Archive for the ‘Concerts of 2009’ Category

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.

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.

Three years ago today, March 25th 2009, I got the chance to witness the singer and model VV Brown performing one her quirky set when she had just started to promote the Travelling like the Light album at the pocket size Bush Hall in Shepherd’s Bush,West London. Although she had been tipped to be one of the new sound of 2009, she was still a relative unknown.  We were even given a free promotional EP at the end.  Here is the review I did for Blues and Soul Magazine.

VV Brown at Bush Hall, March 27th 2009

Quirky and Original VV Brown performs at Bush Hall on March 25th 2009

VV Brown, Bush Hall, London, March 25th 2009

Vanessa Brown, the 24 year old English London based songstress is surely plotting her upward course. She has, evidently, come a long way since parting company with her former record company and returning toLondonfromLos Angeleswith little money two years ago and has been widely tipped by music industry insiders as a future great. But before all that – the hard work of getting there. And that involves playing at such unique stepping stones like the diminutive Bush Hall.

This is a venue that tends to sort the wheat from the chaff. And like many who have played previously, VV Brown  was not the first to fall victim to the whims of the sound system, which had been excessively tuned and tinkered with for a future Channel 4 recording.  The zealous pre-show sound-check did not prevent the mike from failing for the singer’s first number “Crying Blood” and even then when vocal mike did come back on line, the booming sound from the band on the deeply funky edgy bass and an equally piercing treble balance threatened to drown the singer altogether

VV Brown puts her heart and sould into the gig at Bush Hall, London, March 29th 2009

VV Brown puts her heart and sould into the gig at Bush Hall, London, March 25th 2009

on the aptly named next track “Game Over” as VV tried to animate the crowd.

Not a very auspicious start but then something happened. As if suddenly coming out of a muffled fog, her voice, conveying in equal measure sweetness and drama, came shining through, to the train-like beat of “Bottles”.  This dramatic sentiment was also pushed much further in “Back in Time” as the soulful drama ridden angst in her voice combined beautifully with the indie- rich minor chords on the keyboard that slid eloquently down the scale. There were also more upbeat up-tempo numbers paying homage to the bubblegum era of the 60’s such as the infuriatingly catchy “Quick Fix” , where all you wanted to do was to get down and Twist, as well as VV’s single Single of the Moment “Leave” .  What made VV’s 40 minutes set so endearing and original, though, was her style that encompassed so many genres and fusions of style. Nowhere was this demonstrated more so than with probably the most engaging version of The Smiths “This Charming Man” that I have ever heard. Though, this was  probably not the best gig she has done to date in terms of sound quality,  VV did all she could to engage with the small 200 person audience and nonetheless made this mid-week gig a very enjoyable one for a wizened old critic. I look forward to seeing her again in the future.