Archive for the ‘Indie Pop’ 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.

MØ floors the crowd at Shpherds Bush, London, Saturday 1st November 2014

MØ floors the crowd at Shpherds Bush, London, Saturday 1st November 2014

Those who have never seen Mo before may well be surprised by the vigour that puts into shows and this was no exception at Shepherds Bush Empire.Mo (real name Karen Marie Orstead) is already a breakthrough star in Denmark and fast rising in other countries including the UK. She has ditched her punkish roots for an electro sound with occasional soft R n B electro-beats. Her performance at Shepherds Bush was vocally gutsy and stylistically forceful.

Paramore triumph at Wembley, Sept 27th 2013

Paramore triumph at Wembley, Sept 27th 2013

I am always astonished when I go to a gig expecting a certain of crowd or a specific genre and then get an expected vibe. In this respect Paramore are a group that continue to surprise and delight. True, half the audience could be in a teen advert for Converse trainers, especially the type where a sudden flash dance mob appears or in a vibrant hair colour commercial but as a whole the audience remained mixed saying much about the group’s cross-over appeal. Reading recently about the slightly acrimonious departure of 2 band mates and spiteful accusation of the band being “manufactured” did nothing to dampen my spirits and judging from the performance I witnessed I saw nothing contrived about them. The effervescent Hayley Williams jumped around the stage like an enthusiastic Jack-in-a-box and band mates Jeremy Davis and Taylor York hardly covered any less ground of Wembley’s wide stage. Plenty of material from the new self-titled album was covered including open song “Grow-Up”, the epically defiant “Now” and “Daydreaming” that gave a nod in tempo and rhythm to Blondie’s “Dreaming”. “Ignorance” provided the opportunity for a bit of fist punching and there were quirky moments on “I’m Not Angry any more” with a banjo. However, I’m a sucker for a whole group of people waiving mobile phones and/or lighters to an atmospheric slow and that’s exactly what happened when “The Only Exception” was played. There was something magnificently moving about seeing thousands of lights swaying at Wembley and the whole of the arena singing the chorus.
It was also a nice touch to send a tribute out to Fleetwood Mac on the weekend that that group were playing in London. Having myself seen Fleetwood Mac only 3 days before, Williams voice was uncannily similar to that of the great Stevie Nicks as Paramore played a snippet of “Landslide”. Another great moment was to see Hayley pull fan called Amber up onto the stage to sing along side her at the on “Misery Business”. All 3 of the band received a hug from the somewhat feisty fan who looked a little horrified when asked by Hayley if she knew the words.

The biggest surprise of the night was how many people put their hands when asked it this was their first Paramore show. The first-timers were then very fortunate to witness something special.
With few exceptions this gig was a high-tempo affair fusing elements of indie, metal and pop with the very appealing emotional quality of Williams voice. All in all, a very entertaining and atmospheric evening.

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.

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.