Tuesday 7 December 2010

The View, The Venue, Derby

My last gig before Christmas and at the excellent Venue in Derby again. Three bands tonight. First up, Control. Who from their accent must have come down from Scotland with The View. They’re ok, although their lead singer seems to have a bit of a chip on his shoulder and seems a bit miffed about the lack of feedback from the small crowd. It’s early and they’re third band on the bill, what does he expect. Their indie-verging-on-punk sound is good though and their cover of ‘20th Century Boy’ is more than competent.

‘Love In The Asylum’ was, as I recall, a poem by Dylan Thomas. Whether this has any bearing on the name of the next band I have no idea but I think we can safely say it hasn’t influenced their sound. They too are good and better than Control, more accessible too. Almost at once the crowd seems into them, as everyone mutters ‘Kings of Leon clones’. Yep there’s a definite resemblance but on closer listen it’s not their actual sound, just Dan Dunne’s vocals. He could easily pass himself off as Caleb Fallowill in a very dark room, there is no physical resemblance. Their music though makes for a pleasant half hour.

After they’ve finished and the roadies have done their stuff, I check my watch and it’s already 9.45. Oh dear. Now we're worried. The later The View come on the drunker Kyle Falconer is likely to be. Then we watch the roadies load up the stage up with alcohol. Not looking good.

When they appear, the band are upright and looking 'up for it' in a sober looking sort of way. As they open with the ska-punk of ‘Wasteland’ they’re sounding good too. After which they launch in to what appears to be a love song, a new track called ‘Grace’ I believe. Blimey, sober times indeed.

The ante is upped by the excellent ‘5 Rebeccas’ with the band exhibiting far more energy than a strangely restrained crowd and it takes the following ‘Wasted Little DJs’ to get the audience fired up. The fire though soon goes out and newbie ‘Tragic Magic’ is met with muted applause and ‘Realisation’ off ‘Which Bitch?’ doesn’t seem to get any recognition at all.

Kyle and Kieren have by now swapped places and instruments, staying that way for ‘One Off Pretender’, played for the first time on this tour, and then sharing vocals on the oddly popular ‘Skag Trendy’.

The crowd meanwhile remain very subdued, not much dancing, hardly any beer throwing and certainly no crowd surfing. Has the View’s bubble burst or is it just a poor crowd? The band perhaps don’t help by playing no less than six new numbers and the unfamiliar songs stall the momentum when it does threaten to get going. If that’s the reason, it would be a shame, because I for one like hearing bands play new material and the View’s new stuff seems to be pretty inspired, decent songs with big choruses. In fact I would take them in preference to some of their odder older moments.

The band themselves seem to have moved on a touch. They are a tighter unit tonight, so much less ramshackle than of old. More mature perhaps. You simply don't feel it's going to fall apart any second. Perhaps that’s to the detriment... They’re note perfect most of the time and what’s this? Keyboards? When did that happen? And they’re definitely going a bit soft, ‘this is another one about a girl’ I think he tells us, although translation from Scottish to English often isn’t easy, and I think it’s called ‘Girl’. So it does what it says on the tin.

As Kyle announces that their new album is due in March, he doesn’t seem happy with the crowd, assuming he can see them through his fringe. He attempts to get a bit of banter going but it doesn't happen. This isn’t a banter friendly crowd, it's not really an anything crowd but also we can't decipher his Dundee accent. In fact we can barely catch more than a word at a time. So it doesn't happen. He's not happy about that. Cue a very inappropriate new song called 'Happy'. Which rather ironically turns out to be an infectious, corker of a track.

The crowd are so muted you forgot what is still to come and when ‘Superstar Tradesman’ arrives it’s almost a shock and it finally stokes the crowd a bit.

Then they’re bravely straight into a couple more new tracks. Although one of them, ‘Sunday’, is available for nothing from their website and it sounds excellent live. Then perhaps to emphasize their new found maturity Kyle reaches for a mug rather than a bottle. A mug? Get that. It could be coffee, although I suppose just as easily it could be full of a spirit. Who knows? Either way he’s still not enamoured with one of the least appreciative crowds I’ve seen in some time.

Despite finishing off with a storming ‘Shock Horror’ and the brief ‘Typical Time’, the band seem to have no intention of returning for an encore.

Finally there are cries of 'The View, The View, The View are on fire' but it’s too late. Bet they won’t be rushing back to play for us again in Derby. Tonight the View, whilst perhaps not totally aflame were certainly smouldering away nicely, unfortunately Derby wasn’t.

Saturday 4 December 2010

Human League, Civic Hall, Wolverhampton

Tonight, a bit of an 80’s night. The Human League at the Civic Hall.

Support comes from ‘(We Are) Performance’, a three piece from Manchester, who make a great sound. Although I keep looking around for their fourth member, the one who is bashing out all the amazing synth tunes. This is because they consist only of a suave looking singer, who’s good; a girl with a guitar who only strums about three notes (not that that’s a criticism, many a successful career has been founded on less) and an electronics whizz complete his MacBook but even he only seems to play a few electric drum gadgets. That's it. Music is so easy-peasy. When you have it all taped or sequenced.

Still, as I said, they’re very good, well they sound good. They’re also very in keeping with The Human League, who have pulled a sizeable crowd tonight. Rather worryingly though, I might be the youngest one here. Possibly. The combined age of the front row is terrifying. No crowd surfing please gents, not with those walking sticks.

The League take the stage and open with a new track from their forthcoming album ‘Credo’. The track ‘Electric Shock’ seems very well received. Perhaps it’s the hooded monk on vocals that swings it for them. Then the monk removes his hood and blimey, it’s Phil Oakey. The winner of the prize for the most dubious outfit worn on stage at a Human League gig and it’s not an easy one to win, competition is fierce.

Then we’re straight into a run of classics. I can happily report that Phil still can’t hit those high notes in ‘Open Your Heart’ but he never has been able to and it's never bothered him or us. ‘Mirror Man’ follows and then ‘Heart Like A Wheel’ introduced as one of former member Jo Callis’s anti-war songs and that is aptly followed by something in a similar refrain, ‘The Lebanon’. Which brings their frustrated guitarist, Nic Burke, to the fore. It’s good to see he’s still with them and hasn't jumped ship to AC-DC, where I think possibly his heart lies.

As the hits keep coming, ‘Louise’ followed by a couple from Dare, ‘Love Action’ and ‘Sound Of The Crowd’, it’s all very good but I do feel a bit duped. I was intrigued to come because this tour was supposed to be in support of their new album but that is not now out until March. So again tonight we generally get a greatest hits set, which is obviously what the masses want to hear but I wanted to hear what they’d been up to in the studio. Their last album ‘Secrets’ was very good indeed and hugely underrated.

Then came two old oldies. No disrespect to the girls, who went for a breather at this point (we're all getting to that sort of age), but ‘Being Boiled’ was absolutely ace, it sounded great and had the best light show of the night. ‘Empire State Human’, which followed, wasn’t too far behind either, with Phil playing a guitar strap keyboard.

The girls returned after a wardrobe change for the new single ‘Night People’ with its incredibly cheesy lyrics. The song isn’t bad but it seemed a lot of the crowd were perplexed by it and what it was doing ruining their night of nostalgia.

Then another one they probably didn’t know, ‘All I Ever Wanted’, from 'Secrets'. There was no doubting that everyone knew the closing threesome of ‘(Keep Feeling) Fascination’, ‘Tell Me When’ and ‘Don't You Want Me’ though.

‘Seconds’ was a bit of a surprise as the encore with Phil back in monk mode and again no girls. It was also stupendously good. No offence girls. Then they’re back, with another outfit for the closing ‘cover’ of ‘Together In Electric Dreams’.

All good stuff. I would have preferred to hear more songs from ‘Credo’, but that would have upset the masses. Maybe next time.

Friday 3 December 2010

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Rock City, Nottingham

Rock City haven’t got the stage times up for tonight’s concert but their website indicates three bands tonight so by getting there around 7.30 we expect to miss Dark Horses but we should be in time for the Duke Spirit, who I’m keen to see.

Not so. Leila Moss is just finishing up with their last track as we arrive. Only two bands tonight and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club on at 8.00. Oh well, at least not long to wait. Thankfully the band have made it up from last night’s show in Portsmouth. I had a feeling a bit of weather wouldn’t stop them.

The gig is billed as part of Rock City's 30th Anniversary Celebrations, not that this means much. Most of their gigs this month seem to be. It’s still something worth celebrating though.

It’s also landmark time for BRMC. They will be performing their 1000th live concert at the Brixton Academy on December 11th, which makes this their 994th.

They are indeed on at 8.00 and play through for a full two hours. The sound isn’t great tonight and the band are beset by a few technical problems. After the opening ‘666 Conducer’, Peter Hayes’s amp appears to pack up. As they sort it. Robert Been picks up an acoustic guitar and breaks into an unscheduled rendition of ‘Sympathetic Noose’ off their acoustic diversion album ‘Howl’. Hayes’ meanwhile lights up a cigarette. Naughty.

Been doesn’t quite finish ‘Sympathetic Noose’ before the amp is sorted and the boys are back to full volume and power with ‘Stop’. About time. They never play that for me, until now.

When I say ‘the boys’, that is slightly incorrect. Shock Horror. Black Rebel now have a girl drummer. It was their drummer, Nick Jago, who kept drifting in and out of the band. Seems he’s currently out and his place has been taken by Leah Shapiro, who has worked with the Raveonettes. Of course, it's the done thing these days. It used to be bass players, and still is to a certain extent, but now its drummers.

Overall it’s a good solid show with a nice selection of old stuff blended with the new from this year’s ‘Beat the Devil's Tattoo’ album, which sounds much better live than on record, with 'Bad Blood' and ‘Half-State’ as good as anything they've done.

BRMC could easily survive on their no frills roof rattling numbers but instead, they deliver a good mix of slow and fast numbers. An old classic, ‘Whatever Happened to My Rock 'n' Roll (Punk Song)’, probably as old as Hayes’ shirt which has seen better days, gives way to an acoustic segment in the middle of the set.

At least Hayes’ shirt is black. Been takes off his leather jacket to reveal a very unusual site at BRMC gig, a white t-shirt. All his black ones must be in the wash.

The slow numbers include an unexpected cover of The Pogues ‘Dirty Old Town’ done solo by Been. An interesting choice to say the least. Then Hayes takes up the acoustic baton with ‘Complicated Situation’ and ‘The Toll’. It’s quite striking that a band known mainly for their wall of sound are still lifting a lot of stuff off ‘Howl’, showing how good that album actually was. Perhaps not everyone agrees though. Some of the crowd talk through the acoustic numbers; in fact it’s probably the most chattering I’ve ever heard at a gig. Shame on those people.

Later Been even sits at the piano for another mellow moment, ‘Long Way Down’, before they return to the heavier stuff with Baby 81's awesome ‘Berlin’ and ‘Conscience Killer’ off the new record before they end by giving us a right pummelling with an oldie, ‘Six Barrel Shotgun’.

The amp seemed to go again at start of the encore during ‘Spread Your Love’. Time for another smoke eh Peter? Soon sorted though, which leads us into a fairly slow and moody finish with a double header of the brooding extravagance of ‘Shadows Keeper’ and finally ‘Open Invitation’.