Thursday 15 December 2016

Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls Gig 2000, Rock City, Nottingham

Supported by The Tailors & Beans On Toast

Clearly the numbers matter to Frank Turner. He knows exactly how many gigs he’s played and they’re all there listed in the ‘Live Archive’ section on his website going right back to 2004. If you’ve been to one of his gigs you’ll know he proudly announces what number the one you’re witnessing is and now the man himself, who admits that he’s forever on tour, has now reached his 2000th gig. Yes that works out at one practically every other day over those 12 years.

Even better than that, he’s chosen my favourite UK venue as the place to hold this hallowed event because it’s also his favourite and of course it’s proudly independent as well, just like him. 

Despite it being a hometown gig for me getting tickets was clearly going to be hell and Frank launched a ballot as the fairest way to get tickets out there. He even put names on the tickets which he hoped would avoid the scourge of touting. 

Of course I never get anything in a ballot unless you count the beginners luck I exhibited in 2014 when I successfully bought Glastonbury tickets at my very first attempt with little fuss and without an entire network of computer equipment pointed at Seetickets. Lightning doesn’t strike twice though and I failed miserably in the massively oversubscribed ballot. 

That was until last week... when I got an email saying we have some extra tickets... want one? Erm... Yes please.

So here I am, proving who I am to pick up my ticket on the door and rushing inside to catch The Tailors who have a stage time of 6:25! Next time Frank please pick a night when there isn’t a 10pm curfew. 

When I get in it’s already rammed. Folk have come from all over the world for this you know and unlike me they’ve come mega early.

The Tailors are a country band who were apparently on one of FT’s biggest influences. They have been inactive for some time but have agreed to reform for one night only. Although someone clearly didn’t get the memo as they’ve had to find someone to stand in on guitar. Looks suspiciously like Frank.

I catch the end of their set and what I hear sounds pretty good to me but the hot news is that this gig is no longer a one off for the Tailors. They will be back.

Another big influence on FT and the man who apparently convinced him to start playing solo acoustic shows in the first place is his pal Jay a.k.a. Beans On Toast. Now I wouldn’t say I’m a huge fan of Mr Toast but he’s certainly an entertainer and his opening track intrigued me as it was all about 2016 (probably called ‘2016’). It documented the events of the year and he says he’s been playing it all year. So presumably it’s got longer and longer and longer. It seems to take up most of his set tonight and he seems a little hurt when he’s told his time’s up sooner than he thought because it’s time for the birthday boy.

So only six days since he played Rock City on his UK tour proper, which I couldn’t get a ticket for, the man himself is back in Nottingham. The stage crew are decked out in great commemorative t-shirts that I believe have been provided by Rock City so aren’t generally available, which is a shame. 


So I suppose you want to know about the gig itself? Well, what’s to tell? It’s a Frank Turner show, so what do you expect? The man’s a legend and the show was brilliant. 2000 shows is a lot of quantity but feel the quality too.

From the opening ‘Prufrock’ to the closing ‘Four Simple Words’ via an acoustic ‘Mittens’, a very appropriate ‘The Ballad of Me and My Friends’, an amazing ‘I Am Disappeared’ and many other highlights too numerous to mention.

Although I ought to mention the serious disregard for Rock City’s 'No Crowdsurfing' rule during ‘If Ever I Stray’ where he wheeled out Beans On Toast and asked him to crowdsurf to the bar to get two shots of whiskey, then to head to sound desk where he had to high five the two guys there before sharing the shots with a random guy on the other side of the arena before heading back to the stage. He managed it before the song had finished but I’m sure he was supposed to go around one of the pillars and didn’t. They should have made him do it again.

Overall, an astonishing brilliant night and here’s to the next 2000, which will be in 2028 I guess. Not that long to wait.

Frank Turner Setlist Rock City, Nottingham, England 2016, Get Better Tour

Friday 14 October 2016

Feeder, Rock City, Nottingham

Supported by The Virgin Marys

The last time I saw Feeder in 2012, which was the last time they toured, they were supported by Macclesfield’s The Virgin Marys. Déjà vu. Look who it is again.

The Marys are a three piece that play loud and fast. You know, pounding drums, heaving bass and screeching guitar. They are brash but tuneful with a sound that just doesn’t really let up. Yet lead singer Ally Dickaty seems such a nice boy when he's not swearing and screeching into the mic. When he is screeching into the mic he's quite a good singer. I bought a CD the last time I saw them and by the time they finish with the brilliant ‘Just a Ride’, I’m thinking I might do so again. 

The Virginmarys Setlist Rock City, Nottingham, England 2016

After a four year break Feeder are back to promote their new album ‘All Bright Electric’ which they are plugging before the start with a £5 download offer being projected continually on to the back wall. Then David Bowie’s Space Oddity comes on, the track they have been taking the stage to on this tour, and the volume is cranked up. We are about to get started. 

Tonight the band have their fullest line up since the Silent Cry tour of 2008 with the return of a second guitarist as Tom Gleeson joins the band for these gigs. Grant Nicholas and bassist Taka Hirose are backed by their usual keyboard player Dean Deavall while Geoff Hollroyde is the man on drums.

Kicking off with ‘Another Day On Earth’ off the new record, a ‘power ballad’ of sorts that builds from a quiet keyboard driven introduction with the guitars and drums gradually joining to take it to a crescendo of noise before it dies off again for a gentler finish. It’s quite an opener.

Next up it’s the heavy guitars of ‘Universe of Life’, which is a much rockier tune reminiscent of their early albums. Which is a sound they have been harking back to much more of late with the ‘Renegades’ and ‘Generation Freakshow’ albums. 

With the track ‘Renegades’ up next, it’s not a start for those who are looking for a populous set full of the hits. I’m already thinking that a lot of people down the front aren’t going to know anything other than the big singles given how indifferently some people have received the opening three numbers. 

Then they kick in to the hits.

From here onwards, aside from the tracks from the new album, it is very populous with eleven of the remaining twelve songs played all coming from one album - 2006’s Singles Collection. 

Of these, it is ‘Pushing the Senses’ that really get things going and the resulting mosh reorganises the symmetry of the crowd displacing the indifferent ones towards the back. Now suddenly everyone down the front knows everything. Subsequently the other non Singles album track ‘Borders’ get a much better reception than ‘Renegades’ did and becomes, surprisingly, one of the highlights of the night. 

Of the new material, 'Eskimo' is classic Feeder, a combo of quiet verses and louder choruses, which will hopefully become a bit of a favourite. It has a ‘fever’ vocal line in the chorus which sounds very like ‘Feeder’ tonight. 

Another new track ‘Paperweight’ is one I’m not so keen on and feels more of a ‘lightweight’ amongst the other selections off the new record. Such as ‘Geezer’, which is the complete opposite, and another much heavier number. Then there’s 'Infrared Ultraviolet' which is played as part of the encore. It’s classy, stylish and just beautiful. 

The main set closes with ‘Buck Rogers’, a track that Nicholas has tinkered with live repeatedly over the years. Currently it has a stripped back almost acoustic intro before leaping into life. As does the crowd. Not that it matters much how they play it because everyone is far too busy singing back the words and jumping around. In fact Taka Hirose may well be playing ‘Enter Sandman’ rather than Buck Rogers.

The band return for the encore and blame the venues curfew for making the crowd choose between early old school classic ‘Sweet 16’ and massive hit ‘Seven Days In The Sun’. I am impressed by the size of the shout for ‘Sweet 16’ which probably shows that it could easily be included in the main set but it is dwarfed by the shout for ‘Seven Days’ which is what we then get. Although I would say that the vote is skewed slightly by a lot of people around me yelling ‘both’.

The night of course ends, as is tradition, with a jump around to ‘Just A Day’.

It’s a cracking gig and it’s a long time since I’ve bopped down the front throughout. I would, of course, have liked a deeper delve through the band’s back catalogue but they are probably right to return after such a long break with a hits strewn set. 

Nicholas has already made all manner of set list promises for their gigs next year and there is also talk of a mini tour to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of their debut album ‘Polythene’. So next year could be really special.
Feeder Setlist Rock City, Nottingham, England 2016, All Bright Electric

Thursday 6 October 2016

The Mission, Rock City, Nottingham

Supported by Peter Murphy

Is it just me or does Peter Murphy sound a bit like Chris Rea these days? Ok. Just me then.

It’s only on his lighter moments of course and they're dark brooding lighter moments but there are a lot of them. Somehow I expected a bit more ’punch’ from the former frontman of Bauhaus but then I haven't really kept up with his post Bauhaus career.

The thing is I don't think many other folk here tonight have either and his set falls a bit flat with the majority. Politely applauded but flat nonetheless. Murphy, backed by a guitarist and a bass player, does have his hardcore fans down the front who love every minute but the rest of us were perhaps hoping for a bit more familiarity from tonight’s special guest.

Oh well, never mind, we are here on the occasion of The Mission’s 30th birthday so cue the Dambusters.  

Daaaa da da da d d da da... etc.

And we’re off. ‘Beyond the Pale’, ‘Serpent's Kiss’ and ‘Over The Hills And Far Away’ back to back without taking breath. That’s a proper old school opening. Then there’s time to refill your lungs as Wayne Hussey acknowledges the crowds appreciation of their back catalogue before launching into a new song ‘Tyranny of Secrets’ off their new album 'Another Fall From Grace'. The first of three they play this evening with the new single 'Met-Amor-Phosis' going down particularly well.

Guitarist Simon Hinkler had remarked before the tour that he had felt a bit daunted after being asked to rehearse 47 songs but clearly he got with the project as the band have been ripping up the set list every night and slipping in something different at each venue. I really wish more bands took this approach which makes it all a bit more special for the long term fans.

Original members Hussey, Hinkler and Craig Adams are again joined by Mike Kelly on drums and now have a new female singer amongst their mist. Evi Vine is the new Julianne Regan if you like and adds the gloss to a sparkling ‘Severina’ tonight amongst other tracks.

The set is surprisingly wide ranging and well planned considering it consists of just 12 tracks ending with an epic ‘Wasteland’ before the band return for the first of two encores.

An acoustic ‘Black Mountain Mist’ along with Evie, is followed by a bit of jam session to ‘1969’ before ‘Butterfly on a Wheel’ and then a rare airing of what used to be the traditional set closer ‘Shelter From The Storm’ albeit a vanilla version which doesn’t ramble off into other tracks like it used to. It’s also good to see that they still hand out roses to this song.

In fact Wayne Hussey was quite generous with his handouts tonight, earlier lobbing his bottle of wine to a girl in the crowd who was on someone’s shoulders. She impressively caught it and the Health and Safety officer breathed a huge sigh of relief.

They return again for ‘The Crystal Ocean’ and ‘Deliverance’ to which they finally leave the stage for good with the crowd still singing the chorus right up to the point the house lights come up.

Tuesday 19 July 2016

Belly, Rock City, Nottingham

The talk among my generation for the last few years has been how to mark one’s 50th year on the planet. Tanya Donelly seems to have met this dilemma head on and aced us all by reforming the band that was her finest moment and hauling them over to the UK for a tour. It’s a tad more impressive than my own plans.

A founding member of both the Throwing Muses and the Breeders, Donelly left to start her own band Belly back in 1991. Their début album ‘Star’ was a huge success, its follow-up ‘King’ less so. Although, as is often the case, ‘King’ is perhaps the better, more mature record. Nonetheless that was it for the band and they split up in 1996.

I'm pretty sure this is Belly’s first visit to Rock City. It’s certainly not Tanya’s first but as for the band their last appearance in Nottingham was at Trent Students' Union in 1995. So 21 years on, Belly finally make their Rock City début where it’s cosily busy tonight but far from full and with the balcony closed.

The air-con is on, so let's get started. Although, when exactly did Rock City get air-con? The days when they used to simple carry people out and lay them out in the car park until they came round are clearly gone. That was before Health and Safety obviously.

There is no support band and the band play two sets with a promise to play practically everything from their two albums. They don't quite manage that but give it a good go. Even débuting two, as yet untitled, new tracks one each either side of a ‘power nap’, as bassist Gail Greenwood calls their mid-set break. 

Greenwood is the lively, energetic one, a windmill of whirling hair, limbs and bass strings. The polar opposite of the calm, courteous efficiency of Donelly. Efficient that is until she forgets to sing into the microphone which she does on several occasions. It is Greenwood who suggests the crowd can name the new songs and if that’s the case then one will probably appear as ‘Grade A W***king’ (you had to be there).

The Gorman brothers, Chris on drums and Tom on guitar complete the line-up and it is clear that the four of them have re-formed for pleasure, theirs as well as ours as they rattle through all the old favourites from the opening excellence of Puberty (from ‘King’) to the gorgeous closing Thief (from the Tank Girl soundtrack!).

In between the highlights are many but the livelier crowd pleasing numbers such as ‘Dusted’, ‘Seal My Fate’, ‘Feed the Tree’, ‘Angel’ etc are probably trumped by a total enchanting ‘Full Moon, Empty Heart’ and an equally bewitching ‘Spaceman’.

They return to play one more, ‘Stay’ (from 'Star') which is perhaps a statement of intent and with new songs being written it looks like they may be around for a bit longer this time.

Belly Setlist Rock City, Nottingham, England 2016