Posts Tagged ‘Psychedelic Pop’

I have just heard the saddening news that one of my all time favourites of American music has died following possible complication after a liver transplant. I’m in total shock. I have no doubt that when historians comes to write the history of late 20th music, Lou Reed will stand as a colossus of that time, not just for his outstanding contribution but also for the influence he had many names in music – big and small. He was one of the most influential musicians of his generation whose music keenly observed and captured the atmosphere and spirit of early-mid 1970’s New York. My abiding fond memory of him will be the encore at his Hammersmith Apollo concert on Tuesday 17th August 2004 in London where he performed 3 most iconic tracks back to back, Satellite of Love with the whole ground floor audience stood up and sang along, Perfect Day and Walk on the Wild, the latter of which saw the chords and melodies change around but was still very recognisable by the rhythm. In tribute, here is the full set list from that concert.

1.Turn to Me, 2.Modern Dance 3.Guardian Angel 4.Magic and Loss 5.Why Do You Talk? 6.Venus in Furs (The Velvet Underground song). 7.Dreamin’ 8.Jesus (The Velvet Underground song)
9. Ecstasy 10.A Wild Being From Birth 11.The Valley of Unrest 12.The Day John Kennedy Died 13.Vanishing Act 14.Power and Glory 15.The Blue Mask

Encore:
16. Satellite of Love
(The Velvet Underground song)

17. Perfect Day
18. Walk on the Wild

R.I.P Lou Reed (March 2, 1942 – October 27, 2013)

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Stones in Hyde Park, July 6th 2013

Stones in Hyde Park, July 6th 2013

A week after the Rolling Stones played a much hyped show for Glastonbury, they were back in London to make history, returning to Hyde Park 44 year and 1 day after the free concert they played in 1969, that has subsequent gone down in UK rock folklore as one of the most iconic ever. Swathes of older rock music loving Londoners still refer to this event with reverence as an “I was there” moment in their lives. Did its 21st century “history making” counterpart also live up to its billing. Well mainly yes.

The Rolling Stones for a second time in Hyde Park , Saturday 6th July 2013

The Rolling Stones for a second time in Hyde Park , Saturday 6th July 2013

The ‘69 concert was not held in exactly the same spot as 2013 being located much nearer to the Serpentine but although it was called “The Stones in Hyde Park”, like the ’13 version it was in fact a one day festival comprising other bands including King Crimson and Alexis Corner’s new Church. The contemporary version also saw it fair share of promising acts such as the Vaccines, the exquisite Temper Trap , trendy new band of the moment Palma Violets and the promising Tribes who were like a more upbeat version of Primal Scream in their 90’s heyday.

But there the similarities end.

The 2013 event ground was as about as opposite as you can get from 1969’s free event with its distinctly hippy feel. The 2013 version felt more some weird gawdy fairground attraction surrounded on many parts of its periphery by false mock bars imitating the style of different countries complete with grossly inflated prices with queues seven or eight deep. Don’t even get me started on the merchandise stalls dotted around the site.

What you may ask does this has to do with the music? Well, I don’t’ know whether it was the Stones or their connections; or indeed the sponsors or organisers but they succeded in giving the events an air of corporate elitism to a degree I have seldom witnessed at any other events. The people willing and able to afford to pay several hundred pounds for their tickets were accessed in to a “golden circle” area that I estimate nearly took up 1 quarter of the site (or least that what it felt like) cloaked one side by the biggest corporate stands I have seen at any London festival. Even if you had managed to get to the front of the “cheap” (£95 per ticket) area, it still felt like being at the back of a giant arena looking at the minute stage in the distance. So the 50,000 crowd although being far less than 250,000 plus number that attended in 1969 were penned to a smalled area than previous events on the same site.

So far so negative but the redeeming factor was the music. Back in ’69 the Stones themselves admitted they pretty badly although the setlist included classics that were also played at the 2013 concert.

The concert set list from 1969 read as follows:-
“I’m Yours & I’m Hers,” “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” “Mercy Mercy”, “Down Home Girl”, “Stray Cat Blues”, “No Expectations”, “I’m Free”, “Loving Cup”, “Love in Vain”, “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”, “Honky Tonk Women”, “Midnight Rambler”, “Street Fighting Man”, and “Sympathy for the Devil”.

So the music actually transformed the atmosphere and it didn’t even seem to matter about the poor viewing. Giant screens were up to make you feel you weren’t so far from the stage. A video came on at the start of the show with some references to the ’69 concert. Then band’s appearance and Mick Jagger’s in particular sent a bolt of electricity and as if on cue, the sounds of the Stones 1983 hit “Start Me Up” went ringing through the ground swiftly followed by “It’s Only Rock and Roll”.

We were off and running . You could taste the e excitement. Jagger looking unbelievably trim, swaggered around the stage and well – moved liked Jagger belying the fact he is about to turn 70. Ronnie Woods who is well known in London as a type of serial gig crashing jammer and Keith Richards looked like they having fun. Charlie Watts looked business like.

The positive vibe just built from then on. There were also nice touches with Gary Clark Junior, one the support acts during the day, being brought on to play on “Bitch” the 1971 flip side of “Brown Sugar” and in the encore with the London Youth singing the opening of “You can’t always get what you want. Keith Richards also took lead vocals for a few numbers like “Miss You”.

Confetti send off - The Stones at Hyde Park, July 6th 2013

Confetti send off – The Stones at Hyde Park, July 6th 2013

But the real crescendo was reached at the end of the main set with anthems -“Jumping Jack” , a spectacular rendition of “Sympathy for the Devil” to rival 1969 if not in duration then certainly in quality and “Brown Sugar. This is when I witnessed what the Stones could do to audience even at a ripe old age. Old and young danced around me, strangers even taking hold of one another. The atmosphere even at the distance we were standing was incredible. The evening was rounded off “Satisfaction” by which time, I had had plenty. I doubt that at the prices that are generally charged for a Stones concert I’ll shall ever go again. But make no mistake, in spite of the difficulties with the facilities, this was an awesome concert – one that will live long in the memory. The crowd dispersed into the night with many still chanting ooh, ooh. History in the Making , maybe?


Hyde Park 2013 Setlist

Start Me Up ; It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll (But I Like It) ; Tumbling Dice; All Down the Line; Beast of Burden; Doom and Gloom ;Bitch ; Paint It Black; Honky Tonk Women; You Got the Silver ; Before They Make Me Run; Miss You ;Midnight Rambler ; Gimme Shelter ; Jumpin’ Jack Flash ; Sympathy for the Devil ; Brown Sugar
Encore: You Can’t Always Get What You Want Play Video ; (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction

Sandi Thom – Bush Hall, Monday 30th June 2008

Forget fantasizing about punk rockers, a radiant looking Sandi Thom took to the small stage at Bush Hall to showcase tracks from recently released album “The Pink and the Lily and old favourites from her album. Gone was the kind of cute girl next door meets struggling look  from the previous tour to be replaced by the sophisticated Country Music girl dressed in a fetching little black dress with plunging neck line and a black cowboy hat. She also looked extremely fit as if she had spent the last year in America with a personal trainer.  The new look was matched by her quality vocals that rarely put a note wrong. The 200 strong crowd hardly had time to catch their breath before Thom, backed by her 4 piece all male band, launched into old favourites like “What if I’m right” and “The Human Jukebox” with head spinning speed. Three songs in, she finally greeted the crowd with a brief “hi, how you all doing out there”, then it was off again on another jolly ride with more perfectly honed tracks from “Smile, it confuses people”. The 2006 No.1 “I wish I was a Punk Rocker (with flowers in my hair)” got everyone happy clappy. Songs from the new album were dropped gradually into the set (the first being the optimistic “I’m a human being”) and these were generally bouncy and upbeat. Although some stories and anecdotes were shared with the audience largely as intros to the songs, chit-chat was kept to a minimum as Sandi adopted a slightly detached air. Quieter ballads were at a premium but the acoustic “My ungrateful heart” very briefly slowed the show’s pace and “ Mirrors” (in the encore) written, as Sandy explained, about changes in life that people face, was captivating.  Her voice, during this track was sublime, extending through a full high octave range and won her an ovation for her efforts. The set went very up-tempo in the latter third of the show as people clapped their hands to the infectiously catchy rhythms of tunes like “Saturday Night”, “Horse Power” and “The Devils Beat”, heavily encouraged by the bassist and Thom herself. The applause and cheers became louder after each song and because of this, she seemed to relax and returned to the warm girl next door persona. . She closed the show aptly with title track from the album The Pink and the Lily, in a well thought out performance that left me wondering why this talented performer has never played big venues.

Pumped Up Kids -Live review of Foster the People, O2 Brixton Academy, London, Saturday 28th April 2012

Foster the People perform an exciting set at London's O2 Brixton Academy, Saturday 28th April 2012

Foster the People perform an exciting set at London’s O2 Brixton Academy, Saturday 28th April 2012

A lively excited and young crowd greeted the arrival of American hipsters Foster the People. This is a group whose reputation and growing acclaim has been spread by word of mouth from their live performances so expectations were high and so were the Brixton chat levels.

Prior to FTP, though, the performance from support act Mini-Mansions had that relaxed west coast vibe going on mixed –up with elements of melodic psychedelia and strong prog rock overtures. Their rendition of “Heart of Glass” was quite the most original version I have ever heard. It was played at slow tempo sounding like a bit like a funerary chant.

Foster the People commenced with the gloriously snappy rhythm of “Houdini” that recalled elements of 80’s Talking Heads offshoot The Tom Tom Club . There was no need to work up the young crowd. They were already way ahead of the band in the enthusiasm stakes. The balcony was on its feet from the first bar being played. The band continued the tradition of having individual drums on stage for the non-drumming members to bash. Crude, but effective especially for numbers “Miss You” and “Life on the Nickel” with high tempo beats. It does add power to the gig and that feeling is conveyed to the audience.

Party Atmosphere at Foster the People gig, O2 Brixton Academy, London, Saturday 28th April 2012

Party Atmosphere at Foster the People gig, O2 Brixton Academy, London, Saturday 28th April 2012

 

The song “Love” with its prominent echoing vocals seemed to owe much to the Mamas and the Papas style of sunshine pop and I felt the presence of Beach Boys influence in “I Would Do Anything for You”.  The songs on the setlist were interlinked by mini prog rock instrumentals.

Other impressive moments were the Mark Foster’s dramatic vocal of the interpretation of the lyrics of “Broken Jaw” coupled with the electro indie disco vibe, the latinesque piano rhythms on “Call it What You Want” and the pumping psychedelic danceable pop of “Colour On The Walls”.  There was some really wild dancing by the crowd through the gig with arms flaying wildly yet rhythmically. The party was full on and reached its dance climax with “Helena Beat”, whose intro curiously resembled Spandau Ballet’s “The Freeze”. Predictably, “Pump Up Kicks” – a song with a catchy hook but creepy lyrics was left to the end and extended into an adapted techno section.

Party time with Foster The People at O2 Brixton Academy, London, Saturday 28th April 2009

Party time with Foster The People at O2 Brixton Academy, London, Saturday 28th April 2009

 

The sell-out gig could not be faulted for youthful enthusiasm and atmosphere but at times the sound production threatened to overwhelm the vocals. This effect has often been noticed at Brixton. Promising up and coming bands take an acoustic note. A special mention must also be made of the lighting. The lighting designer for the set should congratulated for producing perfectly balanced pin sharp primary colours that according with the set and the mood of each song which, in my view, made the show. There was even a glittery confetti shower at the end.  If the band produces more exciting shows like this, they will definitely foster a growing fan base.

 

Sharp lighting at the Foster the People gig, O2 Brixton Academy, London, Saturday 28th April 2012

Sharp lighting at the Foster the People gig, O2 Brixton Academy, London, Saturday 28th April 2012

The Asteroids Galaxy Tour, live at Scala, London, UK, April 10th 2012

The Asteroids Galaxy Tour land in London, Live at Scala, April 10th 2012

The Asteroids Galaxy Tour land in London, Live at Scala, April 10th 2012

The Asteroids Galaxy Tour is a group hailing from Denmark and based in Copenhagen. It is principally  a collaboration between song writer and producer Lars Iversen and singer Mette Lindberg. On tour the band bring in other musicians to round out their psychedelic and slightly funky based sound. They formed in 2007 and released their first single in September of 2008.

The group have a good claim to one of the most unusual and original names around for any band. Along with other bands with memorable names like Death Cab for Cutie, Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine and The Ozric Tentacles to name but a few , this group’s title does stick in the head but does the music?

Mette Lindberg of The Asteroids Galaxy Tour exudes a air of cool European chic, Live at Scala, London, April 10th 2012

Mette Lindberg of The Asteroids Galaxy Tour exudes a air of cool European chic, Live at Scala, London, April 10th 2012

Judging from the very intimate live show I attended at Scala, it does. The stunning looking Mette Lindberg made her way on stage in a shimmering gold jacket backed by a guitar, bass, drummer and a three man horn section, lightly stomping her way through the set, moving occasionally from one side to the other on the small stage.  The band started with the opening three tracks of their 2nd album- “Gold Rush part 1 -Dollar in the Nights –  Gold Rush part 2” rolled into one and played many of the tracks from the new album  “Out of Frequency” including the title. Second track of the night “Heart Attack” was definitely a stomping song. Third one “The Sun Ain’t Shining no more”, a song about a short term fling had the ambience of early 1970’s Steely Dan jazz rock about it.

Mette Linberg didn’t say that much to the audience between numbers. She didn’t really have to. Many in the audience knew the songs and were just happy to swing along to the rhythms. Mette appeared controlled in her delivery and at times a little detached at the start but this may just have been her stage persona.  She noticeably relaxed and became more engaged with the audience as the gig went on.   The band – particularly the brass section – seemed to be  having great time throughout. Even the guy sound in the caged covered sound desk was constantly moving through the gig.

From a musician’s perspective, the 6 minute long “Theme from 45 Eugenia” mid-way through the set was probably the most interesting combining as it did a 60’s style psychedelic melody and lyrics with a slow Kravitz style funk beat.

Lindberg did speak to the crowd saying it was great to be back in London and at one point tried to make a joke about the size of the horn section but somehow it got lost in translation. What really got the crowd going though was “Around the Bend” with its infectious horn packed rhythmic hook. The main set wound up with the flourishing psychedelic fanfare and sliding downscale minor chords of “Push the Envelope”.

The Asteroids Galaxy Tour live at Scala, London, UK, April 10th 2012

The Asteroids Galaxy Tour live at Scala, London, UK, April 10th 2012

The encore saw the group play “Golden Age”, essentially a party piece as homage to the Brat Pack era. This is the song that has brought them to the attention of a wider public via a TV commercial and naturally the crowd responded enthusiastically. The set was rounded off with another great funky horn section hook in “Major”, a song whose lyrics raise the pitfalls of rising stardom, ambition and a fast lifestyle.

Undoubtedly, The Asteroids Galaxy Tour has still a way to go to make themselves more widely known in the UK but on this performance they certainly deserve to increase their following and start playing bigger venues in the future.