Wednesday, 4 December 2019

We Are Scientists, Academy 2, Leicester

Support tonight at Leicester Academy 2 comes from the Marsicans, who I saw last in March 2018 supporting Feeder at Rock City. The indie quartet from Leeds go down pretty well with the crowd and are constantly being touted as the next big thing but they’re still not really doing it for me unlike tonight's headliners. They always hit the spot.

The joy of We Are Scientists, apart from their music obviously, is the banter. These are two guys, Keith Murray and Chris Cain (momentarily forgetting drummer Keith Carne), who don’t take themselves too seriously or even seriously at all. There are always plenty of jokey moments between them, quite often at their own expense, which is rare for an American band. Those American singers usually take themselves far too seriously. Which is probably why they’ve had much more success over here than at home and why, presumably, they’re always over here. We just can’t get rid of them. Only kidding guys...


Tonight is in itself a joke. This is a tour to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of their album 'With Love & Squalor' which was released in 2005. So their maths is a joke too or perhaps they’re just hoping that no one will notice when the album came out. With it comes rumours that tapes have been found of an acoustic show that the band played opposite the site of Woodstock Festival in 1969. Hmmm. 


They are introduced tonight by their road manager in a bit of a rambling announcement that to be honest falls a little flat but once the music starts, things are far from flat as they play the entirety of ‘With Love and Squalor’ in order. It is immediately striking just how many tracks from this album are usually in the live set anyway. There really are no fillers on it. It’s also feels a bit strange that they are saving none of these gems for later.


They are calls from the crowd to drop in a few B-sides from that era too which the band, I feel rather unfairly, dismiss out of hand naturally with a joke or two. Seeing as they actually released another album ‘Crap Attack’ a year later which was a compilation of B-sides, covers and different versions of songs on ‘With Love and Squalor’ e.g. a blatant cash in, this seems harsh. How good for instance, and how funny, would it have been to see them reeling out their cover of Sigur Rós’s ‘Hoppípolla’.


Instead, after a short break, they return to run through a set of songs from their other five albums, four of which come from their latest LP ‘Megaplex’ but also includes classics such as Ghouls, Chick Lit and After Hours from their excellent ‘Brain Thrust Mastery’ from 2008.

They return a third time to play an encore of Too Late (from 2016’s ‘Helter Seltzer’) and Dumb Luck (from 2014’s ‘TV en Français’). A top night.


We Are Scientists Setlist O2 Academy 2, Leicester, England 2019

Wednesday, 20 November 2019

Feeder, Rock City, Nottingham

Supported by Daniel Steer

I was looking forward to seeing Bryde tonight, who was supposed to be supporting, but Daniel Steer explains that he has been asked to stand in at short notice. So short notice it seems that he’s had to turn up without his band. So it’s just him with a guitar and a piano.

Steer has been around for a while. First as lead singer of The Quails then with These Reigning Days, who are now known simply as Reigning Days and I think are still going, just on a break while Daniel promotes his first solo album. His latest work is produced by Feeder guitarist Tommy Gleeson.


He doesn’t disappoint apart from not being Bryde obviously and apart from not having his band with him, which just makes me want to see his full band show.

The thing about seeing Feeder twice in twelve days is whether anything will be different. The band have a history of playing shorter sets at Rock City due to the earlier curfews at the Nottingham venue, hence my visit to Leeds earlier in the tour.

While Leeds did indeed get the longer set on their previous tour that isn’t the case tonight. Kick off is moved from the 8:45 start it has been at most of the dates to 8:00 tonight to cope with the venue’s club night. That still leaves a full two hours of playing time if the band make use of it and that they do.


They even add two songs to the set from what I saw at Leeds. There’s the return of ‘Universe of Life’ which I am largely ambivalent to, but I know that Grant Nicholas absolutely loves playing it, and slightly annoyed because they place it between ‘Come Back Around’ and ‘Insomnia’ which were such a breathtakingly double act in Leeds. Though as I’ve practically chained myself to the front barrier where I intend staying and not getting sucked in to the mosh this time, it doesn’t matter much to me personally what happens behind me.

Talking of the ‘mosh pit’, which can be a rare beast these days. There was a bit of a disagreement when some folk tried to get the mosh going early to ‘Fear of Flying’ amid heavy resistance from those wanting a more statuesque experience down the front. It caused the band to pause briefly to see what the fuss was about. Those resisting the mosh won that particular battle but not the war, which was over when the aforementioned ‘Come Back Around’ hit a little later causing a major realignment of the troops down the front. I do feel that the bands should set out their stall early and play songs in an order that gets the mosh going as soon as possible to save on these types of squabbles.


The other addition tonight was the return of the always excellent 'Yesterday Went Too Soon' which appeared as a wonderful back-to-back duo with the equally excellent 'Turn'. Hearing those two tracks played together made my night. Given the positive reception received by these two lower profile hits from the past it’s a little frustrating we don’t hear them more often.

The band now seem to have a settled five-piece line up which has enabled more songs to be learnt which will hopefully lead to even further diversity on future tours and the digging up of more forgotten gems.


They have a lot of back catalogue to plunder plus I'm sure Nicholas has plenty more new songs he's going to write too, so it’s good to see that 24 song 2 hour sets now seem to have landed and not before time. They seem to be preserving their stamina and his voice by hitting a nice rhythm of two nights on, one night off.

‘Comfort in Sound’ is one that has been reintroduced this tour apparently due to the influence of guitarist Tommy Gleeson, who is a relative newcomer to the Feeder live show but is now in his third year with the band. Tommy is a session musician extraordinaire also being a producer (see Daniel Steer above), and a songwriter as well as a regular performer. So he knows his stuff and he deserves a big shout out as I think he’s made a real difference to the Feeder sound live. I will just put it out there that he’s the best second guitarist they’ve ever had.


There’s still no ‘My Perfect Day’ though, which I suspect they’re saving for London. I really must get down there for a London date sometime, it usually seems to pay dividends. I’m still not over them playing the epic oldie ‘Shade’ down there on the Generation Freakshow tour and it’s not been seen since.


Overall they play a good strong set tonight pulling in much early material along with a ton of stuff from their new album ‘Tallulah’ including what has fast become my favourite 'Shapes and Sounds'. 

This does mean that several more recent songs that have been set regulars have gone but it is no bad thing to diversify a bit. Although with nothing played tonight from the three albums that span the period between 2005’s Pushing The Senses and 2016's 'All Bright Electric', Nicholas will have campaigns on his hands for three missing albums if he’s not careful rather than the just the one for regularly ignoring the ‘Silent Cry’ album from 2008 that he keeps saying he’s going to rectify... Who’d be lead singer of a band with such a big and impressive back catalogue?

Feeder Setlist Rock City, Nottingham, England 2019, Tallulah

Monday, 18 November 2019

Blood Red Shoes, Rescue Rooms, Nottingham

Supported by Queen Kwong

Opening tonight are Queen Kwong from Los Angeles. The Queen herself is Carré Callaway, who has assembled the band around herself. She starts their set on her own, singing sweetly, beautifully purring like kitten that quickly metamorphoses into a tiger as the rest of the band arrive and pick up their instruments as does the Queen herself. Then amid much hair tossing and grinding away on her guitar, the set quickly becomes a homage to all that is raw, energetic and loaded with noise guitar. Sonic Youth, The Swans, shades of Iggy Pop, Nine Inch Nails perhaps... apparently she was discovered by Trent Reznor, you can tell. Very nice.


Can Blood Red Shoes get nosier than that? Of course the can.

Now here’s a thing. Me finally seeing a band that’s been near the top of my wish list for at least ten years and before they’ve even decided to split up. To be fair, everybody thought Blood Red Shoes had split up when they went on an extended hiatus in 2015. It was, with get relief, that they re-emerged with new material in 2017, a new album ‘Get Tragic’ at the start of 2019 and a stint supporting the Pixies across Europe.

The duo, consisting of guitarist Laura-Mary Carter and drummer Steven Ansell, are known for their hugely energetic shows and the sound they can produce with just a solitary guitar and a drum kit.

The new album however sees them using other instruments as well, additional guitars, bass, synthesizer and drum pads. So they take to the stage tonight with reinforcements and open the night as a foursome while Ansell tells us of his love for Glühwein, which he has in a little plastic cup. Carter’s choice is much classier, carrying her red wine in a proper stemmed glass.

They open with a trio of newer tracks ‘Elijah’, ‘God Complex’ and ‘Mexican Dress’ mainly from the new album but not in the case of ‘God Complex’ which was a one off release, something they are inclined to doing. Two of their set regulars, Black Distractions and Red River, don’t come from albums either but from 2013’s Water EP.

Then the additional musicians are stood down as the twosome launch into their 'old' stuff. Oddly this actually ratchets up the volume levels despite there now being less musicians on the stage.


Typically you’ll see a band’s drummer stuck at the back of the stage but not so here, Ansell has his drum kit positioned right at the front and it is he who does most of the interaction with the crowd. Unfortunately as I am on Carter's side of the stage, one of his symbols prevents me getting a good photography angle on him. Carter meanwhile says very little throughout.
 

After nine ‘oldies’, including such classics as ‘Don’t Ask’ and ‘Light It Up’ which certainly lit the fire in the mosh pit, the foursome are required again for their second shift but seem to have gone AWOL. Once they are tracked down, together they perform four more tracks from ‘Get Tragic’ including closing with a rambunctious ‘Bangsar’.


Despite their disappearing act, the new recruits are allowed to join in the encore as the band return to play us out with the belter that is 2007’s ‘I Wish I Was Someone Better’.

Blood Red Shoes Setlist Rescue Rooms, Nottingham, England 2019

Friday, 8 November 2019

Feeder, Beckett University, Leeds

So yet another Feeder gig. I must be an addict.

After a ‘Best Of’ Tour last year, the band are on the road to promote their new album Tallulah of which we get to hear plenty tonight. Grant Nicholas, Taka Hirose and the band play no less than nine tracks of the twelve tracks that are on the new record ranging from typical up tempo Feeder fare such Youth, Shapes and Sounds, and Fear of Flying through the monster that is Kyoto to lighter numbers such as Kite and Blue Sky Blue, which opens the encore.


With such a wealth of new material this might have left little room for crowd pleasing numbers but the band, who broke new ground with the longer sets for their ‘Best Of’ Tour play for almost as long tonight, totting up 22 tracks and seem to have finally mastered the fact that if they hit the stage a little earlier they can fit more in.



There’s even time for a heavy rock jam session between Nicholas, clearly the frustrated band member that Black Sabbath never had, and drummer Geoff Holroyde while the Leeds crowd egg them on with the obligatory cries of ‘Yorkshire, Yorkshire, Yorkshire’.


Highlights for any seasoned addict are when you get something a little different and apart from the many cracking songs that are part of the new album this comes in the shape of a first play since 2008 of Comfort in Sound but this is then out-highlighted when they end the main set with three in a row from 2001’s Echo Park, the first of which is the wonderful 'Turn' which is played far too rarely.


Although being down the front in the mosh for a ferocious double header of ‘Come Back Around’ and ‘Insomnia’ pushes those moments close.

See you again in Nottingham guys.

Feeder Setlist Leeds Beckett University, Leeds, England 2019, Tallulah

Friday, 11 October 2019

Psychedelic Furs, Rock City, Nottingham

Supported by Wendy James

Having seen the Psychedelic Furs last year for the first time in 27 years, excellent as they were, it seems a bit rash to rush back to see them again so soon. In fact I may not have bothered had a certain Wendy James not been announced as the support act. It is an odd combination indeed but obviously a tempting one as I am here.

James' picture adorned many students’ bedroom walls back in the day. Not mine though, she was on the ceiling as the poster was almost life-sized and was too large for the wall. My partner says she always wanted to be Wendy James. I thought she was Wendy James, that’s why I asked her out.

After two huge albums, 1988's Pop Art and 1989’s Velveteen, their record company refused to release their third album in the UK and they split in early 1992. Since then James has had another band called Racine and a few solo records.

Now 53, she reckons it’s exactly 30 years since she stood on this very stage at Rock City. My diary says she’s not quite right. I reckon it's 31 years and a day, as it was the 10th October 1988. I was there.

Tonight’s set is a mix of her back catalogue - solo songs, Racine songs and of course Transvision Vamp songs. There are also some songs from her yet to be released new album 'Queen High Straight' due out next year. James now writes all her own stuff, practically everything Transvision Vamp was written by their guitarist Nick Sayer, and it’s hardly sedate. In fact it’s just as rocky as the old stuff.

The only criticism here would be that a lot of the material is unknown to the crowd. Even a couple of the Transvision Vamp tracks she plays, 'Bad Valentine' from 'Velveteen' and 'If Looks Could Kill' from that third album, are quite obscure.

Despite that she goes down a storm as she can clearly still bang out a tune and of course there are still the biggies of ‘I Want Your Love’ early on and ‘Baby I Don't Care’ which closes her 45 minute set with an almighty 'Waaaaaaaaaah'.


I may not be the only one who’s at a Furs gig again because of Wendy James. Original Furs’ guitarist Roger Morris is back again. I thought his inclusion last year was just a one off? Clearly not. It's good to see you again Roger.

Whereas last time he only played on material from the first two albums, this time he’s also learnt some of the ‘newer’ (post 1981) ones too. We’ll most of them, by next year he could be playing on every track.


The Furs are mightily impressive from the opening ‘Dumb Waiters’ with it’s strangled saxophone courtesy of Mars Williams, through classics like ‘President Gas’, to the closing ‘Heartbreak Beat’ they don’t put a foot wrong. It’s a brilliant run through of their back catalogue which surprisingly only yielded two UK Top 40 hits ‘Heaven’ and ‘Pretty In Pink’. By the way Transvision Vamp had seven. Go figure.


There are a few interesting set changes from the last time I saw them and it's particularly good to hear 'All That Money Wants', 'Like a Stranger' and especially ‘There's a World Outside’ once again.

They even play a rare new track called ‘The Boy That Invented Rock & Roll’, one of only a few new songs by the band since reuniting in 2000. There is talk of a new album next year which would be their first since 1991.


They’re not the chattiest of folk although I think Richard Butler feels it’s best to save his breath for singing in that distinctive voice that has survived the years.

After a 15 song set they leave us before returning for a riotous stomp through India. A great night.


The Psychedelic Furs Setlist Rock City, Nottingham, England, Fall Tour 2019

Friday, 6 September 2019

The Spook School, Rough Trade, Nottingham

Tonight I get to see a band for the first time just as they are splitting up. The Spook School were formed in 2010 but after nine years and three albums this is sadly their farewell tour.

I am told that they are pure entertainment live, so it makes you wonder what’s took me so long to get to see them. Tonight they live up to their entertainment billing by launching their set by launching themselves into space. Well, they come on stage wearing matching astronaut outfits and cardboard boxes on their heads for helmets to the strains of Babylon Zoo’s ‘Spaceman’. It is an curious entrance indeed but an entertaining one.

The four piece from Glasgow then launch into ‘Still Alive’ a massive anthem from their third album ‘Could It Be Different?’ which is the first of many great singalong moments tonight. It also signals the disrobing of drummer Niall McCamley from his spacesuit. Attire that clearly isn’t suitable for drummers.

‘Still Alive’ takes sharp aim at bigotry which is an issue The Spook School have close to their hearts. After trying to tell people through their music, but largely failing, their guitarist Nye Todd came out as transgender a few years ago and started to transition.

Since then the band who include Nye’s brother Adam, also a guitarist, have gained a lot of credit for tackling gender fluidity and standing up for a non-binary lifestyle. Yet musically, despite three highly impressive albums, they have never really broken through.


Even so the decision to call it a day was a surprise. With the Spook School being seen as an ‘issues’ band perhaps that has all weighed too heavily on them. Talented musicians that they are, it will be interesting to see what they all do now.

Right now though, they are going out with a bang. The band sound fantastic, ripping through a set that is a celebration of the past nine years and their three albums. Nye’s transition has certainly changed the level of his voice to what it was on the band’s early material and that is very noticeable tonight but it adds rather than subtracts from their performance.

They mix up their up-tempo singalong numbers with slower moments. The wistful plea of ‘Keep In Touch’, their final single, is immensely fittingly tonight. Bassist Anna Cory contributes haunting backing vocals to the song that gives it an extra level of sadness. While Cory also takes lead vocals on several tracks including the excellent ‘Less Than Perfect’.


At other times they do not take themselves seriously at all, or rather McCamley doesn’t. The drummer delivers a jokey monologue between every song. This is clearly part of what they are but the rest of the band do seem to carry a look of ‘having heard it all before’ on their faces. He seems to be advertising himself post Spook School to any bands who might be looking for a drummer. If not, a career in stand-up comedy clearly beckons.


The band wind the set up with ‘Try to Be Hopeful’ before they put their cardboard helmets back on and leave the stage, destined for the moon.

They return for an encore, on the moon, and a lively cover of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Go Your Own Way’. Then close the night with ‘I Want To Kiss You’ and with that the final Spook School gig in Nottingham is at end. They have one more show to do in home town Glasgow tomorrow. Then the Spooks are gone, possibly for ever.

The Spook School Setlist Rough Trade, Nottingham, England 2019, Farewell Tour

Wednesday, 14 August 2019

Feeder, Rough Trade, Nottingham

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This was a free gig if you pre-ordered Feeder's new album 'Tallulah' from Rough Trade. I had learnt my lesson from before and didn't buy the album in the band's own pre-sale when it was announced months ago and instead waited to see if these launch gigs would again be set up. Which they were.

It saves you ending up with multiple copies of the same album, which clearly the band don't mind you doing as the whole point of all this marketing is to get high sales in week 1 and hence get the album in to the charts. As of the night of this gig the album was due to land at number 4 but the chart itself isn't confirmed until Friday. We shall see where it ends up.

Upstairs in the bar at Rough Trade is a really good place to see a band in an intimate venue, although the place is designed in such a way that only about 20 people can actually see the band.

Feeder are playing semi-acoustically mainly because you can really get a full drum kit on the small stage let alone all your other band paraphernalia but then all Grant Nicholas requires to sound outstanding is his acoustic guitar. That he backed by Taka Hirose on bass, Tommy Gleeson on guitar and Geoff Holroyde on bongos (although they call them something else) and maracas (allegedly down his sock) is a bonus.





They played five full tracks from Tallulah and four oldies although as everybody there were pretty much Feeder hardcore armed with the new album they didn't really need to do the crowd pleasers that they did.

Personally I'd have been well happy if they'd ran through the whole of the new album but it was quite clear they'd only rehearsed the five songs. So the comment by Nicholas that they were making the set up as they went along wasn't quite true.

We got one of those dodgy Feeder votes where he asked for everyone's favourite from Tallulah and when he didn't get the answers he wanted he asked the band instead. Then we got small snippets of other Tallulah songs that Nicholas effectively did solo because the rest of the band hadn't rehearsed them.


Of the ones they played in full 'Fear Of Flying' is my favourite being old school Feeder. It crackles with electricity and is laden with hooks. 'Youth' meanwhile is a summery throwback that will take you back and it's classic upbeat Feeder. While 'Daily Habit' is brilliantly quirky and Britpopish. These three are the standouts from the album and presumably nailed on for November's tour.

'Kite' meanwhile leaves me cold, it's a bit too Beatles-ish for my tastes and sounds like a filler while 'Blue Sky Blue' is them trying a bit too hard to anthemic, stadiumish etc. Give me 'Windmill' instead any day, of which they only play a snippet, with its epic quiet-loud sound. Granted it's not really suited for an acoustic set.


At the end Nicholas asked for requests and got a wide selection of obscurities from long deleted debut release 'Chicken On The Bone' to 2004 b-side 'Victoria'. Honestly if people actually shouted for something half sensible that they could play then we might actually get it! Instead he reluctantly agreed to play 'Buck Rogers' despite the fact I didn't actually hear anyone call for it...

Overall though a very relaxed 50 minute set with some great new songs.

(Photos stolen from Feeder Facebook)

Feeder Setlist Rough Trade, Nottingham, England 2019, Tallulah: Album Party