Archive for the ‘Concerts of 2012’ Category

Birdy and Band take the well deservd applause at the end of the Shepherd's Bush Empire shoe in London, September 11th 2012

Birdy and Band take the well deservd applause at the end of the Shepherd’s Bush Empire shoe in London, September 11th 2012

Jasmine van den Bogaerde aka Birdy is already carving a quite a name for herself as a musician at the sophisticated end of pop. At the tender age of just 16, when most of her peers could be contemplating the first steps of their future career options, it is quite clear that Birdy’s route already has well laid foundations. Winner of the UK Open Mic competition in 2008, Birdy’s young career continues to scale new heights with her current single “People help the People” recently having reached the Europe Top 20 singles charts and residing in the Top 5 in Germany and Switzerland; and the previous single “Skinny Love” sitting pretty at No.6 in France.
Although, her eponymous debut album of mainly covers (the exception being “Without A Word”) has hit the top spot in a number of countries including Australia, the classically trained pianist has not had quite the same level of success in the UK, despite a Top 20 place.

This, however, should not detract from the quality of her live performances which from all evidence from September’s show at Shepherd’s Bush Empire will see her grow in stature in the future. Supported by a multi-instrumental band, including a drummer, a cellist, acoustic guitar player and guitar/bass player (these latter two also doubled up on keyboards), Birdy walked on purposefully for the few steps to her baby grand piano, sat down with arms outstretched at the keyboard in the style of a classical music concert and waited for the auditorium to quiet a little before beginning.

Birdy at play on the Baby Grand, Live at Shepherd's Bush Empire, London, September 11th 2012

Birdy at play on the Baby Grand, Live at Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London, September 11th 2012

She may have sat rigid at the piano appearing at times quiet and slightly apprehensive but the remarkable thing was that each track was delivered with crystal clarity as if it had come straight off the album. “Shelter” was tinged with an air of emotional regret and was completely absorbing. “Without a word” with its lyrics about a couple on the verge of splitting up and powerful delivery, indicted her future strength as a ballad writer and the piano hook on “The District Sleeps Alone” literally had me hooked.
It was shame that there was practically no interaction with the audience apart the odd hushed “Thank you” but then given the quality of the music, was it really necessary? The memorable moments were the songs and their arrangements , like the chilled out slightly euphoric feel of “Young Blood” (yes the one from the CanonTV commercial) and the heart string tugging “People Help the People” with the melancholic mellow cello bridge which I regard as a new modern classic.

By the time the encore came with “Skinny Love”, most of the 2000 hearts at Shepherd’s Bush Empire had melted.
Birdy still has some way to go to improve on stagecraft and audience interaction. To be frank, positioning the piano way out on stage right instead of centre was distracting as was, at times, the gyrations of band members who probably thought they had to fill the void of movement. Nonetheless, the musical performance was flawless with Birdy’s voice and the musical arrangements emotionally captivating. Birdy and her band have taken these indie covers and put innocence and soul into them that produces a mesmerising effect when performed live. I can only see great things ahead for this young talent.

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Beth Hart rocks out the Forum, Kentish Town, London, November 16th 2012

Beth Hart rocks out the Forum, Kentish Town, London, November 16th 2012

Beth Hart’s exuberance was a delight to watch as she came bounding onto the the Forum stage looking very excited. Mind you, with the audience having been kept waiting longer than expected, you could feel the crowd getting fidgety as some small ripples of slow-handclapping were heard. Not to worry, it was worth the wait as Beth was to prove. Practically bursting onto the stage, Beth started off with a relaxing piano ballad with “With You Everyday” but soon went into hot rocking mode and after that her energy knew bounds. The atmosphere cranked up with “Better Man”, a mid-tempo rock ballad – with a tinge of drama whose deliciously accusatory lyrics to a no good old flame revolve around description of life in a better relationship.

From then she had so such much enthusiasm she looked like she was going to explode. Two awesome americana rock songs followed – “Well Well” and “Delicious Surprise” that saw Beth, dressed in a knee length red dress marching and gyrating around different parts of the stage like she was about to burst. But then bringing the tempo right back down, she demonstrated her vocal versatility and subtlety on “Caught Out in the Rain” with a raw soulfulness akin to that of Randy Crawford at her height. As she smooched and swooned in front of the blues guitar, the solo was from this instrument was sublime.
There was humour too. While introducing the song “The Ugliest House on the Block” Beth recounted a story of her and her husband needing to find a cheap place to stay in Los Angeles , finding a cheap place online and it being horrible but stated that they are living still there.
Other highlights included a thrilling performance of Something’s Got A Hold of Me” with such an up-tempo beat that it could have come out of a Tina Turner songbook and the jaunty piano rock of title track of her latest album Bang Bang Boom Boom.

Then just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, as gift for the British audience , Beth and the band blasted us in the encore with a full-on version of Led Zep’s Whole Lotta Love .
We thought that was it and many started to leave but Beth came back to her piano and sang one last glorious tune “My California” conveying a glorious soulful feeling of nostalgic homesickness, that a London crowd could appreciate. This was a truly magnificent gig from Beth Hart and a long one at just over 2 hours. “Thank god you came” she said almost in a whisper at the end of the song as a compliment to the crowd. No Beth, it is for us to thank you for coming.

Londongigger’s Live Performance Song of the Year 2012 – Billie Jean (Terra Naomi Acoustic version)

I have been priviledged to see many suberb songs performed live this year. These included Cristina Perri’s “Jar of Hearts” followed by straight up “Tragedy” , both of which provoked a heartfelt singalong by the audience at my opening gig of 2012 in January at Shepherd’s Bush Empire. “Band on the Run” and “Hey Jude” had a similar response at Sir Paul McCartney’s Teenage Cancer Research Trust concert at the Royal Albert Hall in March. Sir Elton John’s “Rocket Man” got people out of their seats at Wembley Arena and swaying in the aisles in September and for their closing song at their O2 Arena gig in November, Keane’s new song “Sovereign Light Cafe” was personal and heartfelt.

However, none of these worthy performances could match with the song I have chosen as my personal Live Performance Song of the Year. That accolade goes this year to the lovely Terra Naomi whose dark and solemn acoustic rendition of Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean was as beautiful and unexpected as it was subtle. I saw her perform this amazing version at her London gigs in February and October London and was priviledged to meet her after the show. The clip below is taken from the Wolverhampton show but it gives you the idea.

Londongiggers’ Top 5 London Gigs of the Year 2012

The last two years have been pretty much dominated by Art Rock and alternative bands with Fever Ray and Metronomy taking the crown in 2010 and 2011 respectively, so who does this year’s accolade belong to. Well, it’s been an extra-ordinary year, in fact, ranking as one of the best ever and certainly up there with 2005 and 2009 which I count as my two best ever for live music.

To give you some idea of the calibre of those years – top of the tree for 2005 was U2 with a no-holds bar show at the Millenium Stadium in Cardiff, Wales on their Vertigo tour and for 2009, the Blur reunion at Hyde Park, London.

Now as I have mentioned Cardiff which is clearly not in London at which, as my nom de plume suggests, most of live music experiences take place, I have to explain that when you cannot get tickets to see an artist in your home town because of exceptional demand, you go where you can. Occasionally I do venture to venues outside London and even abroad if required.
Now that I’ve that cleared up, I will digress for a moment into recalling this amazing venue that is the Millenium Stadium. The proud of home of Welsh international rugby matches and former FA cup final venue with its 70000 plus capacity, produced the most excellent crowd singing in response to a powerhouse of a set littered with hit after hit and interspersed with tracks from arguably U2’s greatest album since The Joshua Tree. It was crazy 24 hours as the night before I had just seen Coldplay in at the Crystal Palace National Athletics Stadium – a theme I shall return to when we finally get into the Top 5. It was an unforgettable night ; also with great support acts in the form of The Killers and Starsailor.
I will always regard the year 2005 as my personal gold standard for live music but who measures up this year. Well, I can honestly state this is the first time I cannot split the decision, such is the testament to the quality of music this year. So for the first time and hopefully the last there are 3 acts in the top slot.
Joint Number 1 are :

= No.1 – Coldplay, Paralympics Closing Ceremony, Olympic Stadium, Sunday 10th September

Coldplay (centre-stage) play "Paradise" during the Paralympics Closing Ceremony, September 9th 2012, Olympic Stadium, London

Coldplay (centre-stage) play “Paradise” during the Paralympics Closing Ceremony, September 9th 2012, Olympic Stadium, London

I mentioned just before that I saw Coldplay play an athletics track in 2005. Well, they played another one this – only slightly bigger. Now I will be perfectly honest, Coldplay are not and probably never will be my favourite live band. I quite like some of their music on CD but in a normal year, it would not make me rush out and buy concert tickets. I’m sure that many in the Olympics Stadium that windy slightly chilly evening in September would have agreed. However, this was not a normal year. This was 2012. Moreover, this show came on the back of 7 glorious weeks of Olympics and Paralympics euphoria. Everything was seen in rose coloured spectacles, the only experience to which I could liken it was probably that of the Summer of Love in San Francisco, 1967 – only without the drugs. The combination of this euphoria, the spectacular set, the backdrop, the lighting, the stadium itself , the volunteers or games makers as they became known, the 80,000 spectators, the knowledge of millions watching on TV live around the world made for a powerful combination that conspired to make tracks from Coldplay such as “Yellow”,” Clocks” and “Paradise” sound epic. Rihanna’s grand entry on a pirate ship to the stage and subsequent duet with Chris Martin on “Princess of China” only added to sublimely surreal and grandiose feeling of the occasion. Was this epic £11million extravaganza worth it? You bet it was. Never mind 2012, this will go down in my Top 10 of time concerts.

=No.1 – Elton John, Peace One Day Concert, Wembley Arena, Friday 21st September

Sir Elton John tinkles the ivorie, Wembley Arena, London, September 21st 2012

Sir Elton John tinkles the Ivories, Wembley Arena, London, September 21st 2012

Sir Elton was back at his absolutely peak as he brought his rocking “A” game to this charity gig promoting Peace One Day’s objective to institutionalise Peace Day 21 September and highlight the activities of individual and organisation in bringing about peace and the reduction of violence in conflict areas. As Elton, looking relaxed and very lively, tinkled the rock ‘n’ roll ivories, he went through an anthology of seventies, eighties hits such as “Bennie and the Jets”, “ Philadelphia Freedom” and “I’m Still Standing” as well as more recent numbers like “Hey Ahab”. Yes the Rocket Man was on top form and after toe-tapping, knee-slapping and singing my way through the set, I remember coming out of the former 1948 Olympics venue (Wembley Arena) with a massive smile on my face.

=No.1 – Gotye, Hammersmith Apollo, Monday 12th November

Gotye's Musical and Cinematic Masterpiece, Hammersmith Apollo, London, November 12th 2012

Gotye’s Musical and Cinematic Masterpiece, Hammersmith Apollo, London, November 12th 2012

Had it not been for the aforementioned rocking powers of Sir Elton and the Coldplay/Paralympics Closing Ceremony combination, in another year Gotye would have been my choice pick as sole gig of the year. Most famous for this year’s world wide hit “Someone that I Used to Know”, the combination of the cinematic visual imagery, much of it involving animated characters or elements of pop art was perfectly in synch with the imaginatively crafted – sometimes darkly ethereal electro indie music of this Melbourne based artist and his band. The gig transcended music and became a piece of art. Absolutely masterful.

No.4 – Grace Jones, Lovebox Festival 10 Year Anniversary, Victoria Park, Sunday 18th July

Grace Jones bangs the Drum at the Lovebox Festival 10Year Anniversary, Victoria Park, London, July 18th 2012

Grace Jones bangs the Drum at the Lovebox Festival 10Year Anniversary, Victoria Park, London, July 18th 2012

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Up until the summer, this concert had been the frontrunner to take the top spot in 2012. Having seen Grace Jones twice before and enjoyed her gigs immensely, I didn’t think it could get any better. I was wrong. This set scaled the full gamut of Jones career from “La Vie on Rose” through to the soul-rock fusion of “William’s Blood” and for once, included a track I’d been dying to her sing live, her second UK single from 1980 – the seductively dark “ Private Life”. Jones, with her flamboyant costume and headpiece changes after virtually every song was the perfect Headliner to close the 10 year anniversary of the Lovebox festival on what was a deliciously camp final day line-up with Sam Sparro Nile Rogers and Chic & Lana Del Rey among the supporting line-up. The day felt at times like park life meets Studio 54. The 64 year old Jones demonstrated the energy of someone half her age and finished off in spectacular fashion hula-hooping her way through final song “Slave to the Rhythm”. I did not stop dancing throughout the whole gig.

No.5 Florence and the Machine, Royal Albert Hall, April 3rd

Florence and the Machine at the Royal Albert Hall, London, April 3rd 2012

Florence and the Machine at the Royal Albert Hall, London, April 3rd 2012

What I can say – Florence Welch is the darling at present of the UK art and indie rock scene. I wrote 3 years ago when I saw at the intimate Shepherd’s Bush Empire that while there still some rough edges her performances could only improve. And so it came to pass as this performance at the Royal Albert in spring saw her come of age. Taking many tracks from the aptly named 2nd album “Ceremonials” and a few from first album “Lungs” she bravely gambled on a concert where “the Machine” turned into an Orchestra and the song arrangements became classical and choral in nature. Most in the audience had not been expecting this change of style but in the context of the grandiose venue of the Royal Albert Hall, the gamble payed off and the concert was a triumph. Standing ovations all-round!