Tuesday 30 June 2015

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Rock City, Nottingham

Supported by Carl Barât and The Jackals

Carl Barat, again. Small world. From a crowd of fifty odd thousand plus at Glastonbury on Friday via Russia on Saturday to a sparse early Rock City crowd in Nottingham tonight and probably similar in Manchester last night. Barat is being a busy chappie at the moment, that's for sure. Whether it’s with the Libertines as special guests on the Pyramid or tonight in a more standard supporting role to BRMC with the Jackals, he's putting the hours in. I wonder which is the day job?

Will tonight be as shambling as the Libertines Glasto set? Not a bit of it. Tonight Barat’s Jackals are more structured and more organised. He even has his bandanna tied around his own waist this evening.

The songs are perhaps not as clever and inspired as his Pete Doherty shared compositions but tonight’s material was certainly delivered with far more flair and definitely far more enthusiasm. They’re also far heavier. This is British garage rock at its finest.

Don't give up the day job Carl, it this one is it.

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club are back in the UK promoting a new live album before playing a few festivals and seeing them at Rock City is always a treat. The trio, mainstays Robert Levon Been and Peter Hayes, together with drummer Leah Shapiro, have (as usual) pulled a big and loyal following tonight into what must now be a close to capacity crowd.

They take to the stage, like Barat and his Jackals, in all-black attire on what is the hottest evening of the year so far. There must be a dress code tonight.

They open with the title track from the 2010 album ‘Beat the Devil's Tattoo’ which is followed by a couple from their latest studio album ‘Specter at the Feast’ including ‘Let The Day Begin’, a track first recorded by Been's father’s band The Call, and now re-recorded in posthumous tribute to him.

This is the start of a two hour tour through their expansive back catalogue with Been and Hayes swapping between electric, bass and acoustic guitars throughout. As ever there is a mix of the epic, such as ‘American X’ and ‘Heart + Soul’, slower numbers like the country swagger of ‘Ain't No Easy Way’ and the thundering rock and roll of the likes of ‘Weapon of Choice’. They may even have chattered to the crowd a bit in between but most of what they said was inaudible.

Sadly too is a mid-set acoustic interlude, when the harmonica mic which worked so well on ‘Ain't No Easy Way’ appears to fail for ‘Complicated Situation’ and no one can hear the song. Disappointingly it makes an acoustic ‘Love Burns’ fall well below par as well. These are the only down points though of a generally storming set which ends with ‘Spread Your Love’ stirring up a predictable sweaty mosh in front of the stage.

With the band now running out of time before the 11pm curfew they return for just two more, ‘Shuffle Your Feet’ and ‘Whatever Happened to My Rock 'n' Roll’ which sees Been jumping into the crowd at its riotous finale. Good to have you back again guys.

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club Setlist Rock City, Nottingham, England 2015

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Sunday 28 June 2015

Glastonbury 2015 - Sunday

It rains overnight and up to about noon, so we stay under canvas. There’s not really much happening down at the festival until the Palma Violets at 2:15 anyway.

We head down eventually and visit Silver Hayes which we’ve neglected so far. Princess Slayer is up on BBC Introducing and we pop into see Ruth Royall in the lovely named La Pussy Parlure. As we wend our way back to Other, Adam Cohen is just finishing. He is then followed by an excellent set from the Palma Violets.

Palma Violets Setlist Glastonbury Festival 2015 2015, Danger in the Club

Could it now be time for Lionel Ritchie? It does look very packed in the Pyramid field with a plethora of Lionel masks, flags and t-shirts asking what it is you’re looking for (various variations). However we desperately wanted to see the Biggles Wartime Band in Croissant Neuf. Some Irish lads we’d met had implied this could be Mr Biggles’ (aka Jolly Jock) farewell gig. They provide an entertaining set including an awesome reworking of Robert Palmer's ‘Addicted to Love’ among others and a guest appearance by Sammy the fish.

There are more cover versions over at the Acoustic next with the Bootleg Beatles who are running late and cut short by the same harassed stage manager who seems almost about to combust in frustration.

Life is much more tranquil up on Other to Belle and Sebastian but we don’t stay. We swerve around Paul Weller (no offence) and opt for a patch of grass up on the Park hill, an Otter Ale having belatedly discovered Trickett’s real ale bar and The Fall.

Then it’s back to Other for a burst of Jamie T but then do we do the The Who or head for Leftfield and the Buzzcocks. Good choice, what a way to close the festival. I mean the Buzzcocks not the Who.

Buzzcocks Setlist Glastonbury Festival 2015 2015

Although that’s not the end, just yet. There’s still time to make our first trip to the John Peel stage (sorry John) and FFS. The collaboration of Franz Ferdinand and Sparks, who are excellent.

FFS Setlist Glastonbury Festival 2015 2015

Saturday 27 June 2015

Glastonbury 2015 - Saturday

First up today on Other is the perfect festival fare of Frank Turner, who confesses he’s already played an intimate set around the campfire in Strummerville. If only we’d known, it’s just at the bottom of our hill. I wonder if he saw Ride there. His set, as ever, is brilliant even if he does make up sit down and the get up again for ‘Photosynthesis’. There are no concessions for the old folks’ knees.

Frank Turner Setlist Glastonbury Festival 2015 2015

We get to Pyramid early today, in time to stretch out on the grass in the sun and listen to the Waterboys. You could almost stay there all day. Then George Ezra comes on and brings half the festival with him. Folk who also seem intent on staying all day. 2,000 is company, 70,000 is a crowd. We decamp, which is a shame as we’d quite like to have seen Burt Bacharach who is up next, just for the novelty.

Next stop is the Acoustic for Tom Robinson. Who now looks quite an old man but still rocks like a youngster. When he finally gets on stage that is, as they seem to have problems setting up his equipment and the harassed stage manager gets more and more harassed as the precise punctuality of Glastonbury gradually goes t*** up, in the Acoustic tent at least. Then when Tom finally gets on and after a brilliant ‘Up Against The Wall’ he breaks a bass guitar string (no mean feat) and has to improvise. After taking requests from the crowd he plays a real favourite in ‘Grey Cortina’, which has probably never been done acoustic before and probably never will be again. A real treat.

We had intended staying in the Acoustic tent for a while because Texas were on next but they have cancelled and their replacement Rainy Boy Sleep is currently pulling the biggest crowd of his life with those who haven’t heard the news.

We slip around the corner to that impossibly small tent on William's Green and Courtney Barnett, who we wave at from a distance as we can’t get inside (again).

We then return to the Acoustic tent for the triumvirate of Nick Lowe, Paul Carrack and Andy Fairweather Low. They are a brilliant collaboration playing a collection of each other’s songs but also a few too many covers of other artist’s songs when really their own back catalogues are rich enough to be plundered.

Next in the still impossibly small William's Green tent are the Palma Violets and again, we wave from a distance. No matter, they are up on Other tomorrow.

On the way back to camp is the Park stage, although we pass Leftfield on the way where Enter Shikari (again) have the place rocking. Up on the Park are Spiritualized, as impenetrable as ever. We debate the long, possibly mile long, hike to the John Peel to see Suede but opt for the camp site bar instead. There was always Kanye I suppose. Nah.

Friday 26 June 2015

Glastonbury 2015 - Friday

So happy birthday to the Glastonbury Festival of Contemporary Performing Arts which is 45 this year and here we are.

Actually trying to review Glastonbury would be futile. Glastonbury offers so much than any other festival that I’ve been to. We aren’t just talking a hand full of stages here because Glastonbury is like a small town. You could come for the music or you could spend five days immersed in other things and not see a band at all. Yes, five days. I didn’t realise that the festival opens its gates on Wednesday morning and builds rapidly until Thursday evening by which time most of its 170,000 attendees are here.

First up, it’s always a tough decision on what t-shirts to take to events like this. My choice of a 1990 vintage Ride t-shirt goes down well. Everyone asks me if I know if the recently reformed band will be playing a secret set and if so where will it be. Well there are three lots of ‘special guests’ on the line-up on Friday and the rumours seem to have intensified since we arrived on Wednesday. Though I can’t help feeling I inadvertently started them.

Still, if Ride are going to be playing a sneaky set here obviously we’re going to have to find it.

So day one of live bands at Glastonbury sees us heading down into the festival to catch the ‘special guests’ who are opening the Other Stage at 11am. This is unlikely to be the much talked about secret set by Ride unless Tim Burgess has simply been winding everyone up by Tweeting pictures of his wellies implying that it could be the Charlatans opening up the festival.

Well, it is the Charlatans, surprise surprise. The classic festival band but sadly not a terribly exciting one. Never mind, we in an open mind mood and anyway we want to see the Cribs who are up next. From the opening ‘Mirror Kisses’ to the closing ‘Pink Snow’ The Cribs are excellent but then I’m biased.

The Cribs Setlist Glastonbury Festival 2015 2015, For All My Sisters

After which we head off to the next lot of ‘special guests’ in the far too small tent on William's Green. It becomes my life’s ambition to actually get inside this tent at some point and this is obviously where Ride are going to play their secret set or not. There’s no chance of seeing inside the place now though, as another much leaked guest appearance is playing. This time it’s Bastille. So no, not Ride.

Having heard weird things about the Michael Clark Company who opened things up today on the main Pyramid stage with a dance route to numerous Bowie tunes, we head off to catch them in the Astrolade Theatre. Dancing in Usain Bolt skinsuits to well know fare like ‘Heroes’ and ‘Jean Genie’ but also to lesser known ‘Aladdin Sane’, ‘Chant Of The Ever Circling Skeletal Family’ and ‘After All’ it’s a set for the Bowie fanatic, the dance fanatic and the Lycra skinsuit fanatic.

Having discovered the excellent Cockmill Bar with its range of local ales we’re been hanging around there a fair bit. It’s a handy place to be when we get the first rain of the festival as well, as we pile into the nearby Acoustic tent. Entertainment is supplied by Stornoway, who are no doubt pleased to pull such a big crowd by accident.

Once the rain has stopped we do another site tour and find the Rabbit Hole stage, where we take a look at Jake Isaac before we visit Wolf Alice on the Park Stage.

Now it’s dilemma time. Does one see Motorhead up on the Pyramid, Lulu in Avalon or the Vaccines up on Other. Despite the fact it is now raining again the Vaccines win and a good choice that is too as they put in one of the performances of the festival including a perfect ‘Wetsuit’ performance.

The Vaccines Setlist Glastonbury Festival 2015 2015, English Graffiti

There’s still time to catch a bit of Lulu who is really giving it some in Avalon, we settle into the wooden shack next door, the Avalon Inn, for a few beers and a listen. The Avalon tent itself is rammed.

Then it’s off for our first visit to the Pyramid stage for more ‘special guests’. Ride? I doubt they’d be up on Pyramid and recent rumours seem to be about to be confirmed that the Libertines have been flown in by helicopter.

Tonight the Libertines simply prove they are not a main stage festival band. They are a small venue band where their shambling songs come over as charming and endearing. Up on Pyramid they just look and sound sloppy. I've seen enough of Doherty live to know it’s a well engrained trait. Carl Barat though knows better but probably needs the money. To be fair to the band, the crowd are pretty sloppy too and everyone near us talks through their set. Don't you just hate that?

For some time now, several years in fact, I’ve had this image in my head of Pete Doherty at 50 playing a gig of his finest moments of which, let’s be clear, there have been many. Only he plays them all in tune and error free using the experience that comes with age. It would be awesome. Let's hope he's around to do it and I'm around to see it.

Still, I’m glad I've seen them at long last and the middle section of ‘Music When The Lights Go Out’ and ‘What Katie Did’ was more charming than shambling.

The Libertines Setlist Glastonbury Festival 2015, Summer 2015

By now we’re missed the Courteeners (who I like but have seen loads of times), TOY and the Proclaimers (which may have been quite jolly). Shall we also skip Florence, yes I think so.

So it’s Enter Shikari or Lamb then? Or back into the pub. I think the latter wins, tomorrows another day.