Archive for the ‘Concerts of 2007’ Category

This review was orginally published in 2008 following the Human League’s triumphal December 2007 tour of their most recognized album Dare.

Twenty-six years after in January 1982 The Human League stood at No1 in the UK album charts with their album Dare, the audience were treated to the first performance ever of this work in its entirety and went away completely satisfied. Blending haunting robotic synth riffs, pop melodies and accessible lyrics, the album was and remains a breakthrough, representing the transisition from art based abstract sythesiser music and to the melodic synth pop of the eighties. This genre has now been revived in modern Indie rock and electonica of the 2000’s but the League were most definitely one of its original exponent.

From the moment the show opened with The ThingsThat Dreams Are Made Of (the first track on “Dare”) large sections of the audience were up moving in typicial 80’s style or wiggling in the trademark style of singers Susan Sulley and Joanne Catherall as the League moved relentlessly in strict order through the album, which of course contained many soaring hits such as Open your Heart, Sounds of the Crowd and Love Action. 80’s iconography flashed behind with images of personalities such as Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan. The slower tempo “I am the Law” gave a brief respite before the finishing the first part of the show on the hit that sealed their place in world pop history “Don’t you want me” which prompted a mass singalong from, at least, the 1000 or more dads present.

During the 10 minute break the musicians kept playing while Oakey, Sulley and Catherall changed into something more comfortable. In the case of Phil Oakey this consisted of a lounge suit and nothing more then glitzy shimmering very short cocktail dresses for Sulley and Catherell who looked fantastic . This costume change added class and sexyiness in equal measure to the proceedings. In the second part there was no experimenting with songs from recent albums as in the 2003 tour. They gave the public what they wanted and it was greatest hits all the way. A belting rendition of the League’s first venture into political pop, the still highly relevant The Lebanon was followed by 1986 hit Human. To the delight of a happy crowd they closed with Mirror Man. In the encore Oakey truly rolled back the years with the trance –like Being Boiled – the League first single release 30 years ago , then finished in triumphant fashion with the Giorgio Moroder penned Together in Electric Dreams. Not even an unwelcome intruder on the stage right at the end could spoil the overall feelgood nostalgia factor that emanated from this truly special gig celebrating “Dare” an album that some commentators have called synthpop’s equivalent of Sgt Pepper.

as first featured on the Safeconcerts.com website

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.

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.

Seeing a well known band from yesteryear with only one of its original members, can bring a sense of trepidation. However those attending the 10cc concert at Shepherd’s Bush Empire on Friday need not have worried. After an inauspicious start where the lights came down but no group appeared on stage for a few minutes the gig sparked into life with a low key rendering of “Wall Street Shuffle” but then tempo shifted upwards and f the audience was treated to a cascade of 10cc’s classic 70’s, including the “The Things We do for Love”, the surreal “I’m Mandy Fly Me”, and the wordbending “Life is a Minestrone”. Particularly memorable for the great interplay between Grahame Gouldman’s bass and Rick Fenn’s guitar was “Art for Art’s” sake.  A pleasant surprise was the cameo appearance of Kevin Godley, singing the poetic, if somewhat long “Beautiful.com”. Fitting a 60’s section into the mid-point of the show  with such hits “No Milk Today” (Heman’s Hermits) , “For your Love” (The Yardbyrds) and “Bus Stop” (The Hollies) made you realise and appreciate the longevity and breadth of Gouldman’s career. There was even time to fit in Wax’s 1987 “Building a Bridge to your Heart” before relauching into 10cc biggest hits. The harmonies in “I’m not in love were”. The show moved towards a climatic end in “Dredlock Holiday”, Gouldman declaring “I don’t like London ….. I love it”.  “Rubber Bullets” at the encore caused more than a few ripple of  girating movement amoung the attentive and mature audience and as well as proving a showcase for the considerable vocal talents of new  peripheral member Mick Wilson. The band looked relaxed and came across as genuinely enjoying playing the music. This was a polished performance and the group were ably supported by Kiki Dee.The names may have changed over the years but with the current the line-up the spirit of  the orginal 10cc is very much alive and well.

THE CHRISTIANS, MILLFIELD ARTS CENTRE, EDMONTON, LONDON, MARCH 2ND 2007  (as first reviewed in Safeconcerts. Com)

(This was my first ever independent review at the time. I’d done a couple for Blues and Soul magazine and one was about to be published a few after this review in a daily newspaper. Its also one I’m proud. In a tiny theatre not holding more than 300 The Christians rocked out and played their anthology like it was an arena concert. What an amazing experience to be there and I got to say Hello to Gary Christian afterwards)

It has been 20 years since The Christians scored their first major single success with Forgotten Town. This seminal track marked their move into pop’s premier league being regarded as the leading exponent of British Soul in the late 1980’s whose lyric’s provided edgy social commentary. This lead to a successful debut album and a No.1 UK album Colours and a successful European Tour in 1990. So, its was strange to see a grossly underated and talented group playing in a 400 seat theatre. That said, the small venue and a dreary rainy night outside did not dampen the quality of the performance inside. This gig proved to be a greatest hits fest for those priviledged enough to be present. “Whats in a word”, “Born Again”,  “Ideal World” were all on the classic menu. The haunting arrangement of “Words” was particular memorable.  The only modern deviation was “Prodigals Sons” from 2003. In between songs, there was also some entertaining banter. Tongue  firmly in cheek, Garry Christian bemoaned the hardships of ageing by citing the difficulty of climbing the stairs, to which a member of the audience cheekily riposted “Buy a bungalow”.  Through his warm and generous personality he managed to get a somewhat aged audience to sing a along (if somewhat, shakily)  to “The Bottle” and up onto their feet to clap and move to Harvest for The World (no small feat). A grand performance was finished fittingly with perhaps their most socially incisive and anthemic song “Hooverville”.  Throughout,backed by an enthusiatic and competent band,  Garry Christian’s  rich soulful voice was mesmerising and transcended the humble surroundings.  In an era when so many former 80’s band are jumping on the revival bandwagon, The Christians really are a band that deserve to be rediscovered.