Friday 19 December 2008

Status Quo, Nottingham Arena

I'm a little surprised at the size of the crowd tonight. I thought Quo were perhaps the biggest thing to hit the Arena since the Dalai Lama sold out five nights there in May... but I reckon there was only about 2500-3000 there, whereas a full arena is around 8000. The whole thing could have probably been staged at the Concert Hall, which would have been more appropriate because the average age of a Quo fans seems to be about 55 and a lot of them struggled to climb the steep steps of the Arena seating.

Now I've mentioned the venue, let's get the Arena bashing out of the way. I don't know whose job it is to set the place up for bands but they're not very good at it. Tonight's setup was rubbish. The crowd were shoehorned into one-half of the stadium and the band were shoved down the other end. They had brought the stage forward a bit but not much. We were a lot further away from the band than was necessary, the stage could have been moved a lot nearer.

It was also all-seater, which would have been ok if people had wanted to sit but everyone down on the floor area clearly wanted to stand and dance. They didn't even put many seats down there; there were big areas of unused floor.

The arena staff got seriously caught out because loads of people went to the front to stand straight after the support finished and they weren't ready for them. Eventually they got themselves organised and prevented anyone else going down there but why, when at a normal gig they allow more people than that to stand.

Support was by Manfred Mann's Earth Band with Mr Mann himself on keyboards. Well I'm afraid I just found them desperately boring. I'm not terribly up on much of their material but obviously, I knew 'Blinded By the Light' which was ok and the 'Mighty Quinn' which they finished with and murdered. It was all very 70's and as is the tradition of that period the band were determined never to let a good tune get in the way of an overlong guitar solo.

One thing I have to say about the Arena tonight is that the sound was good. I think I've finally worked out how they sound check the gigs, it's all set up for the chap in Block 10 Row N Seat 20, that's me by the way. So excellent sound, just a shame I'm straining my ageing eyesight to see the band.

So to the mighty Quo. Rumours that they are being kept alive on life support are premature. As for their audience well, even they seem to have some life left in them and are soon air guitar-ing in the aisles and for the less mobile, tapping their walking sticks, as the band open with 'Caroline'. Rumour also had it that they're accepting bus passes as valid ID at the bar, where they're also selling cocoa and biscuits, alongside the sherry.

Quo are much maligned as just a three chord band, as characterised by themselves in last year's 'In Search Of The Fourth Chord' album from which the single 'Beginning Of The End' is given an airing. I can honestly say that there's more to them than the head down rock everyone knows. E.g. 'The Wanderer', 'Roll Over Lay Down', 'Down Down' etc etc, which are all present and correct tonight, at times accompanied by the sight of all four guitarists side by side, strumming away in the familiar Quo pose.

In fact, I'm actually impressed and surprised by their diversity. From the psychedelic sound of 'Pictures Of Matchstick Men' from 1968 from which this 'Pictures' tour, to celebrate 40 years of the Quo, takes it's name, to some more recent stuff, a couple of tracks 'The Oriental', which is a bit dubious, and 'Creeping Up On You', which isn't half bad, from 2002's 'Heavy Traffic' album.

There are also plenty of oldies, that is in the set list, as well as in the crowd, some which I certainly don't remember, but I was still in nappies when some of them came out. All the way through clips of videos and old footage appropriate to each song is displayed on the screens behind them.

For me the highlights tend to be when Rick Parfitt is at the mic, such as for the excellent 'Rain', for me he upstaged Francis Rossi every time he took the lead. Parfitt's singing was outstanding, particularly considering he had growths removed from his throat only two years ago.

There are a few irritations, like when they disappear off into a medley. I hate medleys. If you're going to play a song, play it in full or don't bother. If you want to fit in more songs then cut out irritation number two, the pointless drum solo.

They close pretty much as expected with a string of their hits from the 70's, culminating with 'Whatever You Want' and of course 'Rocking All Over The World'.

The encore is a bit odd. 'Burning Bridges' is rocky but not the best, a brief bit of 'Rock n Roll Music' and then finally 'Bye Bye Johnny'. Then the band troop off stage as the new Christmas single is played through the sound system and on the video screen. This falls totally flat and is cut off half way through to the accompaniment of boos from the disappointed crowd.

Quite why they couldn't bring themselves to perform, and therefore promote, their first ever Christmas single I suppose only they know. It was all a bit of a damp squid ending to what otherwise was a pretty impressive and dare I say, credible, performance.

I suppose now that I've been to seen the Quo, it must officially be Christmas.

Tuesday 9 December 2008

The Hold Steady, Rock City

The support band are four lads from Toronto known as the The Mark Inside. They make you 'stand up' and take notice because they play loud, some times heavy and the lead singer likes to shred his vocal chords Frank Black style. Underneath all their noise and energy are plenty of decent guitar riffs fighting to get out. I understand the band have been together for some time and released their debut back in 2005, their next record is available in the spring, it could be worth checking out.

The Hold Steady had to postpone their October UK tour due to guitarist Tad Kubler's illness. He's now recovered and tonight it's the third night of the rescheduled tour.

They begin with 'Constructive Summer', also the opening track of their latest album 'Stay Positive'. Summer? How quaint on such a cold Tuesday night in December but those of us who brave the elements are treated to an impressive set culled from their four albums. I checked out the set list from the previous nights to try to gauge what they might play but it seems they rip it up and changed around half the songs each night. So certainly, a band you could go to see every night without getting remotely bored.

Craig Finn, a most unlikely looking rock star if ever there was one, is bouncing around the stage from the first note. He's obviously intent on having a good and I'm sure he hopes the crowd do too but I don't reckon it would spoil his enjoyment if they didn't.

'Massive Nights' from the brilliant 'Girls And Boys In America' album rings out and the crowd gradually thaw out, well, it is cold. Rock City is probably only about half full tonight, which is a shame because the Hold Steady are pure entertainment and certainly under appreciated.

By the time 'The Swish' and 'Magazines' had been despatched the crowd were much more up for it. Particularly down the front, where they were singing Finn's lyrics back at him and attempting to get away with crowd surfing. When the band rock out like this they're really good but Finn is a storyteller at heart and tonight they leave out some of their rockier numbers which causes the set to get a little bogged down in the middle. There are a few too many Jackanory moments.

Not that this bothered the thirty or so anoraks (and I mean that in a nice way) down the front who knew all the words to all the songs, including some pretty obscure oldies. Finn, I think, was impressed, as well as delighted. Although occasionally he seems to forget the rest of us, singing some of his vocals off mike and straight at his select group down the front.

Kubler digs out a huge twin-necked twelve-string guitar for another slow one 'Lord I'm Discouraged' but then the set picks up pace again towards the end and it's a storming finish, 'Your Little Hoodrat Friend', 'Sequestered In Memphis', 'Chips Ahoy' and 'Slapped Actress' to finish.

Finn lost faith with music back when he was at his supposed peak but later rediscovered it, realising it was all just meant to be fun and formed the Hold Steady. This aspect comes across in bucket loads in the band performance, they are a band who clearly love what they do.

They return to play another jewel from 'Girls And Boys In America' with 'Stuck Between Stations' before 'Navy Sheets' and the 'First Night' closes the show.

Finn says he's not living the life he thought he would at his age, he's almost as much of an oldie as me, although he's not yet gone over 'that hill'. For that, he says, he is thankful. Something for us all to aspire to.

Tuesday 2 December 2008

Kings Of Leon, Nottingham Arena

I would like to offer some quip that the M83 runs from Kilmarnock to East Kilbride (or some other equally obscure locations) but it does not. I would also like to say what an uninteresting straight road with little distractions it is, but I'm not even sure there is an M83 motorway at all. There is however, a band, who could be very like that fictional road.

They take the stage just as we arrive at Nottingham's Ice Arena, the place feeling every bit like an ice rink tonight. It's around zero outside and probably colder inside. Anthony Gonzalez seems to agree; he keeps his scarf and coat on for a least the first half of M83's 45 minutes set. They make a promising start with a powerful opening with a lively instrumental track but there after it all sounds a bit samey. M83 are a French electronica band who were once a duo but now consist of just Gonzalez together with session musicians. Tonight there's a guitarist, a drummer, Gonzalez on keyboards and also the keyboards of his female companion, with whom he shares vocal duty. He keeps her in her place, sideways to us, so that we can't even see her face. He describes his music as something from the shoegazing genre but I don't see that, shoegazing was all guitar. Anyhow, his music is more 80's than 90's, I think secretly he wants to be Jean Michel Jarre.

Despite the obvious musical talent up on stage, for the uninitiated, which must be at least 99% of the audience tonight, it's easy to get lost, overpowered and with many songs blurring into one another, well bored really. Sorry.

It appears that the bigger a band gets the more roadies they acquire. Kings Of Leon have so many, that they don't know what to do with themselves. I mean the bands equipment still consists of just three guitars and a drum kit. How hard can it be to set that lot up? Thankfully there's all the lights to fiddle with and luckily one bank of lighting isn't working, so they can all cluster around that and give it a good prod.

The Followill boys take the stage to the sound of Mozart’s Requiem (apparently, I'm no expert), until this is replaced by the haunting guitar sound that is the opening of 'Closer', which echoes out across the arena. Game on. A good entrance and they follow the sequence of their latest album, 'Only By the Night', with the heavy bass of 'Crawl'.

The Kings blasted through four or five songs before anything is said to the crowd. Nothing unusual there, the band never have been much for that sort of thing. When they're up there on stage, they spend their time playing music. Nothing wrong there, playing music is what they do best.

That said, Caleb, a man of few words, was positively chatty tonight... 'Hi, we are Kings of Leon'. I look around but I can't see anyone cursing, 'Damn, get your coat love, we're a week early for the Stereophonics'. Caleb mate, that's why we're here.

The three brothers and their first cousin from Tennessee are on fine form tonight, despite the rumours that they're not speaking to each other. Families eh! Named 'Kings Of Leon' because their father and grandfather are both called Leon. Bless. How nice to have dynamic offspring.

It's a pretty good crowd tonight, involved but not too raucous. The beer throwing that often blights the Arena is happily absent tonight.

Caleb urges the crowd to sing along as the intro to their number one single, the wonderfully seductive 'Sex on Fire' rings out. It's interesting to watch his facial expressions; we're close enough to the front to do so, as he sings some of his more dubious lines. I notice his eyebrows go up on each double entendre.

The light show is impressive, although fairly incidental and I assume is to keep those at the back of the hall, who can't see the band, amused.

He announces they are going to perform 'a few songs we haven't played in a long time' and introduces an oldie, delighting and confusing the crowd in equal measure as he throws in 'Joe's Head' from their debut album.

As ever the Arena made it sound like they were playing into a bucket at times. If only they'd put a proper ceiling on it, then we'd have something called acoustics. Whilst their newer stuff is undoubtedly designed for such cavernous arenas and festivals, some of the older stuff sounds a bit thin. 'Molly's Chambers' for instance sounds a little bit tamer each time I hear it.

There were plenty of highlights though as the band rummaged into the recesses of all four of their albums. 'Cold Desert' is suitably poignant and 'On Call' suitably brooding. 'The Bucket' goes un-dedicated to the Arena sound system while 'Milk' is just plain terrific and also quite a sing-along, as is current single 'Use Somebody'. This had the audience waving their mobile phones in the air like cigarette lighters. Oh for an air rifle.

Caleb gave everything into every single note of every single song, whilst the rest of the band simply get on with their jobs and did them well.

Caleb's back chatting, being almost humble or well oiled, and repeatedly thanking the crowd for making them bigger than they ever thought they would be. He did seem to genuinely mean it and appeared truly grateful to be up there in front of everyone. Also apologising for playing such a mammoth set. The Kings are certainly value for money tonight.

There's a hint of tension when Jared seems to lay down his bass after 'Slow Night, So Long' or perhaps he's just knackered, this was song number 22 but Caleb talks him into one more. Confounding/delighting (delete as applicable) everyone again by closing with the wonderful 'Trani'. After which Jared seemed to storm off stage whilst the rest of the band milked the applause.

There were no less than five tracks from 'Youth & Young Manhood' tonight, other bands please take note, sending me home a very happy bunny by playing both 'Wasted Time' and 'California Waiting'.

After the marathon main set, the band come back for an encore and a long one naturally. Well it's going to be when it opens with the epic seven minutes that is 'Knocked Up'. As 'Manhattan' is played, I can see several people in the seats, itching towards the exits, desperate to be first out of the car park but not wanting to miss anything. Caleb won't be rushed and screams out 'Charmer'. Pure quality. Time for one more? No one got any kids or baby sitters to get back to then? No? Good. Here's 'Black Thumbnail'. After which the three other band members grab Caleb by the hair and drag him screaming from the stage... no not really. 'We are King Of Leon. Goodnight'. Excellent.

Hang on, Caleb, come back a sec, my partner wants 'Notion'. Someone’s always going to leave without hearing their favourite song and tonight she's with me, but with their long set they made a good attempt at minimising that. Ok if I'm being picky where was 'Red Morning Light' and for that matter, 'Taper Jean Girl'. So that's 30 songs next time, if that's ok with you boys.

They played for a total of two hours. Can a band play too long? Possibly and I'm certainly a fan of short and punchy but I can't really find fault tonight. Although... and I know I say this every time I'm arena-ised but I'll say it again. How good would they have been in more intimate surroundings? Where Caleb could have screeched to his hearts content without all that effort disappearing up the air conditioning. It'll never happen now of course, now that they have their fame and can pull crowds as big as this but wouldn't it nice.

All photos thanks to Jade Skellington

Thursday 6 November 2008

MGMT, Rock City

Tonight, it's another of those early gigs and as there are two support bands, we don't get there anywhere near early enough to catch Amazing Baby, who are the first of the three New York bands on tonight. They are over promoting their catchily titled 'Infinite F***ing Cross EP', available on free download you know.

We do get to see some of Violens, who have shades of headliners Mgmt about them but with a muddier sound or perhaps that's just coming from a bad mix. I feel there's something decent and quite poppy in there fighting to get out, I'm just not sure what. Further investigation probably required.

We nearly caught Mgmt at the Bodega Social back in February but after they were on Jools that gig though sold out instantly but they're soon back in Nottingham and now selling out the much bigger Rock City.

Opening with 'Weekend Wars', they proceeded to chalk off tracks from their excellent album 'Oracular Spectacular' at a considerable rate of knots. All of which convert impressively from CD to the live setting, sounding 'Spectacular' indeed. In fact, it's one of the best opening sequences to a gig I've seen this year.

Mgmt are primarily Ben Goldwasser, who twiddles knobs and plays all things electronic, along with Andrew VanWyngarden the front man, vocalist and lead guitarist. For this tour, the band has been extended to a five piece with the addition of a drummer, a bass player and a second guitarist. The extra guitar really works for me; I love the effect of all that guitar noise, blended over the top of a slightly psychedelic keyboard sound and some awesome drumming. They are also fascinating to watch as musicians, working well as a unit and showing not inconsiderable talent.

One thing they are not very good at is conversing with the crowd, there is little or no banter all night and what there is comes from guitarist, James Richardson.

After the 5th album track 'Pieces Of What', I'm thinking that they're soon going to run out of material. Then as 'Time To Pretend' sends everyone mental, I wonder how they're going to top that. Perhaps now would be a good time to get off the stage, despite the fact they've only put half an hour on the clock. It's all been impressive so far and every track has gone down well with the enthusiastic crowd.

I'm not totally sure what happens next, whether they play one track, two or maybe even four. Whether this is a collection of b-sides, new songs or songs they made when they were called Management and produced an album called 'Climbing To New Lows' in 2005, I don't know. I, like most of the crowd, only have the recent album. It could have a b-side called 'Metanoia', which also enjoyed a limited release in its own right. Metanoia means to change, and apparently the song is made up of 'bites' of different rock genres and as it also clocks in at nearly 14 minutes, that could be the answer. Who knows? I'm certainly not sure. One thing it does do it disperse the considerable momentum they had built up to 'Time To Pretend' and it was such a shame that they then lost it.

The band then revert to the disco thump of the song about eels... 'Electric Feel' before 'The Handshake' closes the set to vociferous applause.

The band are shouted back to play the two missing tracks from the album. They close with an almost instrument free rendition of 'Kids', it's all programmed keyboard work, which gets Rock City bouncing like I haven't seen since... well last week and Feeder's Buck Rogers but I must say this out bounces it.

In summary, it was half of one of the best gigs of the year. If Mgmt can produce a second album anywhere near as good as their first the resulting gigs are going to be something else.

Saturday 1 November 2008

Noah & The Whale, Rescue Rooms

Noah and The Whale at the Rescue Rooms would not have been on my must do list but I'm always up for a quirky Saturday night, so what the hell. It may be more of an ‘armchair gig’ than Elbow was. It's definitely hammock music and we'll probably all have to wear cardigans. Not that I have one, I wonder if they provide them. I certainly wasn't expecting a crowd, despite their recent success and expected us to be tickets 1 and 2 again but, no, it's a sell out and there's nowhere to sling my hammock.

We arrive just in time to catch the end of a band called 'Flat Earth' and then its very quickly time for the main support act 'Sleeping States' and here we go again. Here's another support band trying desperately to feature in my blog. Ok mate, you're in. Anyone who tries to repair their guitar with a fork deserves a mention. From what I can gather 'Sleeping States' is a chap called Markland Starkie who has an interesting line in instruments and effects boxes together with additional musicians, tonight he joined by another guitarist whose name I forget and a drummer called Rose. Interesting.

So, to Noah and Co, who first show us a strange short film with a Beach Boys accompaniment. Thankfully, they don't take the stage in those awful blue and yellow outfits and only one of them is wearing anything that could be loosely called a cardigan.

I think I counted seven of them on the small stage, a brass section of two, a chap who plays a mean violin, a bass player, a drummer and a lass on keyboards. Then there's lead singer Charlie Fink, who predictably has a touch of Seth Lakeman about him but this is a more ballsy Lakeman.

They start off at a good pace and throw in 'Two Atoms In A Molecule' and 'Shape Of My Heart' early, which got the crowd, a mix of oldies and youngsters nodding along to their pop-folk.

Noah play a selection of tracks from their debut album 'Peaceful The World Lays Me Down' and it has to be said that they sound better live than on record. They also throw in an older track, that I have on mp3, the excellent pre-album 'Beating'.

Things started to drag a bit in the middle of their set when they played some of their slower numbers, together with a new song that Charlie Fink professes to be so top secret that he's not named it yet.

Things picked up again with 'Rocks and Daggers' and then came that hit. I look around and see that I'm the only one singing the words to 'Brim Full Of Asha' as they play 'Five Years Time'. Surely I'm not the only person who thinks the two tracks are interchangeable with added Laura Marling obviously. Not that Ms Marling actually plays with the band any more, although by sheer coincidence, she will be on the very same stage this coming Tuesday.

One more track and then they briefly hop off stage but come almost straight back on, as they're only about two minutes away from the 10pm curfew. They don't play '2 Bodies 1 Heart', the scheduled encore, which could have been used to liven up the middle of the set, instead they treated us with a cover of 'Girlfriend in a Coma', which was totally excellent.

A nice, pleasant gig but I was well ready for a beer afterwards.

Monday 27 October 2008

Feeder, Rock City

First up Busted, sorry I mean Fightstar. Actually anyone who has seen or heard Fightstar will know that there's is no similarity, whatsoever. In fact, Charlie Simpson seems to want to forget that Busted ever happened at all. Although, apparently some people do still have Busted on their iPod's.

A going concern now since 2003 and now working on their third album, Fightstar are loud and powerful, although not really my cup of tea. They start out their set sounding like the Foo Fighters or Nirvana but end up trying to be Metallica.

The heavy rock theme continues in between bands as we get treated to the new AC/DC's album played across the PA. It turns out that Grant Nicholas, lead singer of Feeder, really likes it. Something else he tells us, halfway through their set, is of his fond memories of Rock City as he harks back to the days when Feeder were often the first band on stage. I remember one of those occasions, it was back in 1996 and the first time I came across the band. They were supporting Terrovision and I can't really recall much about their performance that evening but I didn't rush out and buy their debut EP 'Swim'. However, three years later, I was hooked on their second album 'Yesterday Went Too Soon', an all time classic and one of the best albums of 1999. Feeder became one of my favourite bands.

I do vividly remember the last time I saw them, in April 2001 at Leicester Polytechnic. That was one hell of a gig. 'Echo Park' was out and 'Buck Rogers' was just about to introduce them to the wider public. All this was before Nicholas's sparing partner; former 'Darling Bud' Jon Lee committed suicide. After which Feeder reinvented themselves, discovered yearning melodies and recorded the excessively mellow 'Comfort in Sound', which was phenomenally successful of course, but sent me to sleep. The band went off to play in front of large crowds of mildly interested people out in Arenaland and I moved on. Tonight Feeder have kind of tumbled and fallen back to earth as them and I are reunited in a proper venue.

Opening with 'We Are the People', the odd choice as the lead single from their excellent new album 'Silent Cry'. The new album is why I'm here. ‘Silent Cry’ is the sound of a band who haven't forgotten what inspired them in the first place. Out has gone the soft rock and instead we get several tracks that are throwback to the riotous pop and heavy guitars of those earlier albums. Therefore, it's odd and regrettable that they don't appear to have as much confidence in the album as I do and opt not to play much of it live. No 'Miss You', 'Itsumo', 'Who's The Enemy' or 'Into The Blue' which is my favourite.

Instead I'm standing there listening to the yearning melody that is 'Feeling A Moment' which I don't care much for, nor for it's uglier sister 'Just The Way I'm Feeling' which they play later. Never mind feeling the moment, it feels like my life is slipping away as they play it. I fear tonight could seriously suffer from an overdose of gentle ballads but things do pick up.

'Shatter' cheers me up, sounding punchy live, polythene-esk. Showing that the band can still play rough when they want to. They hit a bit of a purple patch, as 'Come Back Around' follows, although it doesn't quite hit the spot, the mix seems all wrong, not enough vocal, too much guitar and drums but it improves as it goes along.

Then there's a real treat and the only surprise in the entire set, when they bring out 'We Can't Rewind' from 'Echo Park'. The crowd are appreciative and really get into it. The arms go up in the mosh pit, this is what we came for and the reaction to which gives a lie to the fact that I think the band feel they have to appease the bandwagon jumpers and 'this is our song' cuddling couples.

Then there's the still awesome 'Insomnia' with the other original member, Taka Hirose getting animated with his bass. The three piece swell to five tonight, replacement drummer Mark Richardson ex of Skunk Anansie joined by the two Dean's on guitar and keyboards.

'Fires' is dedicated to their crew again and is rumoured to be their next single. As a song, it's ok but do they really need any more slow burning anthems.

'Pushing The Senses' is lively and 'Sonorous' off the new album sounds pretty tremendous too. Then there's time for a quick kip as they play the aforementioned 'Just The Way I’m Feeling'. Funny thing is the song gets a massive cheer when they start to play it but then the crowd just go quiet, many hit the bar and others I think are nudging their partners, because it's their song.

After 'Tracing Lines', the second single off 'Silent Cry', which is excellent live, it's Marmite time. Either you love it or you loathe it. The band professes to be over it, so sometimes they play it, something they don't. Tonight they do and as soon as the first bar is played, the room lets out a huge roar and pogos up and down as one. Quirky and enjoyable once, 'Buck Rogers' now sounds terribly dated, although it's still oddly popular and I have to confess that it really does get the place jumping.

Then, no, please Grant, not 'Comfort in Sound'. That's far too many yawn-inducing melodies. Even though they do appear to attempt to sex up some of their slower number, the only direction that approach will take them is to the 'Here And Now' tour.

After which, he's obviously feeling rather guilty, so to try and shut up the wizened oldies like me, who are disappointed with the lack of early stuff, he announces something from 'Polythene'. Which you just know is going to be 'High' but it doesn't stop you hoping for 'Cement', 'My Perfect Day' or 'Tangerine', of which I hear one thin hopeful shout. After all, on the last tour in May, he did say that they would relearn and play it but they don't, spoil sports. It would be worth it just to see if he could get Rock City singing 'I know it's sad, life's just a piece of fruit'.

'High' is still very good though and then finally there's 'Lost And Found' complete with added Foo Fighters with the audience providing pretty flawless vocals to 'All My Life' midway through the song. The band are much better when they're rocking out to stuff like that.

It's a funny crowd tonight, made up of 20 and 30 something’s, with a few teens thrown in for good measure. Despite going down very well with everyone, shouts for an encore are rather weak and the bands return seems rather apologetic.

The encore consisted of a beautiful acoustic version of 'Silent Cry', so good you can almost forgive the omission of 'Yesterday Went Too Soon', nothing though forgives no 'Waiting For Changes'. According to the set list, they considered 'Tumble And Fall' instead, how horrific, lucky escape there then.

A storming 'Seven Days In The Sun' follows and then it's what the crowd having been nagging for, for the last half hour, the Feeder anthem ‘Just a Day'. Oddly played after the single it was originally a b-side to. It was their fans who loved it so much that they convinced the band to re-release it as an a-side, meaning the track when top 20 twice in 2001. So, the lesson is, listen to your fans... and dust off a few oldies.

In the end there were five tracks from 'Silent Cry' which isn't bad I suppose, considering this was the album they were supposed to be touring, not the singles collection but still a little disappointing on that front, obviously too many yearning melodies and obviously not enough old stuff.

They're a right bunch of crowd pleaser's but if you were to see them again next year and they played the same set, which they will, you wouldn't be happy.

Predictable, painfully safe at times but actually rather good and Nottingham rocked to it, just not awesome.

(I tried to take my own photos for this one but it didn't really work out, so I pinched them off the Feeder Forum, sorry)

Tuesday 14 October 2008

The Courteeners, Rock City

Support is by Ida Maria from Norway. I liked her at first but she’s started to do my head in. On one of her tracks 'Queen Of The World', she sounds like Bjork crossed with Kate Nash. That's all we need, a Norwegian trying to sound common. That said she pours everything into her show, giving an energetic performance, all the time with her top hat, complete with feather, perched on her head. The crowd gradually warm to her especially on her set closer and most renowned track 'Better When You're Naked'.

It's third time lucky in my attempts to cavort with the Courteeners. For various reasons, I missed them at the Rescue Rooms in January and then again at Trent Poly in April.

The band are from Manchester and are obviously very proud of their roots as the mix tape of solely Manchester bands hints at before they come on. Then the lights go out, the volume goes up and the speakers play Oasis's 'Rock N Roll Star'. No egos here then.

It's also not just a few bars, not just the chorus, nope, it's the whole song and after which... still nothing happens on stage.

Then after an indeterminate delay, they swagger on stage and play 'Aftershow' and 'Kokaine Kimberley' back to back. If the place isn't already going mental, it is by the time 'Acrylic' turns up as track number four. I'd like to quote Mr Fray himself and say that Rock City is full of over-rated dehydrated, goggle eyed girls, but it's actually mainly lads and a lot of them not much younger than me.

Ah, the cocky Mr Liam Fray, who is clearly the star of the Courteeners. Possibly the only star, the rest of the band hardly get a look in. It appears no one else is even allowed to offer up backing vocals. In fact, we're half way through their action packed set before he seems to even acknowledge their presence.

Liam admits to a soft spot for Nottingham and for Rock City. He tells us that their first night on tour was here in October 2007. That night they supported the Coral and played to what he reckons was a crowd of around 20 people. There's one or two more here tonight, a complete sell out in fact.

Highlights include the big sing-a-long to the stark 'Please Don't' and a cracking 'Cavorting'. There's even a new track 'Bo Jangles'.

The new single 'That Kiss' gives the bouncers a brief respite from chucking out the crowd surfers, something I've not seen here for a while. Those people 'probably shouldn't have danced to that song'. Perhaps Enter Shikari taking the mickey last week was the last straw. Unless you're a girl of course, they are never chucked out.

They don't do an encore as such, that would be terribly old fashioned. Instead, the band leave the stage to leave Liam alone to play a couple of tracks solo, 'No You Didn't, No You Don't' and a powerful 'Yesterday Today Probably Tomorrow'. It's all very Noel Gallagher. His admiration for the Gallagher's is very apparent; they say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Like the Oasis boys, Fray has a touch of arrogance but also a lot of confidence.

The band return, cue a riotous moshalong to 'If It Wasn't For Me', 'Not Nineteen Forever' and a colossal performance of 'What Took You So Long', even the bouncers give up evicting people.

As it's not such a young crowd tonight, when Fray sings 'You spend too much time sat in your bedroom, on your PC', I look to see if there are any other parents nodding in agreement but no they're all going mental down the front.

A good night's cavorting but not snorting, obviously.

Friday 26 September 2008

White Lies, Leadmill

Tonight we take a trip up to the Leadmill in Sheffield to see the promising new band 'White Lies'. They sound excellent, early Killers with a touch of Editors in there. So I couldn't really pass that one up.

We arrive early to find that the gig is in the Leadmill's cosy backroom, nice and intimate. We catch some of the set by the Post War Years. Hailing from Leamington Spa, they produce a nice mish-mash of pop, rock and electro. Lots of keyboards and the like but with some rocking guitar riffs added in, and a touch of wailing vocals.
They remind me a little of our own Late of the Pier, perhaps with a dose of Cold War Kids mixed in. Their stuff perhaps needs some work but it sounds promising.

Following them on to the stage are the Joy Formidable. Bleach blonde vocalist and guitarist Ritzy (female) and bass player Rhydian (male) are both from Wales. A drummer called Justin from Devon completes their line up. I thought Ritzy was making eyes at her Devonian percussionist but actually it's Rhydian who's her partner. Oops, hope I've not stoked up any sexual tension in the band.

I do like their sound, early 90's though it may be. They remind me a lot of the girl fronted rock bands of that era. There are certainly comparisons to be made to bands such as Echobelly, Breeders, Belly and one of my lesser known faves springs to mind, the Heart Throbs. In fact, there's a lot of Tanya Donnelly about lead singer Ritzy, even though she's Welsh. She's definite the focal point, doing lead vocals and sashaying around giving her guitar a hard time. She's also a girl who seems to like to spend a lot of time on her knees... nothing wrong with that... and she spends a fair proportion of the gig down there, fiddling with her guitar strings and her effect pedals.

Overall, they look quite a prospect. Their debut single ‘Austere’ is just out and they close their set with it. I hope to hear a lot more from them. Excellent. White Lies certainly have something to live up to.

As well as support band threatening to upstage them, White Lies also have a lot of hype to live up to, previously known as 'Fear Of Flying', a band who received lots of acclaim but little success. The band has now seemingly reinvented themselves and are creating a bit of buzz.

The opener 'Farewell To The Fairground' gives grounds to their tag of Killers wannabes. It's rather too heavy on the keyboards and on the drums for that matter. Lead singer and guitarist Harry McVeigh obviously realises this too and appeals to the sound engineer to turn the guitars up, which he duly does and they metamorphose from the Killers into something more beefy, resembling, perhaps, I have to offer these comparisons, the Psychedelic Furs.

Charles Cave is on bass, Jack Brown on drums and they have an unofficial fourth member on keyboards who is rumoured to have been in the now obsolete Mumm-ra. Oh dear, never mind, he's obviously got over it.

Draped in black and trying to look as miserable as possible, the band showcase tracks from their forthcoming debut album, barely pausing to take breath between tracks.

April's debut single 'Unfinished Business' is third up and sounds much better than the download blagged off the internet. The crowd are really getting into the gig but after 'From The Stars', which means three of the first four tracks they play have been available on the net, the audience go a bit subdued, as the band play stuff they don't know. White Lies do a nice line in bleakness and at this point, they descend heavily into it for about four tracks. This is wonderful but the crowd do kind of watch in awe rather than join in.

They then finish with the current single 'Death' which reignites the crowd but I can't help but feel that putting this somewhere in the middle would have made it a better set.

The album is apparently finished but isn't due out until January. I don't understand that, if it's ready, release it for Gods sake.

Thursday 25 September 2008

Glasvegas, Rescue Rooms

We've been here before, done that, bought the t-shirt. Well L did, when we saw Glasvegas a few months ago in Derby.

It wasn't that long ago but it still seems ages since we've been to a gig. Well tonight, starts off the traditional autumn gigging season. Glasvegas themselves are back in Nottingham in December, we might be there too. Suppose it depends how tonight's sold out gig goes. Tickets were £8 only but have been going for £30 on eBay.

First up are Infa Red from Kent, or right down south as they helpfully explain. They are a five piece indie band although the keyboard player needn't have bothered as you can barely hear his tinklings over the guitars. Their Myspace describes their music as 'dynamic, driven anthems'. I'm not sure about that. There's definitely a large dose of early Editors about them. That at least appears to be what the lead guitarist listens to on his Ipod. You can also hear it in the singer's voice.

The lead guitarist cuts a strange figure tonight. We reckon he's left his best jeans scrunched up on his bedroom floor and forgot to give them his mum to put in the wash because the pair he's wearing are well knackered. You can see he's tried to repair the broken fly with a safety pin but he seems to have even botched that up. He's conscious of it because he keeps pulling his shirt down to cover the debacle. It kinds of takes our attention away from his guitar playing which isn't actually too bad. L reckons he's just trying to get a mention in my blog. Well it worked but honestly, the lengths people will go to get a mention.

There seems to have been a lot of water under the bridge since we last saw Glasvegas. They now have an album out, which is number two in the charts, kept off the top by the new Metallica album, as evetone keeps saying, even Infa Red mention it. There's also been a lot of off-putting tabloid hysteria written about them. Which is a shame really because it means that the boozed up lager boys are in tonight, punching the air, putting on fake Scottish accents and throwing their beer around. Particularly annoying for us because we've blagged a spot right in the line of fire, down the front.

They kick off as they did when we saw them in June with 'Flowers And Football Tops' and then proceed to play pretty much the same set as before, in almost the same order. They add just one track, managing now to fit in a whole nine tracks.

The one track they add, 'S.A.D. Light' is excellent tonight and a definite highlight. It is such an insignificant song on the album but like much of their material, it takes on a different life live. From this point on they seem to find their stride. 'Polmont On My Mind' which follows it, also sounds fantastic live. Then comes the always excellent 'Geraldine', again sounding superb. This is proper 'Geraldine', not the polished near-disco version that's included on the album, where I'm sure they've used a drum machine.

(photo - James Arnold)

Personally, I find the album, rather dull and disappointing. For a start half of it, including the four singles, has been around for three years now but mainly because the record simply doesn't catch the band's sound at all. They've taken away all the rawness of those much loved demo tapes and smoothed down all the rough edges. You can even hear and understand James Allen's words without looking them up on the internet, which is unforgiveable.

Thankfully, live they still sound pretty raw. 'Go Square Go', slowed down to practically a ballad on the album, is back to full throttle tonight and the lager boys love it, drunkenly chanting 'Here we f***ing go'.

James Allen is really getting the hang of this rock star lark, with his shades in place for most of the night. Although he lowers them briefly when the crowd ask him to 'show us your eyes', he still says little, letting the songs do all the talking.

(photo - James Arnold)

'Ice Cream Van' leads us into the predicable finale of 'Daddy’s Gone', which is as good as ever. Although he does the unforgivable and hands the mob vocal duty half way through.

When it's over the crowd pick up where he's left off, continuing with 'he's gone, he's gone' but yep they've gone. Still only 45 minutes and still no encore. We know they have other older songs, we know they do a cover of 'Be My Baby', we know they have an new EP being readied for Christmas. They could even have played 'Stabbed', maybe the upbeat 'I'm Gonna Get' version.

Tonight Glasvegas are still excellent, still powerful, still distinctive ... but it feels as if they're simply on autopilot, being told what to play, in what order and no more. There's no spontaneity, no surprises. I suppose it's too much to ask to be blown away twice by the same band but if they want people to keep coming back, they're going to have to offer a bit more.

The photos are thanks to James Arnold, who I don't personally know, but I reckon he was stood next to me. There are more great photos of the gig on his fickr site here

Tuesday 8 July 2008

Goo Goo Dolls, Rock City

The first thing to note was that I was expecting a quiet intimate gig. I mean how popular can the ageing American's The Goo Goo Dolls be? Very, it seems. All the best vantage points are gone, the crowd preferring to go for these spots rather than try to get up close, as tends to happen with the younger crowd. They're all avoiding the moshpit I guess, like L. We stand at the back of the floor, where I fear L can't see very much.

We catch the end of London's Slaves to Gravity, who formed in 2006 from the ashes of The GaGas. They offer a reasonably decent grunge rock sound from what I can gather from the brief view of them we got.

I can't confess to being much of a Goo Goo Dolls fan, this is very much L's choice of gig. In fact, it's the most unprepared for a gig that I've been in a long time. They have produced eight albums since their inception in 1986 and I've only listened to one of them, 1998's 'Dizzy Up The Girl'. Which is a pretty good album in a pleasant, totally inoffensive sort of way. Thankfully they play at least six tracks from it tonight.

Actually it all starts rather well because I know three of the first four tracks. 'Slide' and 'Black Balloon', which is accompanied by a couple of... yes black balloons being released into the crowd, are both from 'Dizzy Up The Girl' while a track called 'Feel The Silence', from their most recent album 2006's 'Let Love In', I listened to on their website this morning.

Lead singer John Rzeznik reminds me a little of Brian Adams with his floppy haircut and worn in face whereas his slightly disconcerting sidekick, bass player Robby Takac reminds me of... and I don't wish to be unkind but... he looks a little like a cross between Meatloaf and Twisted Sister's little brother.

Takac takes vocals on four tracks, in two batches of two, including the excellent 'January Friend', yep that's also from 'Dizzy Up The Girl', and a nice little ditty called 'Slave Girl'. His deep gruff almost lost my voice style would have been good had it been a little louder and clearer or perhaps he was actually losing his voice.

We have no problem hearing Rzeznik as he belts out song after song that everyone seems to know, except me of course, unless it's off 'Dizzy Up The Girl'.

The third member of the Goo's is Mike Malinin on drums but they haven't raised his drum kit off the ground and we can barely see him at the back of the stage. Perhaps that's how he likes it. I'm sure L can't see him at all.

The line up is completed by a second guitarist and a fifth musician who alternates between keyboards, guitar and later the saxophone.

Rzeznik banters well with the crowd and quips about Los Angeles being a dangerous gun-toting city. You get the feeling that he doesn't know how notorious Nottingham is. He seems to be genuinely pleased to be over here playing to appreciative UK audiences, as most US bands tend to be. I get the impression American audiences just pull up an armchair and read the paper while they watch their bands.

They wind things up with 'Let Love In', to which the chap in front of me in the 'Let Love In Tour 2006' t-shirt goes mental to, 'Better Days' and finally a big cheer goes up for 'Iris', which ends up being mostly sung by the audience.

They get shouted back for an encore and Rzeznik returns to the start to ask 'did you guys say fish and chips?'. These Americans struggle with our accents you know.

They treat us to their new single, 'Real', which has just been released ahead of a new album. A lot of the audience knew this one too. They finish with 'Broadway', that's Broadway, Buffalo, not Broadway, Los Angeles by the way.

I wouldn't say I'm a convert but it was still an excellent gig.

Photo sources :- Rebecca Clark, Chris Schwegler

Wednesday 11 June 2008

Glasvegas, The Royal

We're at Derby's new venue tonight, The Royal formerly the Royal Hotel although it closed as a hotel in 1950. Both tonight's bands comment on the posh-ness of the surroundings when they come on stage, which is quite late. The support act play at 9.15, the main band at 10.15.

First up are a band called Madskull. The name doesn't sound promising and neither does the lack of a drumkit. Then when a badly dressed group of scallies, looking like Oasis after they've eaten all the pies, walk on stage to the sound of 'My Boy Lollipop' possibly my worst fears are realised or possibly not. Turns out they're actually quite a nice bunch of lads albeit with impenetrable Scots accents who make quite a nice sound. I think they're funny, as in entertaining and comic sort of way. Apart from that second track which is called 'Bouncy' or something like that and is all my musical nightmares rolled into one. They only play four tracks, saying that's all they've got, as they've only been together a matter of weeks but they're not too bad at all.

For a band who only assembled recently, they have a lot of equipment and they take almost as long shifting it as they did playing. Then eventually dry ice and red lighting floods the stage as four be-quiffed figures dressed in black take the stage. Glasvegas certainly look the part, like a 1960's version of the Jesus And Mary Chain with Joe Strummer on lead guitar and singing in Glaswegian. L's analogy was a cross between the Skids and the Cold War Kids with a dash of Rab C Nesbitt thrown in. Which is priceless. As you may have guessed the band are, as the name suggests, from Glasgow or more correctly Dalmarnock. Mind you, it's still a shocker of a name, even if it is how many Scots jokingly refer to Glasgow.

After their impressive entrance, singer James Allan kicks off the evening with 'Flowers And Football Tops', a song big on emotion and seemingly about roadside memorials. Along with his cousin Rab on guitar and Paul Donoghue on bass, the three of them lay down a gorgeous wall of guitar noise. This is partly where the comparisons to fellow Scots Jesus And Mary Chain come from, I also wonder if they've listened to My Bloody Valentine. The guitar sound is backed by the simple drumming of Caroline McKay on a cut-down drum kit, who is slightly hidden in the shadows at the back of the stage.

The place isn't full despite the hype and their recent appearance on 'Jools' so we can get up close and impersonal with them. Together since early 2006 with the much downloaded 'Home Tapes' demos and three limited edition singles behind them, it's taken a while for them to get noticed but finally they have been.

So have they been hyped for a good reason. Well yes. Tonight, their songs resonate off the walls of the impressive Royal without being as loud as I'd expected. Previous singles like 'Its My Own Cheating Heart That Makes Me Cry' are accompanied by fists in the air and football ground style singing from the crowd down the front but don't hold that against them. Each familiar song is sung back with increasing vigour as the night goes on, even the 'woo woo' Ronettes' bits.

There is no written set list; it's seemingly not needed for what appears to be a well-honed set. The well known downloads all take on another dimension live and are interspersed with a few new songs, such as 'Lonesome Swan' and 'Polmont On My Mind' which promise great things from their debut album when it is released in August.

'Geraldine' sounds wonderfully powerful and totally ace live. It is already L's single of the year and it's not even out until 23rd June. In fact she says the band are the best thing I've played her for a while. She's even bought the t-shirt.

There is hardly any letup, as the band rumble through their brief but breathless 45 minute set, more than justifying the frenzy about them.

'Go Square Go' storms the stage and the crowd but then finally we get a break and a slowie; a new song called 'Ice Cream Van' featuring just James Allan's distinctive Glaswegian brogue and Rab on keyboard, although it sounds a bit like the funeral march. L tells me how moving it was the way he wrung his hands as he sung it. She says she was sure he was rummaging for a hankie in his pocket afterwards so he could have a little sob. I'm not convinced, I thought the lyrics were about sectarianism and he was wringing his hands as if he had them around someone’s throat. Funny how we see things differently.

They finish with 'Daddy's Gone', which is greeted with a big cheer. A track that was voted the number 2 single of 2007 by NME readers. Most of the crowd know it and carry on singing when James Allan opts not to.

No sooner has he finished singing a final chorus of 'forget your dad, he's gone' and they're gone themselves. Almost as soon as the band are off the stage, the house lights and the music come on. Game over. Which is a shame. Not even chance to shout for an encore.

Despite the shortness of the set, these guys are clearly a class act with some great songs. Probably too short, it would have been good to hear them play 'The Prettiest Girl On Saltcoats Beach', but I suppose it was only £7. Hopefully longer sets will appear when they tour to promote the album.

So a great gig, despite them not having the cheeriest of songs; their repertoire consists of death, racism, absent fathers, social workers, infidelity... he's clearly had a rough upbringing. What a good advert for Glasgow. I've not really been there; don't think I'll bother.

Tuesday 3 June 2008

Guillemots, Rock City

Rock City isn't full and the balcony is closed for added intimacy. We head up the staircase and get a good spot, perched at the top, like, well like a guillemot or should I say guiLLeMoT, as they prefer to write it.

First though, London's Royworld and their mainstream pop rock, promoting their debut album 'Man In The Machine'. It's a terrible name and none of the band are even called Roy, in fact what's worse is the lead singer is called Rod, so why not Rodworld? Can't be any worse, or can it? Or Robworld after the guitarist? Tim and Jerry-world, the other two members, conjures up cat and mouse games...

They play some pretty standard stuff that seemed ok but nothing stood out or grabbed my attention. After a few tracks, my mind and eyes soon started to wander elsewhere.

As the roadies set up for the Guillemots, I conclude that the sound check could take a while, as a huge array of equipment is wheeled out on to the stage including more effects pedals than I've ever seen before. They also bring out a stuffed lion, which looks like the King John character from Disney's Robin Hood.

The lights go down and the baggy suited Fyfe Antony Dangerfield Hutchins takes to the stage clutching a hand held keyboard that I'm not sure he's actually playing. He sings the first verse of 'Made-up Lovesong #43' solo, sounding a little like Stevie Wonder. Fyfe it appears is a man of many voices and has a truly great vocal range. He sings about something he got 'off the paper round', hopefully not from round our way. Then he takes a seat at his keyboards and coloured lights go on everywhere, including a tube of red lights running all around the stage and the other band members join in for the rest of the song.

There are several birds on stage, there's one perched on Fyfe's keyboards, a guillemot I assume, and then there's Aristazabal Hawkes looking good in a near backless black dress with a double bass between her legs.

They drift into 'Clarion' without a pause with Arista now banging on a set of drums. Guitarist MC Lord Magrão is rocking out, as he does all night, even when the tempo of the song doesn't warrant it. Fyfe stays at his keyboards, side on to the audience, which isn't very rock n roll and annoys the hell out of me. Face your audience! He doesn't talk a lot but oddly asks what people's favourite paint was. Some bright spark replies with a yell of 'Green'.

The title track to their Mercury Music Prize nominated debut album 'Through The Windowpane' follows as we get a sequence of slowish songs to open including their rather twee new single 'Falling out of Reach'.

'Falling out of Reach' would sit well on their first album but some of the other stuff on the new album 'Red' would not. Some of the tracks are very different for sure and all hell breaks lose when the band employ a major chance of pace and play 'Last Kiss'.

Arista timidly shuffles forward to take main vocal duties, a more reluctant vocalist I don't think I've ever seen. She mumbles something, I think she says the songs about marriage. Oh dear. Major assertiveness lessons required and as for her dancing, well...

Putting all that and her rather quiet vocals aside, its still an outstanding moment. Also for Arista's dress, for which L has now placed an order.

Then they go from being completely manic back to soft and gentle although Fyfe briefly ditches his keyboards in favour of a guitar, for 'Standing On The Last Star' for which he sounds far too like Mika for my liking. He encourages everyone to clap and sing along to the ending.

The band are continually swapping instruments, often even mid-song. Fyfe's on harmonica for the intro to 'Words' which rather unfairly reminds me of that French-Tunisian crooner FR David and his awful schmaltz of the same name which sold by the skip-full in 1982. Thankfully it's not the same track but shockingly similar in sentiment.

Arista shows what a diverse girl she is by picking up bass guitar for the brooding 'Don't Look Down', which is my favourite track from 'Red'. It's a captivating song that picks up speed as it goes along until it gets insanely fast towards the end. My highlight of the night.

'Annie, Let's Not Wait', another of my favourites, has possibly too much drumbeat on it but its still good. Then Fyfe dons some very silly sunglasses as their punchy recent single 'Get Over It' picks up the pace again, dramatically so. When I first heard this being played on the radio, I couldn't believe it was the Guillemots gone all pop.

He tells us it's about being a bitter old man. Bitter it seems at ending up with the wrong girl and still longing for his unrequited love but hey, at least he's getting over it.

Fyfe is left alone to play a solo 'We're Here'. It's a quiet moment but initially the crowd are too busy chattering, still abuzz from a cracking 'Get Over It' which just needed to be commented on. Probably not a good time to play a slowie.

The rest of the band return with Arista now at the keyboards for the raucous Scissor Sisters sound of 'Kriss Kross' which closes the set.

The band leave the stage but the audience had barely finished applauding when they return. Oddly drummer Greig Stewart is now stripped to the waist with a face drawn on his torso, dancing madly, and waving a bell above his head while Fyfe plays the drums. What was that all about then? Quite surreal. Someone shouts out their perverse appreciation for Greig, Fyfe tells them to 'get over it'.

Normality is restored for 'Trains to Brazil'. Their debut record, that made a name for the band. A sad but clever song commenting on the threat of terrorism in the world these days. They re-named the song in tribute to Jean Charles de Menezes, who was shot by the police on the London Underground.

Fyfe introduces all the band members, including the lion. We even got a few words from the lion but he mumbled too much into his microphone for us to be able to make them out.

They end with a hyperactive 'Sao Paulo' with lots of percussion, with all the roadies joining in and Fyfe banging a dustbin lid.

A good gig but too many slow moments for me but then they're that sort of band. L compares them a little to Elbow, although not as witty or crowd friendly. Equally, if not more, nod-off-able at times. The new, dare I say 'disco', stuff doesn't really quite fit in their repertoire but gives an interesting contrast and possibly widens their appeal. I think perhaps, Fyfe is going through a mid-life crisis. You're supposed to start doing more slow songs when you get older but he's going the other way.

(Photos pinched off the Guillemots forum. Sorry)

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