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.