Saturday, 1 June 2019

The Futureheads, Rescue Rooms, Nottingham

Supported by Fatherson

Fatherson are not a new band, having been formed in 2010 and having recorded three albums, but they are new to me. They come from Kilmarnock and seem to have quite a following, many of whom are packed in down the front tonight.

They open impressively, blowing everyone away with their first song but after the simplicity of the opening number they went a bit arty after that and also a touch robotic, losing a lot of the audience in the process. They’d probably grow on me in time but tonight I felt like I’ve overdosed on them a touch by the end of their half hour or perhaps I was just desperate to get on with the main event.

It’s another box ticked tonight as I finally get to see the Futureheads live, who I totally missed out on when they were in the pomp even missing them at Leicester’s Summer Sundae Festival in 2010 despite having a ticket because I went to the football... Shortly afterwards they went all Acapella on us before disappearing completely, seemingly without trace.

I wasn’t confident we'd see the four Mackems back together and on stage again but here they are, bursting into ‘Yes/No’ from the ‘News And Tributes’ album and seemingly with renewed enthusiasm, which is very infectious. Next comes ‘Area’, bizarrely a top 20 hit from 2005 on the back of a famous cover version they once did. Things are rocking now as ‘Struck Dumb’ and ‘Meantime’ furiously tumble forth. 

Then it’s a pause for breath and a new song ‘Good Night Out’ sung by Ross Millard, then it’s back to Barry Hyde for ‘Decent Days and Nights’.

Another new song ‘Listen Little Man’ and then already we seem to be hurtling towards the finale. The other Hyde, Dave on drums, clearly working from a different setlist plays ‘Radio Heart’ but everyone else plays ‘HeartBeat Song’ which is outstanding, then it’s a particular favourite of mine, the gorgeous, ‘Back to the Sea’ before a fast flowing triple whammy of ‘Skip to the End’, ‘The Beginning of the Twist’ and ‘Carnival Kids’ bring things to close.

We’re all exhausted but they’ve only been going 45 minutes. Earlier Hyde seem to know exactly how many days it was since they’d last played Nottingham, although I’ve no idea if he was correct. He promised to make up for it by making this show last three weeks, which Millard pointed out would be a bit difficult give the 10pm curfew. So, on reflection guys, 45 minutes seems.. well... a bit brief?

The encore is perhaps a little odd. Opening, fair enough, with comeback single ‘Jekyll’ but then continues with two cover versions. Firstly the Television Personalities 'A Picture of Dorian Gray' which they covered on their ‘1-2-3-Nul!’ EP back in 2003 and then yes, they do still play Kate Bush's 'Hounds Of Love'. The song which sort of made their name but you have to say they have plenty material of their own that they could have played which far surpasses it.

This stretches out the gig to an hour but they still finish 30 minutes inside the curfew. In their defence they do look drained, having put their all into it and it is so good to have them back.

The Futureheads Setlist Rescue Rooms, Nottingham, England 2019

Thursday, 23 May 2019

The Juliana Hatfield Three, Rescue Rooms, Nottingham

Supported by Colour Me Wednesday

Colour Me Wednesday look like a new, youthful all girl five piece band but have actually been around for twelve years. My apologies, they’ve aged very well or even not at all. They seem to come on stage reluctantly. Perhaps it’s not their sort of crowd, full of us oldies, but they soon get into. They very quickly look like they’re having a great time, promptly winning the crowd over with their enthusiasm and punchy indie punk songs.

The band, from Uxbridge, are built around sisters Jen and Harriet Doveton. Jen’s vocals are impressively strong, they have great drummer and a bass player who sings every word despite not having a microphone. Afterwards all the old men, and women, of the audience form an impressive queue at their merchandising desk.

A visit to the UK from Juliana Hatfield isn’t a common event and a visit to Nottingham an even rarer one. Her last trip here was in 1993 when this very band played with the Teenage Fanclub. I didn’t catch that gig and consequently this is my first time seeing Juliana in my home city.

That gig in 1993 was billed as a ‘Juliana Hatfield Three’ gig as is tonight, reforming the line up that recorded the album ‘Become What You Are’, of which we hear plenty tonight, before going on hiatus for 20 years. This means we have Todd Phillips on drums and Dean Fisher (Tanya Donelly’s other half) on bass. The ‘Three’ did get back together briefly in 2014 for the album 'Whatever, My Love’, none of which makes the setlist tonight.

However the next thing to say about the ‘Juliana Hatfield Three’ is that there’s four of them with the addition of Joe Keefe playing a second guitar. Keefe worked with Hatfield on her ‘Made in China’ album in 2005, so it’s not surprising to see three tracks pulled from that particular record tonight.

They open with ‘Everybody Loves Me But You’, a solo classic of Hatfield’s from back in 1992 before ‘Feelin' Massachussets’ is the first from ‘Become What You Are’ tonight. To be followed in due course by ‘My Sister’, ‘Spin The Bottle’, ‘President Garfield’ and ‘I Got No Idols’.

Hatfield has a new solo album out at the moment but this is largely ignored tonight, aside from one track ‘Lost Ship’, while her Trump inspired (if inspired is the right word) previous album ‘Pussycat’ from 2017 provides five tracks.

Perhaps they didn’t get time to rehearse her new record but then again 'Pussycat' is excellent throughout and I'd have given anything to hear her play the wonderful ‘Rhinoceros’ from that album. 'Guess who’s getting f***ed by the rhinoceros America?' and of course the man himself is over here in just over a week.

With seventeen albums bearing her name there’s a lot to pull a setlist from, and that’s before you start considering the Blake Babies and other projects she’s been involved in, but I think she's makes a pretty fair selection.

There's even a cover of Olivia Newton-John's ‘Physical’ taken from a tribute album where Hatfield covered thirteen of Newton-John's songs with the proceeds going to her cancer charity.

Her stage manner, as ever, comes across as quite shy and unconfident meaning she doesn’t chat an awful lot but the performance is top notch. Let’s not leave it another 20 years before the next one.

The Juliana Hatfield Three Setlist Rescue Rooms, Nottingham, England 2019

Tuesday, 2 April 2019

The Zutons, Rock City, Nottingham

Supported by Queenzee & The Fernweh

I miss the first band Queenzee but do catch The Fernweh. They are a sort of folk come 60s\70s psychedelic rock band. It seems more of a jam session than a concert amid which you get the feeling that the guitarist is dying to burst into a rendition of 'Purple Haze' but daren’t. They are curiously pleasant but they don’t really hold the crowd’s attention.

How do you cause an argument on the Zutons comeback tour where they are playing their debut album ‘Who Killed...... The Zutons?’ in full. This was the album which was nominated for the Mercury Prize in 2004 but lost out to Franz Ferdinand. You do so by telling the fan next to you that you think their second album ‘Tired of Hanging Around’ was nuch better. Oops.

Tonight, eleven years after their third and final album and, aside from a one-off tribute gig in 2016, nine years since playing live I am ticking another band off my ‘must see’ list. 

The band take the stage and open with ‘Zuton Fever’ off ‘Who Killed...... The Zutons?’, of course.

Personally I’m not a great fan of ‘album in full’ shows so they get great kudos for (a) omitting a track - oddly ‘Nightmare Part II’ (b) not playing it in order and (c) inserting throughout tracks from that superior (ha ha) second album. So, yes, it's a great show.

Despite being a six-piece, your attention is clearly drawn to the three with the big hair at the front of the stage. After an exhausting opening four tracks ending with a delightful ‘Valerie’ both lead singer Dave McCabe and saxophonist Abi Harding take time out to adjust their hair. Dave half-heartedly tries and fails to keep his out of his eyes, Abi simply takes an age putting hers up. Guitarist Boyan Chowdhury just doesn’t care.

While it’s McCabe who does the audience interaction in his thick Scouse drawl, it is Harding who does the dancing. Is now the time to mention her leather trousers which that could be classed as a sexist remark but then had any of the guys been wearing the like I’d certainly have mentioned it too. Also, how can she dance in those heels? And no, none of the guys are wearing heels or even making a half decent fist of dancing.

While the album tracks are well received it is the singles that standout. The more fast paced ones like ‘Pressure Point’ and ‘Don’t Ever Think (Too Much)’ ramp up the crowd but it is perhaps the more nuanced ‘Remember Me’ and ‘Confusion’ that steal the show.

The set finishes with a rather sweet communal rendition of ‘Moons and Horror Shows’ at the front of the stage before the band return for an encore of ‘Hello Conscience’ and then close of course, with the stop-start melodies of ‘You Will You Won't’.

The Zutons Setlist Rock City, Nottingham, England 2019, Who Killed...... The Zutons 15th Anniversary Tour

Saturday, 16 March 2019

The Slow Readers Club, Leadmill, Sheffield

Supported by ShadowParty

To start tonight we have a super group called ShadowParty who consist of some of the members of Devo and New Order although they are not the ‘big’ names from those bands.   

The lead singer is Devo’s guitarist Josh Hagar and originally he was joined by drummer Jeff Friedl but Friedl isn't touring with them on this occasion. From New Order we have Tom Chapman who was Bernard Sumner's bass player in Bad Lieutenant before Sumner invited him to replace Peter Hook in New Order and we have 
Phil Cunningham who has been their guitarist since 2002.

They released an album last year which only really gives a cursory nod to both 'source' bands. That’s not to say it wasn’t decent and it sounds good live but then with all that experience in the band you’d assume they know what they are doing up on stage. American Hagar is quite chatty frontman too even dedicating one song to ‘our horrible orange man'. I wonder who he means.

They are joined on stage by Ellen Lewis, who must be half the age of the rest of the fortysomething band, and she takes lead vocals on one track 'Present Tense' while offering keyboards and backing vocals on the others. Overall, they are pretty good.

Talking of fortysomethings, before the Slow Readers Club come on stage I get chatting to the chap next to me who is a big Readers fan and says he has seen them loads of times. He says the crowds at their gigs are fantastic e.g. just like the old days e.g. lively. ‘The old days’ he says, are the ones that ‘fans like us in our late 30s and early 40s remember fondly’. As he has totally misjudged my age, we are now best friends forever. 

The Slow Readers Club have been slow burning their way through the conscience of the nation over the last eight years. Yes, there’s been nothing quick their rise and they have built the band up the old way, the hard way, through gradually building a fanbase. They remained unsigned, while still maintaining day jobs, until their third album was released last year. Finally, now the band have managed to go full time as a band.

They are about a third of the way through a massive 48 date UK and European tour and tonight they have sold out the Leadmill, making it their biggest gig so far outside of their homeland of Manchester.

They open with ‘Lunatic’, the big commercial moment from that third album ‘Build A Tower’. Everyone knows it and singer Aaron Starkie has to raise his voice to be heard above the singing crowd. From there, the only way could have been down but the Readers have too many good songs for that. 

‘Lives Never Known’ is followed by debut single ‘Sirens’ but they have so many good songs in fact that mixing the set up every night isn't a problem. The 17-song set is pulled in almost equal measure from all three Readers albums with songs from different albums segueing faultlessly into each other. Such as the excellent transition of ‘You Opened Up My Heart’ into ‘Plant The Seed’. In amongst all the old favourites is a brand new track ‘The Wait’. 

‘Forever In You Debt’ slow builds the start of the finale from which ‘Feet on Fire’ and ‘I Saw a Ghost’ from the excellent ‘Cavalcade’ album follow. Then finally their latest single ‘On The TV’. There is no encore, they have already left it all out there.

The Slow Readers Club Setlist The Leadmill, Sheffield, England, UK Spring Tour 2019

Tuesday, 12 February 2019

Tears For Fears, NEC Arena, Birmingham

Supported by Alison Moyet

Tonight we are at the Resorts World Arena in Birmingham. Yes, WTF. Formerly known as the Genting Arena. Yes, also WTF. Ok, I fess up, it's the NEC and I've competed at Crufts in this very arena and we are sat approximately where the weave poles were but that's another story.

This gig was supposed to be in May but it was rescheduled due to Roland Orzabal's wife falling ill and then sadly subsequently dying. All that is fine and unavoidable but what was annoying was seeing the concert moved from a Saturday to a Tuesday and from the nice centrality of the NIA to the ruralness of the NEC where it's also £12 to park your car. Presumably all done by the promoter to sell a few extra tickets. We had a hotel booked for May and a night out in Brum planned but it is what it is.

I’ve never really been an Alison Moyet fan and nothing she can do tonight would be likely to win me over and that’s fine. Other folk like her and she undeniably has a strong voice. Each to their own. However I am a little bemused by her set list choices. She plays a lot of recent material, as you would expect, including several tracks from her latest album ‘Other’ from 2017 but seems to eschew her own solo catalogue on which she made her name.

Alf does play her first two solo hits 'Love Resurrection' and 'All Cried Out' but none of her other hits from the 80s and 90s. No 'Invisible', 'That Ole Devil Called Love', 'Is This Love?, 'Weak in the Presence of Beauty' or 'Love Letters' for example.

Consequently she doesn’t really get the crowd going and then seems to realise this towards the end of the set where three of the last four tracks are Yazoo songs. Not that, I for one minute, think this wasn’t a pre-planned move. It suits me. I've always had a soft spot for Yazoo and everyone is on their feet for the closing ‘Don’t Go’.

Alison Moyet Setlist Arena Birmingham, Birmingham, England 2019, Rule The World (as special guest of Tears for Fears)

Tears For Fears also do something slightly unusual, in that they take to the stage to Lorde’s brooding version of 'Everybody Wants to Rule the World' before launching into the original. Presumably this means they approve.

There follows a very polished ninety minutes of entertainment as Roland Orzabal, Curt Smith and their band run through their back catalogue right up to 2004’s comeback album ‘Everybody Loves a Happy Ending’ and even including 'Break It Down Again' from the period where Orzabal used TFF as a solo project following an acrimonious split from Smith.

Personally I loved the first two albums but they lost me with the different direction they took with ‘The Seeds Of Love’ album in 1989 and seemingly Smith agreed with me as he was gone shortly afterwards.

Thankfully Smith who sang all the early hits, and presumably Orzabal too, still have a lot of love for the band’s debut album ‘The Hurting’ and Smith comments on how the younger generation were now discovering the band through that album. Here’s a thought. How good would it be to hear them play that album in it’s entirety sometime?

He then introduces a run of four tracks from it. 'Pale Shelter' had already been played earlier and now we get 'Change', 'Mad World' and the amazing 'Memories Fade' sung by Orzabal.

If that is his finest singing moment on ‘The Hurting’ then ‘Suffer the Children’ is probably his second finest. So I am at a loss to understand why he hands over vocals on this epic track to backing singer Carina Round. Yes she does a good job but it’s just not right. She is much better suited to duetting with Orzabal on 'Woman in Chains’ which comes next.

The set then loses it’s momentum with the rather tepid 'Advice for the Young at Heart' and the meandering and indulgent 'Badman's Song' before a set closing 'Head Over Heels / Broken' lifts things to a satisfying conclusion.

Naturally I’d have finished things off a little differently, for a start 'Songs from the Big Chair' was criminally underused tonight. 'Mother's Talk' and 'The Working Hour' would have been nice, then perhaps 'The Hurting' followed by the full ‘Broken’ sandwich for 'Head Over Heels' but I'm an awkward sod to please.   

There is then a mad rush for the exits, presumably to get out of the car park. This is something I’ve never understood, just like I’ve never understood people who have never seen the end of a football match because they always leave on eighty minutes. It’s always been all or nothing for me.

The band return to play ‘Shout’ to those who are left, which is still most of us, completing an excellent evening.

Tears for Fears Setlist Arena Birmingham, Birmingham, England 2019, Rule The World

Tuesday, 5 February 2019

The Vaccines, Academy, Leicester

Supported by Hatchie

I arrive at Leicester's Academy in time to catch the main support Hatchie, having missed opener Jesse Jo Stark.

Hatchie is effectively a person, real name Harriette Pilbeam, rather than the band she arrives with. She’s an Aussie whose music has been described as ‘dream pop’ and she’s even been lumped in with the shoegazing era by some but this sounds mainly like bog standard indie pop to me. Admittedly with some very nice hooks. There’s a touch of the Dolores O'Riordan’s (aka The Cranberries) about her but she seems a bit lost amongst her band. She may need to decide if she’s a person or a band. In the meantime, her sound is extremely pleasant but not life altering.

Now on to... ah yes, rediscovering my youth with a band that weren't even around in my youth. Funny that but The Vaccines are the sort of band I would most definitely have seen back then, so I feel very at home. It’s also probably why there are many people of my own generation here and down the front with me as well.

Classic Queen, in the form of ‘I Want to Break Free’, heralds the band's arrival amongst the palm trees and glitter on the stage before they open with ‘Your Love Is My Favourite Band’, from last year’s 'Combat Sports', which is also emblazoned across the drum kit.

Then we're straight into the seemingly never ending list of the infectious songs with which they’ve made their name and all of course with immensely sing-able lyrics. The Vaccines are a engine of entertainment if at sometimes an unsophisticated one.

I mean... 'Teenage Icon'? Oh please, then perhaps I should just grow up but instead I bounce along with some twentysomething with purple hair. I’ll grow up tomorrow, maybe.

Lead guitarist Freddie Cowan may never grow up, he’s loving it out there, absolutely loving it. As of course is singer Justin Young who doesn’t say a huge amount tonight and keeps his focus mainly on the music.

Then 'Wetsuit' wraps itself around the hall. Everybody loves Wetsuit and, as ever, it moves me almost to tears. It reminds me of how old I am but also why I'm here. I’ll grow up tomorrow, maybe.

Justin does tell us that, apparently, their first gig as the Vaccines was in Leicester, although presumably not here, and that no one knew the words to 'Post Break-Up Sex'. That's certainly not the case tonight.

'Nørgaard' is mental, as ever, and then two new tracks ‘Lets Jump Off the Top’ and recent single ‘All My Friends Are Falling In Love’ hint perhaps at a slight change of direction away from the guitar heavy riffs.

Someone dances into me, holding his drink above his head which he then tips down me. He’s older than me and he apologises, I think. I can’t really hear what he was saying, perhaps he was saying he’ll grow up tomorrow, maybe. I nod my agreement and he goes off to bump into someone else.

The finale, after a frenetic ‘If You Wanna’ and ‘I Can't Quit’ is more measured. The slower ‘Rolling Stones’ closes the set but more pointedly gets the message across that that ‘this one's for you’.

They return with the brilliant ‘Put It on a T-Shirt’ that we didn’t get in Nottingham last year, followed by a rocking ‘Nightclub’ before, as is tradition, ‘All In White’ ends the night.

Cracking stuff and I’ll grow up tomorrow, honestly, maybe.

The Vaccines Setlist O2 Academy Leicester, Leicester, England 2019

Monday, 21 January 2019

The Twilight Sad, Rough Trade, Nottingham

When the Twilight Sad came on the scene their gigs were an unrelenting sea of guitar noise, feedback and pounding drums all played so loud that it pinned you to the back wall of whatever venue you happened to be in. Amongst it all though they also had a ear for a great melody and they also had James Graham’s amazing voice.

Over the years, and through their four albums and numerous EPs, they have mellowed. Their sound is less aggressive, they use a lot of synthesizers now, and their demeanour less, well ‘sad’ although still decidedly dark. Yet despite this even moderate mainstream success still eludes them.

Now we have album number five ‘It Won/t Be Like This All the Time’ which not only eschews an apostrophe but also a launch tour that includes the full band. Instead we have a few ‘stripped back’ acoustic dates chucked in free with the album purchase which involves only James Graham and guitarist Andy MacFarlane. 

Although the guys have set up an amplifier they ask if it’s ok if they do it without which is about as stripped back as you can get. That’s fine by us and it’s a fair assumption there’s going to be no one pinned to the back wall tonight. In fact, who’d have though ten years ago that you’d be able to stand right in front of the band without feeling your ears bleed.

It’s also a bonus to be able to make out every word of the songs and get a better sense of why Graham immerses himself so much into them.

They play ten songs tonight, five of which come from the new album which they have worked on with the Cure’s Robert Smith although that probably isn't too obvious acoustically. This includes the amazing ‘VTr’ which is as good a tune as anyone will produce this year.

Amongst the new songs are ‘Nobody Wants to Be Here and Nobody Wants to Leave’ from album three, ‘The Room’ from album two and one they claim not to have rehearsed ‘Mapped by What Surrounded Them’ from album one.

To close we are treated to non-album single ‘The Wrong Car’ and the song they all know as ‘Rabbit’ or rather ‘And She Would Darken the Memory’. Sadly some of the audience sing along with every word which for a acoustic show is a bit of a downer because Graham can’t drown them out but it’s kind of sweet I suppose.

In fact the whole thing is rather sweet, which I never thought I’d say about the Sad but it's also totally excellent at the same time. Now please get your ****es back down here with the rest of the band pronto.

The Twilight Sad Setlist Rough Trade Records, Nottingham, England 2019