Archive | Live Reviews

Echo and the Bunnymen – Birmingham Symphony Hall (May 26, 2018)

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Echo and the Bunnymen – Birmingham Symphony Hall (May 26, 2018)

Posted on 29 May 2018 by John Haylock

Echo and the Bunnymen are responsible for one of the greatest albums to come out of the UK post punk scene and equal to anything The Smiths, The Cure or Joy Division ever recorded.

The band’s second album Heaven Up Here remains a grandiose musical statement, a remarkably ambitious confection of envelope pushing songs that to this day remains a great big wonky wok of creativity, drugs and bravado.

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Ian McCulloch and strings.

The big hits came late on Ocean Rain, Echo and the Bunnymen‘s next album which gave them singles and fame but it is Heaven Up Here that reserves them a special place in our hearts. With this in mind we popped over to Birmingham to see if this legendary act are still any good.

Thanks to Liverpool getting through to the final of the European Championships this gig nearly didn’t happen. As soon as lead singer Ian McCulloch spotted the date clash he promptly cancelled the band’s appearance. There followed a rather large fan backlash on social media, which duly prompted him to stop being an arse and get his priorities right.

Indeed his first words as he strode onto the stage was a mumbled “sorry about all the shite”. What’s this? A humble and seemingly contrite McCulloch? Wonders will never cease.

For a frontman who is famed for his petulance and vaulting arrogance this is a first. Also plain to see is a man who is clearly enjoying himself, despite the fact that his beloved Reds side were losing one nil at half time.

We thought he would be slightly aggrieved and in one of his moods at this dramatic turn of events for the Reds. Far from it. Perhaps the road crew had told him Liverpool were four up within 15 minutes to keep him placated. Whatever the reason, it was good to see him looking (relatively) healthy and, for a veteran performer, sounding rather good too.

Birmingham Symphony Hall is an amazing building, large, spacious and with wonderful acoustics. Its size was needed for this sold out gig, no mean feat for a band who haven’t troubled the singles chart for nigh on 30 years.

Whilst not quite the orchestra as advertised, the band were supplemented by a string quartet comprising three violinists and a cellist, which added a welcome extra dimension to the songs.

Together with his trusty sidekick guitar hero Will Sergeant, a propulsive drummer, an unremarkable rhythm guitarist and a bassist who at first sight I mistook for Tony the mechanic from my local garage, they tore into a cracking set.

Opening with a storming triumvirate of Rescue, Villiers Terrace and All that Jazz, this was a good start of oldies but goldies, which saw McCulloch dropping in lyrics from various  eras. I heard Bowie’s Jean Genie, On the Road Again by Canned Heat and Roadhouse Blues by The Doors – it was just like the old days but with more wrinkles.

The fiery tempo abated as we entered calmer waters. Nothing Lasts Forever was rendered perfectly, the quartet supplying added poignancy.

All My Colours Tonight performed stripped back, no drums as per usual, just guitar and vocals. Surprisingly it still works.

Bedbugs and Ballyhoo instigated the arrival of swaying women of a certain age, who know a good psychedelic singalong when they hear one. They love Ian and try to prove it with some middle aged gyratory action and pointing at him whilst singing Lips like Sugar, which looked more scary than sexy.

From that point on madness ensued. Two Japanese women behind me burst into tears as Bring on the Dancing Horses galloped across our ears.

And as for Seven Seas, it is such an iconic Echo and the Bunnymen tune it can do no wrong. With its not very ambivalent sex lyrics and cracking tune, the audience is theirs.

The Cutter keeps up the pace, then it’s all over apart from probably everyone’s favourite song Killing Moon, performed almost solo. Backed by just a debonair gent on piano, Ian valiantly muddles through. It’s a tough one for him though, as this track does expose his inevitable age related vocal wear and tear, but we forgive him especially as they reprise Never Stop as the very final number – a rocker in all but name. Then, ironically, they stop.

Minus one point for not doing Over the Wall.

Enation

Enation

Support for Echo and the Bunnymen tonight came from Nashville trio Enation. But don’t go screaming “yee-haw” at their gigs – these gents are more like a cross between Sigur Ros, U2 and with a bit of Nirvana in the mix.

Some jolly good rock action ensued – very intense and persuasive. Three numbers in they had sound problems, something feeding back, prompting mild panic among the sound guys. It took them quite a while to sort it, but to the band’s credit they soldiered on and were thanked for it by an appreciative audience.

Most of the tracks tonight were off their 2017 album Anthems for the Apocalypse.

Certainly not the end of the world for these chaps.

Words by John Haylock, pictures by Arthur Hughes.

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Tallinn Music Week 2018 Review

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Tallinn Music Week 2018 Review

Posted on 21 May 2018 by Joe

Neon Filler could not resist returning to the Baltics this year for our second consecutive Tallinn Music Week. We unearthed some real musical gems last April so we didn’t hesitate when organisers invited us back for 2018. This year things were bigger and better with TMW celebrating it’s tenth birthday, with a whopping 262 artists hailing from 31 different countries.

Here’s a roundup of the standout acts we saw…

Lexsoul Dancemachine

Lexsoul Dancemachine are fast becoming a party highlight of Tallinn Music Week with their contagious funk capable of forcing dance moves from even the most stubbornly reluctant of Estonia observers.

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Playing this year as Saturday night headliners in one of Tallinn’s more salubrious venues, Erinevate Tubade Klubi (fitted out to look and feel like an authentic 1970’s Brooklyn Discoteque), they put in a sensational performance of raw smoking hot funk. If you need a second invitation to check them out look up the track ‘Beef Grinder’ on YouTube for a sample flavour of Estonian Funk at it’s finest.

Högni

In his native Iceland Högni Egilsson is one of the most respected singers and songwriters, having been a member of both GusGus and Hjaltalín.

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At TMW he showcased his solo work. Songs such as the hauntingly beautifil Paradísarmissir took us and the rest of the mesmerised audience on a journey of serenity and moving contemplation.

Põhja Konn

Põhja Konn (translated directly from Estonian means Northern Frog) can be described as many things; but to listen to their eponymous album you’d think old school prog rock. Witnessing and listening live at a festival like Tallinn Music Week  is an altogether different experience – one that gives real insight into their masterful understanding of all things jazz, classical, rock, funk and pop.

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There’s few live acts we’ve seen at places like Glastonbury, Green Man etc on the biggest stages, that can enchant an audience as much as Põhja Konn. We’d hazard a guess that if lyrically they would turn their backs on their loyal Estonian heritage, and write some material for a wider audience, they’d be filling festival stages across Europe and beyond.

Other highlights included…

Cari Cari

Cari Cari want to have their music featured in a Quentin Tarantino movie. So says their charismatic guitarist Alexander Kock. We managed to catch them perform twice at Tallinn Music Week this year and on both occasions it seemed a pity that the legendary American movie Director was not there to take heed.

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A two-piece act from Austria, the male / female duo played two very different sets albeit with the same set list. The first, a juxtapositioned short gig set in a shopping mall storefront, was a grungey, tribal, foot-stomping affair accompanied by Jew’s Harp and a Didgeridoo. The second was a evening slot in Tallinn Old Town, at a venue more appropriate for their whiskey soaked, bluesy anthems. Comparisons with The White Stripes, The XX and The Kills are inevitable. If they continue on their current upward trajectory it would seem a soundtrack berth on the next Tarantino flick will also become inevitable.

D/troit

Having to follow arguably the most exhilarating act of the weekend Lexsoul Dancemachine, it seemed D/troit had their work cut out. The electricity in the crowd was tangible and people were in the mood to party. D/troit were able to keep the party swinging with their timeless soul style, that brought Saturday night’s live music to a close.

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Once upon a time an obscure Garage band, the Danish group have today found their calling as one of Scandinavia’s finest soul music acts. Craig Charles recently labelled D/troit his favourite new band, playing their music on both his radio 2 and 6 shows. From where we are sitting, D/troit come across as the most under rated and effortlessly cool soul band since The Heavy.

Special Mentions…

Kalàscima

Kalàscima hail from Salento in Italy. In their local dialect their name is a combination of the words for good and evil.

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And, just like the battle between good and evil in all our favourite books and movies, their music is a tussle between the traditional folk of the region and modern electronic sounds. These collide, thankfully harmoniously, into an unforgettable music experience.

Púr Múdd

If you wanted to encapsulate the look and feel of Estonia’s youth today Tallinn Music Week, you would have had need to look no further than Púr Múdd.

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Their modern and almost gritty electronic pop sound echoes a nation at the cutting edge of modern technology (Estonia refers to itself as e-Estonia), and a determined start up culture that sees its youth striding towards a bright future.

Trad Attack!

If someone were to say to you “We are going to see an Estonian folk band, there will be bagpipes, a jewish harp and such like” you have an immediate expectation. A nice pleasant sound, perhaps traditional costumes and dancing, lovely!!

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What you get is folk that slaps you across the face with its vibrancy and currentness. It’s no wonder that Trad Attack! are playing at festivals around the world.

The Toasters

Ska pioneers The Toasters are a well-known act to many. The seasoned performers first came together in 1981, and despite performing over 6000 shows in their career, it was their very first time in Estonia.

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Luckily, the Tallinn Music Week crowd weren’t disappointed by the wait and thoroughly enjoyed the feast of musical enthusiasm that was served up.

Words by Marc Argent and Mark Taylor.

Pictures by Marc Argent and Tallinn Music Week.

For more information about Tallinn Music Week visit their website here.

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Green Man Festival 2018 Preview

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Green Man Festival 2018 Preview

Posted on 03 May 2018 by John Haylock

We’ve been regular visitors to the Green Man Festival over the years. Nestled in the Brecon Beacons it’s line up is always one of the best in the festival calendar and this time around is no exception.

Among the many highlights are Australian psychedelic rockers King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard. After seeing them twice at Glastonbury we can confirm their live shows are not to be missed.

King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard

King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard

John Grant, another we have seen live on a number of occasions, is also an essential act to catch, as are Grizzly Bear, Dirty Projectors and Fleet Foxes.

Further down the bill Teenage Fanclub are a welcome addition to any festival line up. We have being watching them at venues across the UK for nearly 30 years and they always delight us.

John Grant

John Grant

New bands also feature strongly, with Atlanta act Omni’s jerky pop and Amber Arcades among our top picks.

Big Jeff is there too DJing! Jeff has been a regular gig-goer in Bristol for the last 15 years and will be drawing on that vast array of experience to delight you. If Jeff’s there you know it’s the best gig in town.

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For more information about Green Man, which takes place August 16-19, visit their website here.

by John Haylock

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Dinosaur Jr – Roundhouse, London (March 23, 2018)

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Dinosaur Jr – Roundhouse, London (March 23, 2018)

Posted on 28 March 2018 by Joe

Thirty years have passed since Dinosaur Jr got together. Since then they have split up, reformed and are still selling out venues, with this London gig no exception.

Having seen them at the Reading Festival back in the early nineties, it was an interesting contrast, and a reminder of why I had mixed feelings about them last time.

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Dinosaur Jr’s lead singer and chief guitar noodler J Mascis is, if possible, even more static that he was back then. He seems an isolated figure onstage, and not helped by the contrast between him and the more exuberant performance of bass player Lou Barlow.

This juxtaposition makes this seem like a solo act with the drums and bass as back up musicians. This is not to underplay the contributions of drummer Murph and Lou to the band’s sound, but the rather odd impression created by the onstage dynamics.

I’m guessing this is unintended rather than planned. J is clearly friends with both support acts and presumably the other guys in the band. His is undeniably, however, a somewhat awkward stage presence.

Ironically, he seemed much more relaxed when strolling on to play guitar on the last song of opening band Easy Action’s set.

Their frontman, hard-faced, angular veteran punk rocker John Brannon, cups the microphone in his hand whilst spitting lyrics at the crowd, mixing hardcore, punk and metal with an industrial edge; they are enthusiastically received by those who arrive in time to catch them.

I catch five of their songs, their final song on which J plays guitar, is the shortest of an excellent, rather intense set and like all of tonight’s bands they are great.

Easy Action are there to remind us of the hardcore punk influence inherent in Dinosaur Jr. Meanwhile, next on the bill,  Stephen McBean from Black Mountain, gives us a taste of J Mascis and co’s  West Coast Country psychedelic roots.

When McBean first came onstage his rather shambolic appearance and lack of introduction made me think he was the roadie tuning up for him. He proved be a far more engaging performer than J and played a solo set using a mixture of backing tapes and looping delay effects to build psychedelic country soundscapes that belie his mild-mannered appearance.

His voice, crystal clear, is youthful, like a garage band from the 1960’s, and some of his songs are stunning. I particularly liked his second number with its Byrds-esque guitars crashing in like broken glass onto the sun-kissed vocal melody.

Dinosaur Jr arrive onstage with the classic Thumb, reassuring their fans that there will be plenty more good songs to come. It’s mid pace melancholy wrought through the band’s virtuoso musicianship, and only held back in my opinion by the venue’s rather indifferent sound (this was something of a bugbear for me).

The vocals weren’t clear enough for any of tonight’s acts, and I would be reluctant to come here to see a band again. Next time I’ll see Dinosaur Jr in a venue with a low ceiling and a solid sound system. That being said, they are still fantastic.

There’s an amusing interview with J on YouTube where a seven-year-old child asks him if he is a “guitar god”. J says, “No”, but based on tonight’s performance it would be pretty difficult to disagree.

J plays guitar like few others, intricate and effortless, it really is something to see. I can’t think of a better guitarist I’ve seen.

Lou Barlow is all hair and beard, the two merging into one shaggy head. Lou wins the Dorian Gray award for looking at least ten years younger than J or Murph. Maybe that’s why they kicked him out back in the 90’s?

Murph, the ever present with J throughout Dinosaur Jr’s history must be the hardest working drummer in show business, rock solid all night without missing a beat. His lack of hair perhaps a sign that there is some stress in slackerdom.

Dinosaur Jr play three of four songs from the new album (all very good), before misfiring the start to “Feel the Pain”, and then going into “Out There”. The crowd go nuts.

And, there is an odd contrast between the Droopy inspired stage persona of J and the hundreds of middle aged men going ape-shit for his music.

As one of those middle-aged men, hearing “Out There” played live makes me feel thirty years younger and want to cry simultaneously. It is a masterpiece and the only song to beat it is the next song, the previously teased, “Feel the Pain”.

It’s wonderfully crafted, with its jarring opening allied to its heartfelt lyrics and swinging bassline and the sheer abandon of the chorus make this song a masterpiece. I glance bemused at the crowd surfing and moshing to my left.

From there the band revisit their back catalogue, with songs from Green Mind, Bug and You’re Living All Over Me, with the latter dominating the selection, particularly the encores.

This, the band’s first album is a little unfamiliar to me, and perhaps a number of their fans, certainly the tracks from Green Mind and Bug, get a better reception from the audience.

Perhaps the band like playing these tracks as they remind them of more innocent times, or perhaps they still have a few copies of it they’d like to shift taking up scant storage space in their houses, and they figure playing tracks off it at their shows may stir their fans to seek out these unsold copies.

If the Greeks have taught us one thing, it is that Guitar Gods are likely to be capricious tricksters toying with mere mortals, so either could be true.

The crowd at the show are an interesting one, there seemingly aren’t that many lively bands going about any more, and whilst I am not tempted to join in, it’s great to see the crowd respond to the band with the heady release of a stag weekend.

Just before the encore, I saw a guy staggering about looking for his mates with four pints of beer in his hands. Thus, tracks like Freak Scene and The Wagon get rapturous receptions.

Before the final encore, Lou Barlow, tongue in cheek presumably asks for requests.

If you shouted out for “Raisans” then you got your wish. I heard a lot of people shouting for “Get Me”, and on that note there weren’t many slow songs, I was rooting for “Not You Again”, but at times you just have to take what the Gods give you.

By Gavin McGarvey

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Insecure men – Nottingham Bodega (March 10, 2018)

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Insecure men – Nottingham Bodega (March 10, 2018)

Posted on 12 March 2018 by John Haylock

Ok. So, Insecure Men’s name may not be particularly inspiring (although on further reflection, it is rather good).  But live these young men are if not a revelation in the biblical sense at least incredible in their own very sweet way.

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My initial response to their debut album was one of contemptuous dismissal. Why the fuck was this banal cruise round the Med on a Saga holiday music being so lauded?

Yet something drew me back and after half a week spent in its cheesy company I have seen sense and predict that Saul Adamczewski and Ben Romans Hopcraft have crafted a piece of work that will be one of the years most insidious and lovable albums of 2018.

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So live, can they cut it?

An affirmative YES based on this performance at a rammed Bodega. From the get go with nary a guitar riff in sight we are singing along, swaying and dancing badly. The opening number, Cliff has Left the Building, has us all captivated, sounding like The Beach Boys headed by Syd Barrett.

There are so many influences going on here. Early Velvets and a touch of glam rock on the startling Mekong Glitter. This is a song introduced by Saul as a tune about sex tourism. We all whooped (apart from the politically correct misery arse who had a go at my mate).

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Teenage Toy is lovely and the new single, I Don’t Wanna Dance, ironically made us dance. They played the whole album although on a slightly personal note I missed one of my favourites, Ulster, when I went for a pee. But apart from that, no quibbles.

They are visual treat as well, sartorial to the max, baggy golfing trousers white socks, a beret and a pleated grey dress. The music, the look (like an explosion in a Dexys Midnight Runners’ factory) as well as the the arch and very knowing lyrics, combine to create something quite subversive.

I am sure the crowd who attended tonight will be gifted with the foreknowledge that they saw Insecure Men in a small club in 2018 before the band played a blinder in a rather large field in Somerset in 2019.

Ladies and gentlemen I give you the next Pulp.

Words by John Haylock, pictures by Debs Anderson.

More information about Insecure Men can be found here.

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Eilen Jewell – The Maze, Nottingham (November 12, 2017)

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Eilen Jewell – The Maze, Nottingham (November 12, 2017)

Posted on 14 November 2017 by Joe

A very difficult decision had to be made tonight as Captain Beefheart’s Magic Band were also in town. But a quick listen to Down Hearted Blues, a collection of reworked classics by Eilen Jewell, and that Sunday night gig quandary became a formality.

Originally from Boise, Idaho, Eilen Jewell is a waif like presence that belies a sensuous, confident and sensational performer. A fantastic, authentic interpreter of the blues and countrified Americana, with such a special voice that is equally at home in both camps.

Eilen Jewel

Eilen Jewel

She and her band effortlessly invoke the spirits of Howlin Wolf, Willie Dixon, Memphis Minnie and Betty James. The band tonight are tremendous, on huge double bass is Shawn Supra, the suave Mr Jason Beek is on drums, brushes and washboard..oh yes, we have a washboard scenerio!

And on the sweetest guitar you’ll ever hear is the legendary guitarist Jerry Miller who has an illustrious career playing with the likes of Johnny Cash and was part of the nascent hippy movement as prime mover in the band Moby Grape with Skip Spence. He also knew Jimi Hendrix and is one of the greatest exponents of the guitar this side of Atlantis.

This was a mammoth set, two hours by my reckoning and covering all bases, including Shelf Blues, Rio Grande, Needle and Thread, Rich Man’s World from her vibrant back catalogue.

Eilen Jewell’s new recordings were superlative too. Another Night to Cry, Don’t Leave Poor Me and especially Walking with Frankie really cooked up a storm. In virtually all the songs Miller played some incredible guitar licks. Restrained and concise, the epitome of a truly gifted musician and a privilege and pleasure to experience.

Between these beautiful tunes Eilen Jewell talks about her love for the blues, busking, falling in and out of love and how music got her through the hard times.

She tells of discovering her father’s record collection and her early years in Boise, where she longed to break out and connect with something bigger. This desire to break free of your roots appears to be a common thread to many musicians.

She seemed genuinely grateful to receive vociferous calls for an encore and finished with a glorious version of Bang Bang Bang and a solo stab at Bob Dylan’s Walking Down the Line which was mesmeric.

Support was from Sophia Marshall, a name you should remember for future reference, hailing from Leicestershire this singer songwriter has an easy relaxed style with a nice set of self penned tunes. Flanked by Andy Jenkinson and Sarah Marshall who contribute backing vocals and bass, the resulting melange of acoustica is a sweet thing, gentle, harmonious and blessed with some nice tunes.

Her latest album is called Bye Bye, from which most of tonight’s short set came from and heartily recommended it is too.

Big eyed beans from Venus nil…….Eilen and Sophia, three.

Words by John Haylock, pictures by Arthur Hughes.

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Chickfactor 25 – London, The Lexington (November 12, 2017)

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Chickfactor 25 – London, The Lexington (November 12, 2017)

Posted on 13 November 2017 by Dorian

Tonight’s Chickfactor 25 gig at The Lexington is part of “a series of fortunate events” to celebrate 25 years of the US-based indie pop magazine Chickfactor. Across the events (happening in New York, Portland and London) dozens of bands are playing, but this event alone is a pretty impressive selection of indie pop acts from the last quarter century.

The Catenary Wires

The Catenary Wires

Amelia Fletcher has been part of my musical life for 30 years now, first as a vocalist on a Wedding Present record and later fulfilling the same role for Hefner. I’ve never owned any records by the many bands she has fronted, but I have enjoyed seeing her play live in a number of acts over the years. The Catenary Wires, a duo with long-time collaborator Rob Pursey, are perhaps the most pleasant of all these bands, playing a low-key acoustic set that wouldn’t shock fans of Tallulah Gosh or the Tender Trap.

Would-Be-Goods

Would-Be-Goods

Next up at Chickfactor 25 is the Would-Be-Goods, who play the liveliest set of the night, sporting a full band for the evening. This is a band that I had never heard of before booking tickets, but one that has a career dating back to the late 1980s. Singer Jessica Griffin is as English as can be, both in her sung accent and her on-stage demeanour. The band is pretty good and they come close to rocking out a couple of times which is refreshing on such a restrained musical bill.

Stevie Jackson

Stevie Jackson

The last time I saw Stevie Jackson play a solo set was at Indietracks in 2012 where, backed by a full band, he played (to my knowledge) no Belle and Sebastian songs. Here, alone with an acoustic guitar, he plays a set that is heavy with songs by his band. This includes an as-yet-unreleased song from their next album and an inevitable performance of Chickfactor. Perhaps the best moment of the set (and perhaps the night) is when Rose Melberg joins him on stage to play a Gene Clark cover. Although his bluesy version of Step Into My Office Baby is another highlight.

The Softies

The Softies

Rose Melberg has played in seemingly dozens of bands over the last 25 years, and they all seem to have fairly fleeting existences. She has three basic musical styles that these acts work around, Go Sailor and Pups offer bouncy guitar pop, Tiger Trap and Knife Pleats a fuzzy downbeat guitar pop and solo and with The Softies an introspective and soft type of guitar pop (there are other bands too, but I’ll not list them all). The thing that unites all these bands is that they are all great, largely unheard and feature her wonderful singing voice. The duo, with Jen Sbragia on guitar and backing vocals, are perhaps her best-loved incarnation and you can see why tonight. At Chickfactor 25 their voices meld perfectly and the subtle melodies work perfectly without a backing band. The duo doesn’t play often, and there were some false starts and abandoned solos in the set, but the songs and voices sounded pretty great and the fan-heavy audience clung on to every note.

By Dorian Rogers

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Public Service Broadcasting – Nottingham Rock City (October 21, 2017)

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Public Service Broadcasting – Nottingham Rock City (October 21, 2017)

Posted on 23 October 2017 by John Haylock

The popularity of Public Service Broadcasting grows exponentially, rather like one of the graphs on the visual projection screens behind them on stage.

From very humble cash strapped beginnings in 2009, they now command a small South American country’s bank balance to bring you an EVENT, rather than the budget constrained show of yore.

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The cardboard televisions and the cheaply constructed sets are now a thing of the past.  They now embrace a George Lucas approach to live performances.

Once merely a duo they have now mutated into the population of a small town in Bedfordshire.

Lasers, strobes, dancing white space suited astronauts, a brass ensemble, special guests and non-stop films all bringing their music to life.

It is difficult to comprehend the journey the two heroes of Public Service Broadcasting,  the sensibly named J Willgoose esq and drummer Wigglesworth, embarked upon all those years ago.

They have gone from small crowds of bewildered onlookers via a mindblowing set at Glastonbury in 2013 to this – a sold out tour in 2018. They deserve it. Their music is tremendously effective, cleverly interweaving movie and documentary dialogue with tasty instrumental tunes.

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They also now have a considerable back catalogue to draw upon. But they start with selections from the new album Every Valley. This is a concept piece based upon the trials, tribulations and plight of Welsh coal mining communities back in the day.

The subject matter, despite being very moving, worthy and historically interesting doesn’t lend itself well to a rock show, After all, there is only so much black and white footage of Welsh coal miners struggling to survive economic desperation that you can take.

But never mind there’s always the Spacerace to freak out to, with footage of rockets and explosions and dynamic guitar riffs, married to Kraftwerkian keyboard funkiness.

The set then veers sharp left into the oncoming path of Sir John Betjeman with a fantastic rendition of Night Mail.

Then into what most consider their most rocking song Spitfire. In in an ideal world this would be our new national anthem.

The addition of a three-man brass army to Public Service Broadcasting on stage is most welcome. At times it’s not unlike James Brown’s backing band playing with New Order.

One regret was the absence of the Margaret Thatcher footage they played back in the summer to accompany one of the tracks from the new album.  It had the entire crowd booing and swearing at her image.

Three members of Haiku Salut join the band for a lovely version of They Gave Me A Lamp.

In addition, Go! was total overload great – a real techno frenzy of lights, action and men in dickie bows.

Lit up, the one that includes snippets of Thomas Woodroofe’s infamous incoherent report of a passing naval flotilla from Portland in 1937 whilst completely pissed, was a hoot.

While for the encore they gave us the traditional closer, Everest, with its beautiful floating melody swirling around our buzzing heads.

Where to next for our intrepid explorers? The centre of the Earth or the centre of the galaxy?

Tune in next time for more thrilling adventures in sound and space!

Words by John Haylock, pictures by Arthur Hughes

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Hockley Hustle – Nottingham (October 8, 2017)

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Hockley Hustle – Nottingham (October 8, 2017)

Posted on 10 October 2017 by John Haylock

It seems as though every town in England is putting on showcase days to highlight the rich diversity of their eternally evolving artistic subculture. Similar events in Brighton, Manchester, Leeds and Glastonbury (the town that is) have all kicked off this year and anywhere with a few bars and galleries seem ripe for some locally sourced talent.

Hustle

Today it’s the turn of an area in Nottingham called Hockley, a small conclave of a regenerated, previously impoverished area of the city. An area, which has transformed itself remarkably over the years to become a vibrant hub of commerce and creativity.

From early afternoon the Hockley Hustle took off,  with the area becoming a busy, heaving but happy gathering of like-minded people, fueled by enormous amounts of alcohol (sorry, that’s just me), exotic foodstuffs and good-natured camaraderie. It’s like a party but with health and safety regulators.

First port of call was the Old Angel pub where at half past three I thought I was going to see Brian Blessed. Turns out it’s a band. Ha bleedin’ ha!

In the same venue we caught some hard driving rhythm and blues from a band called Louis – think Dr Feelgood (ish). Then a young lady called Holly Taylor-Gamble and her young band sang mightily with conviction and brimstone.

I recently flagged up duo You Want Fox – featuring Colette on drums and Natalie on bass, who kick off bigtime. They are a raucous good time duo with some great sing-a-long choruses and catchy tunes. A stage invasion is actively encouraged. Brilliant.

I Am Lono got off to a good start after some interminable sound-checking, but sadly after two numbers it all went technology tits up, and they came to a faltering halt.

But hey, greatest thing ever was the Hockley Hustle set from some guys called Future Shinjuku.

My God they were good. They have a lead vocalist/guitarist who looks like Rag n Bone Man, with a similar gravelly voice, loads of echo on the riffing and a bunch of electronics from a chap with a laptop with lots of buttons on it. Warning – don’t press one like I did, he didn’t like that.

Over to El Capo bar where Inkbomb played some dramatic thrash metal. But how we ever missed a sixty-piece choir in the contemporary art gallery I’ll never know.

We then shot over to the Bodega to see what was happening – lasted one minute as we realised drum ‘n’ bass ain’t our thing.

Fire eaters, girls singing acapella on street corners, jugglers and a chap dressed as half Ziggy Stardust half Adam Ant followed. Only in Nottingham.

Our Hockley Hustle tour also took in some jazz, a bit of poetry and finished the evening in the company of The Sonics, sorry Thee Eviltones – garage rock bravado and bollocks. Totally in your face next to a plant pot. Groovy-baby, groovy-baby.

Come to Nottingham, it’s not shit anymore.

Words by John Haylock

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Sparks – Nottingham Rock City (September 23, 2017)

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Sparks – Nottingham Rock City (September 23, 2017)

Posted on 26 September 2017 by Joe

Good heavens! It says on Wiki that an early version of Sparks existed in 1968 under the name Halfnelson (mind you it also says Donald Trump is human, so I’m taking this with a pinch of salt).

After a quick name change to Sparks their 1972 breakthrough single, This Town Ain’t Big Enough For Both Of Us, exploded on the scene.

It fitted seamlessly with the ongoing glam rock movement of Marc Bolan in feather boa and half a ton of face glitter, an emaciated Bowie in his ambi-sexual Ziggy persona and reformed bovver boys Slade trampling all before them in a tide of bad spelling and big choruses.

sparks cropped

Among them were Sparks, wonderful Sparks, with an Adolf Hitler lookalike on piano and a singer who sounded like a strangled cat. Ron and Russell had arrived.

This Town Ain’t Big Enough For Both Of Us was so left of centre it caught everybody off guard. That means our dynamic duo have been rocking ironically in a semi-operatic style for nearly fifty years. That is surely an excellent definition of longevity!

It is a wonder of the age that these two guys still remain relevant at the transient coalface of fickle rock n roll. Their new album Hippopotamus is as good as anything they’ve ever created: funny, catchy and just jolly good fun.

The band, all five of them come on dressed in white shirts with horizontal black stripes. Ron and Russ then enter stage right to tumultuous cheers. They look like confused convicts, Russ might be wearing a shiny black syrup of fig, it’s hard to tell but what other frontman do you know who skips when singing? A marvelous sight indeed.

Then there’s Ron who sits almost motionless at his keyboard looking like a not very scary replicant from the new Bladerunner film, and trying not to grin.

Tonight they gave us a set comprising nineteen songs – a good humoured, sentimental knees up for the art rock crowd then progressed apace.

Kicking off with the grin inducing hugely fantastic What the Hell Is It This Time? from the new album and finishing with another 1972 hit Amateur Hour ninety minutes later.

Sandwiched in between were killer recreations of the buoyant and irresistible Good Morning, Scandinavian Design, the lyrically genius I Wish You Were Fun, a blinding Missionary Position and especially Edith Piaf Said It Better, which was phenomenal.

Oldies included, When Do I Get to Sing My Way and 1974’s Propaganda. They even dropped in Johnny Delusional, from their successful 2015 collaboration with Franz Ferdinand – FFS. But it was This Town and 1979’s Number One Song In Heaven that blew the roof off.

The stoney faced Ron’s live party trick – to leave the piano half way through the set, come centre stage, take his tie off, loosen his jacket and do a groovy dance  – was priceless. He even smiled!

An emotional farewell and speeches from both of them followed. There was not a dry eye in the house.

Brothers in arms.

Beautiful.

Words by John Haylock, picture by Rod Dykeman

For more information about Sparks, visit their website here.

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