Posts Tagged ‘alternative music’

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.

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.

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.

Kasabian deliver a stonking live show at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, London, June 29th 2013

Kasabian deliver a stonking live show at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, London, June 29th 2013

Being the inaugural headliner at a new venue if not a new festival was a challenge that Kasabian took up with relish. Given their credentials as a seriously good live band, it is surprising that they were not taken up by Glastonbury as a headliner. No invite so far but then Glasto’s loss was East London’s gain.
Having opted to see a resurgent Gaz Coombes (formerly of Surpegrass fame), whose slot had started late, I missed a good third of their set. So, it was disappointing to miss such gems as “Days are forgotten” “Velociraptor”. Nonetheless, from where I did pick the set – about 7 songs in and from what I saw, I can report that Kasabian were at the top of their game. Picking up the show at “I.D”, the atmosphere emitting from the 30,000 plus crowd was already very lively.
Tom Meighan, with several liberal doses of the F word declared himself to be buzzing and the band obviously were as well as they took us through the back catalogue with a couple of covers, such as The Korgi’s “Everyone’s got to learn sometime and Fat Boy Slim’s “Praise You” thrown in for good measure.
Meighan dedicated the foot-stomping classic “Empire” to Paul Weller who’d been on just before. The flashing lights and the barnstorming nature of the performance provoked a mass bounce-along in parts of the crowd while during “Fast Fuse” perfect strangers were dancing with each other and red flares were being lit. (I am sure that was in the plan of the site security).
L.S.F (Lost Souls Forever) wound up the main part of the gig with a mass audience sing-along that continued long after the band left the stage.

The crowd show flare at the  Kasabian Concert, London, June 29th 2013

The crowd show flare at the Kasabian Concert, London, June 29th 2013

After a short break the fun continued with “Switchblade Smiles” and a high energy version of “Vlad the Impaler”. Just to mix it up a little the band finished with a version of The Crazy World of the Arthur Brown’s “Fire” .
As evidenced by this live performance, Kasabian continue to grow in stature as a band. They take influences from across the decades, mix them up into cocktail and come out with a special flavour every time. This is the band Oasis would have liked to have been had they not got stuck in retro. Moreover, I do not believe Kasabian have yet reached their peak. Simply, for the creativity and the raw energy they generate at live performances they are one of the best live bands around. When they do reach their peak they will the best band in the country. That day is not far off. Watch out Muse.

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.

Natasha bangs the drum, Bar for Lashes at the Field Day festival, London, May 25th 2013

Natasha bangs the drum, Bar for Lashes at the Field Day festival, London, May 25th 2013

Bat for Lashes aka Natasha Khan’s performance shone through in the late evening sun at the Field Day festival during a day of high quality performances, though, it’s hard to know why she was not top of the bill. No disrespect to Animal Collective, who were the official headliners on the main Eat Your Own Ears stage (and whom I did not see) but they are hardly that well known in the UK and their chart performance in the US peaked in 2007/2008. This does not stack up with Khan’s two UK Top Ten albums and a prestigious Ivor Novello award. Similarly irksome was finding out band of the moment Palma Violets had bumped up to second billing when I was expecting to the see them on the Laneway stage in the afternoon.
Rant aside; let’s imagine Bat for Lashes was in the headline slot, Khan’s performance was, as ever as engaging and lively as her multi-coloured outfit. Tracks from new albums “The Haunted Man” were interweaved easily with songs from “Fur and Gold” and “Two Suns”. First up was the ethereal “Lillies” with its grand orchestral synth instrumentals that saw Khan purposely wielding a drum stick.

Bat for Lashes aka Natasha Khan dazzles the crowd at Field Day festival , London, May 25th 2013

Bat for Lashes aka Natasha Khan dazzles the crowd at Field Day festival , London, May 25th 2013

Khan’s vocals on “What’s a girl To Do?” resonated a haunting quality similar to that of top French singer Mylene Farmer while the four octave range of her voice was brilliant demonstrated on “Glass”.
Removing her colourful cape she swayed, danced and hopped her way round the stage during “Oh Yeah” and referring to Victoria Park said was glad to be back in “my back garden”.
Of the tracks from the new album, the lyrical allegories of All Your Gold were delivered impressively and “The Haunted Man” saw a strange moment with Khan holding what appeared to be an old wireless set over her head during the military drumming section. I’m sure there was a reason behind but I was hard pressed to see what that reason might be.

What on the box? Natasha Khan holds a wireless set aloft, Bat for Lashes at Field Day festival 2013, London

What on the box? Natasha Khan holds a wireless set aloft, Bat for Lashes at Field Day festival 2013, London

The dance interest for festival goers was brought with the introduction of the science-fiction type fantasy song “Pearl’s Dream” with its infectious drum beat. An hour long set seemed to fly by and was brought to an end with an enthusiastic crowd singing along to award winning song “Daniel”. It was clear from this set that the quality and range of Natasha Khan’s voice is comparable to some of the contemporary greats of British pop music such as Florence Welch and Alison Goldfrapp but you cannot help but think that, in spite of this being a great performance for a festival, the edge is taken off by an outdoor setting.
Last time I saw Bat for Lashes in 2009 it was also outdoors but night had descended and torrential rain and lighting added to the atmosphere. However, in general, singing of this calibre is better appreciated indoors and I look forward to the day that I can watch this talented artist in a venue like Shepherd’s Bush Empire or even the Royal Albert Hall.

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.