Archive for the ‘Indie’ Category

Full of Melancholy -Lykke Li performs at Eventim Apollo, Hammersmith,  thursday 13th November  2014, London UK.

Full of Melancholy -Lykke Li performs at Eventim Apollo, Hammersmith, thursday 13th November 2014, London UK.

Lykke Li thanked the audience at the end of her 1 hour 20 minute performance for still being there after 7 years. Its not hard to see why. Li’s voice is very engaging; there’s a quality in it that gives the heart strings a quiver if not a full plucking. The gig was naturally themed around her new album “I never learn” which itself is a concept around loss and heartbreak. So I suppose it is a bit churlish to expect a brightly lit upbeat set. Yet, I could not help but feel that the exceptionally monochromatic lighting conveyed not heartache but rather extreme sombreness and melancholia. At times the singer was barely visible in the gloom going from dark to the occasional glimpse to shadowy profile. Her very capable band were hardly visible at all. This could been very frustrating for the less tolerant and it was just as well the emotional power of Li’ s voice and some excellent musical arrangements overcame this. There were notable moments. Opening the show, “I never learn ” was accompanied by an acoustically rich guitar and hauntingly pure vocals. “Sadness is a Blessing”had all the resemblance of atragic Shangri La’s song while “Gunshot”, although sung a couple of keys down impressed with its intensity of feeling. However none of these compared with a sublime cover of Drake’s ” Hold on, We’re going home” with a totally gorgeous synth hook. There was the odd twee bit in the show. “Never Gonna Love Again” had the audience out with the lighters and mobile phones. It was a nice touch to bring out support act Eliot Sumner (formerly I blame Coco) just before the encore “Get Some”. This proved to be the liveliest and rockiest track of the gig. Generally, this was good atmospheric gig but it could have done with lifting on occasion. A less sombre lighter mood would have gone way.


In 10 years of gig continuous gig going there has always been one venue that has stood out from the rest in London or anywhere for that matter. Sure, venues like Wembley or the O2 have size and scale on their side and that can lend an impressive atmosphere to the place and there are small boxy venues like the Garage or the Jazz Café that put you close up to the artist. However, for a combination of feeling being at a gig of importance but also with an intimate atmosphere, for me you cannot beat the 2000 seater, Shepherd’s Bush Empire. For these reasons, out of the 350 or so gigs that I’ve lucky enough to attend in the past ten years, 56 have been at this super cool venue. The building itself was built as an Edwardian music hall theatre in 1903 and continued in this form for the next fifty years, even surviving World War II relatively unscathed. From 1953 to 1991 it was owned by the BBC who produced many famous light entertainment shows there, including Hancock’s Half Hour, The Generation Game, This is your life and , of course famous UK chat show of the 1980s Wogan. After 3 years of renovation, the venue saw itself transform into a music venue in 1994 and next will see it celebrate its 20th anniversary as such. I was fortunate to attend during its 10th anniversary series where I saw Mike and the Mechanics and the performance was videoed. This was one among many memorable performances I saw but which made the grade to be worthy of inclusion in my Top 5. It has been very difficult to choose but finally here is my list.

Number 1 – Ray Davies, February 11th 2006

A worthy Londoner for a worthy London gig venue. In 2005, now without The Kinks since 1997, Ray Davies was on the comeback trail, recording his first commercially successful album – “Other People’s Lives – for a number of years. The hit the charts early February 2006 at the time of the gig and a seven song segment from the album was played during the show demonstrating Davies masterful songwriting and observational skills particularly in connection with London and English life. He then finished up the gig with such Kinks classics “All day and All of the Night”, “You Really Got Me”, “Waterloo Sunset” and “Lola”. I cannot describe the atmosphere so highly charged was it; the whole of the Empire audience getting to their feet, singing and dancing. Davies also received standing ovations. Without a doubt this was the greatest gig ever at this venue.

Number 2 – Kaiser Chiefs, March 4th 2007

The Kaiser Chiefs were at the height of their early powers. Ricky Wilson proudly announced at the show that their second album had just gone to No.1 in the UK charts and a week before “Ruby” had been the No.1 single. Though still a great band and one of my personal favourites, The Kaisers have never quite been able to recapture the heady triumph of those days. This gig, though, was an “I was there” moment. At one point, Mr Wilson dived off the stage into the frenetically swaying crowd which buckled under him. Standing on the first balcony was an equally unnerving experience and you could feel it moving underfoot to the vibrations of the beat and the pogoing crowd. ” I predict a riot” almost felt like one. This gig was one of the most high octane events I have ever witnessed. Fantastic energy.

Number 3 – The Human League with John Foxx supporting, December 18th 2003

This one is very special to me on a personal level for several reasons. It is the first gig I ever went to with my wife either at Shepherd’s Bush or anywhere. For all you lovers of Ultravox it also had John Foxx supporting. It was an absolute thrill to hear the glorious soaring synth of “Underpass” booming out filling up the theatre. Curiously, it’s also one of the very few times I’ve seen any trouble break in what is normally a problem free theatre. Some guy got into a row with a couple in the row below and thought it would amusing to throw a drink at her which , of course kicked things and involved the intervention of security. Just goes to prove, situations like this can arise anywhere if you’re unlikely. That said, it did not spoil our enjoyment of the League who played what was, in effect their anthology. It was great to sing along to belting tunes like “Mirror Man”, “Sound of the Crowd” and “Don’t you Want Me”?

Number 4 – The Killers (as a support act), March 5th 2004

I have already written in my previous blog entitled Londongigger’s Top 10 support acts that this was by far the best support gig I ever saw. That has not changed. With only a few hundred people in the audience, the band ran through most of the tracks from “Hot Fuss” thrilling the small crowd. None months later, The Killers were number one in the UK Album charts and the rest as they say, is history.

Number 5 – Juliette Lewis and the New Romantiques, October 23rd 2009

This gig was hard work physically and the last standing gig I did at this venue. Yes, Miss Lewis, renowned Hollywood actress and very credible rock and roll indie artist, made us work hard for a taste of her work. Standing through 4 support acts, 2 of whom were fun, 1 crap and 1 of which was so loud, I thought I’d had a free ear syringe was not the most enjoyable experience in a sardine packed crowd. However, it proved to be worth the wait and the pain on the feet as she absolutely tore the place down. Bedecked in a flamboyant outfit with feathers, and coming out with phrases like “if you’re too shy to shake your hips then shake your tits”, she exuded boundless energy , even coming down of the stage with no fear and singing and dancing with fans. It’s not everyday you see a Hollywood star do that. The gig was 65 minutes of pure mosh pitting bliss climaxing with title track of the album “Terra Incognito”. At £14 a ticket, this was probably also the Best Value for Money gig I’ve seen.

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.

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.

Kate Nash - All hail the new Indie Queen, Live at the Sugarmill, Stoke-on Trent, Wednesday 24th April, 2013

Kate Nash – All hail the new Indie Queen, Live at the Sugarmill, Stoke-on Trent, Wednesday 24th April, 2013

Kate rocks Stoke as the cool new queen of Indie. Wednesday 24th April 2013


I witnessed two remarkable things this past week. Happening to be in the industrial midlands town of Stoke-on-Trent on other business I certainly was not looking to do anything other than pass an remarkable night tucked up in bed early-ish. But … I thought I would check local entertainments (there is a rather fine looking theatre, called The Regent, for example) on the off-chance.

Then, I struck musical gold. Discovering that there was a music club within 5 minutes’ walk from my hotel, it got better when I discovered one of my favourite singers – Kate Nash was performing that very night. However, nothing was to prepare me for the evening that lay ahead.

The Sugarmill , Stoke-on-Trent, which has to be the Midlands coolest music venue.

The Sugarmill , Stoke-on-Trent, which has to be the Midlands coolest music venue.

The tiny 400 capacity venue called The Sugarmill based in a backstreet of the cultural area of Hanley proved to one of the coolest music venues I have ever been to. It proved the perfect setting to witness the equally cool Kate Nash and her all female band complete a transformation from clever pop songtress to indie/post punk queen.

Kate emerged in 2007 with the polished Made of Bricks that subsequently went to No.1 and a major endorsement from Lily Allen as an artist to watch. Her music was much more piano based with the occasional acoustic number thrown in . Well, gone from this tour and reflecting her new album is the piano, and in is a new edgy bass and guitar sound that blends indie rhythms with west coast harmonies. Even Nash’s biggest hit “Foundations” was played piano less and given the guitar treatment.

Kate Nash and her all female band at The Sugarmill, Stoke-on-Trent, Wednesday 24th April, 2013

Kate Nash and her all female band at The Sugarmill, Stoke-on-Trent, Wednesday 24th April, 2013

There was a cinematic backdrop showing a montage with snippets of a younger Nash to start with before the band came on the pocket sized stage. Then, as if to announce her colours, three tracks from new album “Girl Talk”, and as in the album these were anything but girly. “Sister” starting off with Kate Nash almost angelic voice soon descended into a gritty manic outpouring while “Death Proof’s” unsettling but strangely pleasing lyrics and minor key melodies got methinking about a ride on a fairground ghost train with the 90s teenage animation character Daria. The up-tempo “All Talk” drilled the chorus “Action, Action, Words are only in my mouth” into my head to the extent that I am thinking of going on feminist marches in support of Miss Nash.

Still it was totally absorbing to see how Kate spat out some of the lyrics like a petulant teen almost as if exorcising some emotional past angst.

Seeing Red about female empowerment - Kate Nash at The Sugarmill, Stoke-on-Trent, UK, Wednesday 24th April, 2013

Seeing Red about female empowerment – Kate Nash at The Sugarmill, Stoke-on-Trent, UK, Wednesday 24th April, 2013

There were some lighter moments as well, especially when Kate bounced up and down and went off the stage and singing the “Do-Waa-Doo” song in amongst the audience. There had to be a pause afterwards as the microphone wire was unravelled from the crowd.

There were also long pauses as Kate relayed info on songwriting and music workshops with which she is involved for teenage girls; songwriting in keys of the C, G and F; standing on someone’s “fanny” to make the video for OMG and finally about being dropped from her record label last year. More fool the record label I say, as Kate has now set up her own one – Have 10p records – and has produced this fine 3rd album.

The concert was eventful: she even had to graciously silence a teenage heckler who said he’d only come along because his friend was in the support act.

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.

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.