Archive | November, 2018

TC&I –Swindon Arts Centre (October 2018)

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TC&I –Swindon Arts Centre (October 2018)

Posted on 07 November 2018 by John Haylock

Last week XTC were literally only half the band they used to be, in terms of personnel at any rate, when bassist, vocalist and songwriter Colin Moulding and drummer Terry Chambers, together with a polished ensemble of musicians,  performed a week of gigs at Swindon Arts Centre as TC&I.

But put it this way, two of the members of XTC on stage is like two of The Beatles (in this case MaCartney and Starr) doing a gig in a shed. You quite simply have to be there if the opportunity arises.

OK, so there was no appearance from XTC’s other songwriter and guitarist Andy Partridge, for understandable reasons after suffering a breakdown on stage in 1982. And there was no Dave Gregory, whose guitar interplay with Partridge was a hallmark of the band.

However, just to get Colin and Terry onstage for the first time for decades is a feat of mega proportions.

TC&I 1

XTC were the clever clogs’ choice back in the day. They had a seemingly endless supply of hugely enjoyable tunes, complete with whistling solos and lyrics that were deeper than a fracking site in Lancashire.

Being hip and groovy I of course loved them to pieces. But I never saw them live. Lots of nearlies but never live. This was going to be a colossal love in.

Despite the efforts of a local hostelry to poison us with some overpriced food beforehand we entered the venue with uncontained excitement. It was like being 16 again.

Historic and triumphant return to the stage

Swindon Arts Centre is the opposite of the Tardis. It is smaller on the inside than on the outside and holds just two hundred people. Unimaginative reviewers would call it intimate. It is intimate.

As for the show the words historic and triumph are most apt.

TC&i 3

Some careful thought had been put into the structuring of the show.  They could have just torn into 24 big hits. But no, they chose to ramp up the excitement slowly and inexorably toward the big hitters.

They came onto what sounded like the intro to Bungalow, then tentatively but increasingly confidently, picked up the pace to hit Drums and Wires (1979)’s Ten Feet Tall, via early forays into lesser known works such as Say It, from the Apple Venus (1999) era and Day in Day Out, also from Drums and Wires.

They do a TC&I track called Scatter Me. It’s a great song in show that was almost stolen by Wonderland, from Mummer (1983), which was absolutely exquisite. A perfect rendering of a perfect song.

Grass, from Skylarking (1986) was magnificent. The crowd were now getting a bit frisky and the usherettes (or torch ladies as they are affectionately known in the TC&I Facebook group) were having their work cut out stopping people taking photos and daring to dance.

One of my favourite XTC albums is Nonsuch, It was great to hear War Dance (sadly always relevant) and the sublime Smartest Monkey from this oft overlooked album. Colin also sang Bungalow from this album, which drew loud cheers as he proved he still has the voice.

TC& I 2

From then on it was a deliriously genteel trip down memory lane.

What’s that coming over the hill? Hits. Lots of them in quick succession. Ball and Chain, Generals and Majors ( I defy you not to whistle), Making Plans for Nigel (he’s still working for British steel, the Partridge penned Statue of Liberty and finally Life Begins at the Hop.

As the lights come up I have rarely seen so many beaming faces. The utter joy experienced by everyone was almost tangible.

This is pop, and we love it to bits.

Words by John Haylock, pictures (taken before stopped by torch ladies) by Arthur Hughes

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Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks – Brighton Concorde 2 (October 25, 2018)

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Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks – Brighton Concorde 2 (October 25, 2018)

Posted on 01 November 2018 by Dorian

I don’t feel like I’ve seen Stephen Malkmus play often, but counting through the times (Pavement at Reading 1992 and their ATP in 2010, with The Jicks at Reading 2001 and three times in Brighton) this is my 6th time seeing him play live.

Stephen Malkmus 1

I’ve also never seen him play a bad show. The reunited Pavement shows may have been done more out of duty than love, but the songs were great so I’ll take it. Given how much I enjoy his work it is odd that I only really keep half an ear on his solo recordings. I enjoy them a lot when I make the effort but I don’t rush to listen to them.

Here on the Concorde 2 stage in Brighton he plays a set that draws heavily from his recent albums and it sounds great from start to finish. Tunes like ‘Middle America’, from Sparkle Hard, may lean towards his more laconic side, but they are so well constructed that I’m happy to sit back a bit with them.

He throws some more upbeat tunes into the set, personal favourites ‘Stick Figures In Love’ and ‘Jo Jo’s Jacket’ both get an airing and they really highlight what a great band he has backing him.

Stephen Malkmus 2

One thing that really strikes you watching Stephen Malkmus live is what a great guitar player he is, and what a confident stage presence. His days in Pavement may have left him with the reputation of being a slacker with scrappy musicianship, but this is far from the truth. As he throws his guitar behind his head, never missing a note, you can see how skilful he is.

He’s witty too. St one point a scuffle breaks out in the crowd, some people a little inebriated causing problems. The band reprimand them, Malkmus standing statue like displaying two peace signs. The scuffle ends and the crowd calms. He leaps into a boxer’s pose, hands clenched. “Save your fists for the class war!” he proclaims.

He has also softened in his stance to nostalgia and his old band, he is clearly at ease with his musical legacy and what the crowd wants to hear. When the band return for the inevitable encore he launches into a raucous version of ‘Stereo’, the crowd (inevitably) goes wild. Last of all he appears to deviate from the planned final song, responding to requests from the crowd, and plays early EP track ‘Box Elder’.

His European tour is almost over, you’d need to head to Paris on Saturday to catch him before he returns to the US, but I’d recommend catching him next time you can. in the meantime, give Sparkle Hard a listen.

By Dorian Rogers

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