoa with his standout Cowboy hat and Cubano tres guitar and vocalist Kassy Mady Diabate, who is music royality in West Africa being not only a musician but an oral historian through his music.  His joy and love of the music was infectious as he did not stop groving and smiling all the time he was on stage. For his part Eliades Ochoa was impressive vocally with  “Al Vaimen di Mi Carreta”  and other tunes like “Mali Cuba” blended perfectly the African and Cuban instruments into a feelgood almost holiday sound. You could just imagine yourself driving under a sunny blue sky in some pretty far flung corner of the globe with smiling happy children rushing out of villages to greet you. All the musicians were top quality including the two trumpeters who performed an excellent solo. With the audience indulging insome laid back dancing , this gig transported you mentally to a happy place.

Metronomy thrill at Field Day festival, Saturday 2nd June 2012, Victoria Park, London

Metronomy thrill at Field Day festival, Saturday 2nd June 2012, Victoria Park, London

 

Then, after a quick tour of the World food stands and settling on some kind of tasty Portuguese chicken stew in a quaint plastic dish , it was back to main stage area for a final hurrah to my favourite group of the moment Metronomy.  My niece and I have already seen this group at what was foe us the concert of 2011. So, could they top or at least equal it? Not quite but they came close and put in a cracking performance nonetheless.  I immensely enjoyed myself and bopped along happily to the sounds of “The Bay” , “Corinne” and “Loving Arm” despite being considerably jostled by the usual late arrivals trying to muscle in towards the front and the drunks. The band were enthusiastic and engaging with the audience. A number in the crowd got on the shoulders of other much to the chagrin of stewards who had obviously been overcome with the current zeal of health and safety. Third time I have seen the band in a year and third time they have put on a great show. Is this group capable of a bad live performance? I don’t think so.

SBTRKT in silhouette at Field Day festival, Saturday 2nd June, 2012, Victoria Park, London

SBTRKT in silhouette at Field Day festival, Saturday 2nd June, 2012, Victoria Park, London

Going into the evening the weather took a turn for the worse; cloud started bubbling over and then a chill in the air. We raced back to the tent to try to get in to see SBTRKT but no dice. The tent was absolutely jammed, leaving us in our familiar position of standing outside, catching glimpses of the group in silhouette and some of the lighting special effects. The music was great though. Much of it was a kind of fusion of dance electronica meets dub step and techno with tracks like “Pharoahs” and “Wildfires”.  Other tracks merged these genres with soul voice like in “Never Never” and “Something Goes Right”.  By the end of the gig it had started to drizzle.

This left just one thing left to do – hang around for 50 minutes, waiting for Franz Ferdinand to come on. To pass the time and to warm up, we attempted and failed to buy a burger after another festival goer showed us how uncooked it was, ergo we settled for German sausage. Somewhat frustratingly, the server seemed incapable of knowing the difference between strong and mild mustard.

Franz Ferdinand play a tub-thumping set at Field Day festival, Saturday 2nd June, 2012, Victoria Park, London

Franz Ferdinand play a tub-thumping set at Field Day festival, Saturday 2nd June, 2012, Victoria Park, London

 

It was now chucking it down with rain so we were relieved to have the headliners start. We stood to the back out of the main throng but still had a great view. The crowd to be fair had been a little reduced by the rain. However, our position just in front of the disabled viewing platform proved to be perfect. Franz Ferdinand was absolutely cracking. Grown men danced and jumped about in the rain at the back of the crowd to tub-thumpers like “Do You Want To”, “Take Me Out”. My personal favourite “No You Girls” was delivered by the band with gusto.  There were several new tracks played including one with curious lyrics called “Fresh Strawberries” that harked back to one of the more gentle indie styles of the early 80’s .The barnstorming end  reached its climax fittingly with “Burn this City”.  We sang, we jumped, we danced with umbrellas in the heavily pouring rain. I never had so much fun.

That said although the music was great at the festival and in some cases cutting edge, a lot was wrong. They have increased the capacity in recent years and it shows. It used to be relaxed with space to move and watch the bands in a leisurely fashion – especially earlier in the day. This year, it felt like you were tripping over people and the tents were ridiculously over crowded.  Getting to food stalls and bars occasioned at times, a 20 minute wait and the amount of drunks seems to increase year on year, in spite of stewards removing bottles and cans at the entrance.  The quality of the musical line-up saved the day but all in all I cannot count Field Day as my favourite ever festival.