Friday 29 June 2018

Public Image Limited, Rock City, Nottingham

It's been a while, since the 'Album' tour in 1986 in fact, so this is probably a good time to catch Public Image again. I mean you never know when it might be your last opportunity. Then again John Lydon is only 62, a mere youngster, so he’s not reaching for the zimmer frame just yet.

Although he seems to have brought his own alter, from where he conducts his performance and places his lyric book. Perhaps he is feeling 62 after all and forgetting a few things... This comes in as a very useful prop for the weird spoken-word number 'The Room I Am In'. 

There has been no support tonight, despite doors opening at 6:30. PiL were promised at 8:00 but didn’t arrive until 8:30. Most bands tend to obey stage times these days but not John Lydon, he’s old school.

It’s also a 10:00 curfew, so he won’t be on stage that long. I’ve never been totally clear why bands play Rock City on Fridays and Saturdays. Is it cheaper or do they secretly prefer an early finish?

Lydon is not known for long sets or crowd pleasing ones for that matter but this is a pretty popularist setlist by his standards. In amongst songs from their most recent album 'What The World Needs Now' from 2015 comes some early classics such as ‘Memories’, ‘Flowers of Romance’ and a pulsating ‘Death Disco’ along with tracks from their late eighties renaissance bringing us the likes of ‘Warrior’, ‘The Body’ and the brilliant 'Cruel'.

The really big crowd pleasers bring a close to the main set where ‘This Is Not A Love Song’ tumbles straight into ‘Rise’.

The band return for the not often performed ‘Public Image’ before playing ‘Open Up’ which Lydon recorded with Leftfield. The night ends with ‘Shoom’ which appears to an ode to his late father who was apparently fond of the word 'bollocks' and other choice words, which make up the majority of the lyrics. Lydon ends the night by leading us in a chorus of “fuck you!”. Nice tribute.

Public Image Ltd Setlist Rock City, Nottingham, England 2018

Tuesday 12 June 2018

Psychedelic Furs, Leicester Academy

Supported by The Phenomenal Rise of Richard Strange

Tonight’s support is the exceedingly strange Richard Strange, who has arrived with a seven piece band who are a real mix of oldies and youngies. Richard Strange himself is 67.

As I understand it his show is based on his 1981 concept album ‘The Phenomenal Rise of Richard Strange’ which was described as a ‘political fantasy’. I take it that Strange now sees this as shockingly relevant given the election of Donald Trump and Brexit. In fact he unveils a banner proclaiming ‘Enemy Of The People’ at the end. 

It’s more theatre than music, with Strange wearing a balaclava at one point, which I gather it’s supposed to be and some of the ‘acts’ are quite long. In fact when he promises us ‘one more’, a man somewhere said 'no'. Out of time.

The last time I saw the Psychedelic Furs was here in Leicester in 1991 on the ‘World Outside’ tour. I’m not quite returning to the scene of a crime as that was at the wonderful, yet now sadly demolished, De Montfort University’s old Student Union.

These days it's good to see that one of the bands of your youth are not only still together but still alive. Sadly it's the way things are going.

Currently the group consists of the Butler brothers Richard on vocals and Tim on bass along with Mars Williams (saxophone), Amanda Kramer (keyboards), Paul Garisto (drums) and Rich Good (guitar).

Richard Butler took the stage last and it’s reassuring to see he’s still not taken that coat off.

There's no John Ashton in the band these days but returning tonight is original guitarist Roger Morris. He left the band after the first two albums at which point the band's sound mellowed somewhat and became famous for not just Richard Butler’s outstanding voice but for the addition of quite a bit of saxophone as well.

Morris only plays on the stuff he knows which means he’s busy at the start as they open with ‘Dumb Waiters’ and ‘Into You Like a Train’. Then he takes a break as they tackle the likes of ‘Highwire Days’. It’s a nice moment when halfway through the set old and new guitarists shake hands in mutual respect.

It’s pretty much a ‘hit’ filled set, not that the band had many actual hits, although there are quite a few omissions that I won’t grumble about.

The band haven’t released a record for 27 years and quite openly just enjoy playing for the fun of it without any pressure from record companies or the like. This sense of fun really stood out and the whole band seemed to have a ball.

They close the set with the poppy ‘Heaven’ before returning for the awesome twosome of ‘India’ and then ‘Pretty in Pink’.

The Psychedelic Furs Setlist O2 Academy Leicester, Leicester, England 2018, 2018 European Tour

Tuesday 24 April 2018

Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls, Academy, Sheffield

Supported by Arkells

Frank Turner has probably introduced me to more new bands than anyone else through his support slots and tonight he does it again. Arkells Touring Band from Hamilton, Canada. A band with big riffs and catchy choruses, the perfect warm up act. They remind me a little of the Hold Steady although I’m not too sure why. Their boundless energy and enthusiasm perhaps and the way they get the crowd going. They goad the Sheffield crowd to be better than Belfast and are totally bemused when everyone starts tribally screaming 'Yorkshire Yorkshire' back at them. After a long pause he says I’ll take that as a compliment. Yes please do.

It's show number 2158 for Frank and he kicks off with new tune ‘1933’. It's a bit of a political moment for him, comparing our modern world of Trump and Brexit with the political landscape of 1933, the year the Nazis took power in Germany.

It is taken from his forthcoming seventh album ‘Be More Kind’, an album he says urges people to be more kind to each other. Something that isn't really a problem inside Frank Turner World where his live shows really are as friendly as they come. More of a shared community experience for like minded souls.

The live show itself is again top draw with Frank and the Sleeping Souls consistently brilliant music wise and with their usual full on engagement with the crowd.

Aside from the opener, four other tracks are played from his new album and all appear to be future classics in the making.

However, if I may be a little controversial, I do now get the feeling that Frank's gigs are well into a formula and the base set doesn't vary very much which is a shame.

Of the four 'oldies' that appear tonight that didn't last time I saw him at gig 2000 only one is a 'wow' moment. A very rare outing for the excellent 'The Fisher King Blues ' from 'Tape Deck Heart'.

Yes, the playing of 'Love Ire And Song' in the encore is also incredibly welcome but there is so much of his back catalogue that simply never appears any more, not even occasionally. While I'm not a huge fan of the mass stomp around tracks he now tends to favour such as 'Out of Breath' and 'Four Simple Words' ahead of some of the more nuanced numbers that are really his forte.

Still though, can't grumble too much, it was still a terrific night.

Frank Turner Setlist O2 Academy, Sheffield, England 2018, Be More Kind World Tour

Tuesday 10 April 2018

The Vaccines, Rock City, Nottingham

Supported by Dream Wife

Tonight it’s the ‘Vaccines’ at Rock City but first up are Dream Wife, an all girl band from Brighton, who I would say show definite similarities to Honeyblood but with more members. So obviously they appeal to me. They are a bit rawer and more punk rock than Honeyblood but no less riotously excellent for that.

We weren't actually sure we'd see the Vaccines again after what has been a turbulent year or two for them which included the loss of their drummer but here they are. They’re back and with a corking new album in 'Combat Sports' which is a real return to their roots after perhaps going off track in parts on their previous two records. 

In front of a long ago sold out Rock City, the band show that they have clearly got their mojo back. Their performance positively fizzes tonight aided in no small part by such a cracking selection of ridiculously catchy tunes. It is a set bookended the two excellent singles so far from the new record. The ferocious ‘Nightclub’ to open and the bouncy lively ‘I Can’t Quit’ to close.

In between Justin Young and co set a blistering pace, rattling off the numbers in very quick succession barely taking a breath. Sixteen of which have been listed as singles making this more of a greatest hits\non-hits tour than an album tour for ‘Combat Sports’.

Everything from their début single ‘Wreckin Bar (Ra Ra Ra)’, the perhaps slightly irritating perfect pop of ‘Teenage Icon’, the brooding ‘Dream Lover’, their big ‘hit’ (number 32 you know) ‘Post Break-up Sex’  through to the traditional mass sing-along to the lovely ‘Wetsuit’ and that's just the first fifteen minutes. 

Their ode to Amanda Nørgaard naturally brings the house down and there’s even an outing for non-album single ‘Melody Calling’. Meanwhile the new music fits in seamlessly with ‘Out On The Street’ and ‘Take It Easy’ particular stand outs.

In all the Vaccines rattle through 19 songs in just over an hour. Then return to do another three including a wonderfully seductive ‘All in White’ to close. Gig of the year so far?

The Vaccines Setlist Rock City, Nottingham, England, UK Tour 2018

Friday 16 March 2018

Feeder, Rock City, Nottingham

Supported by Marsicans

So to my second Feeder gig in four days, well it is a special occasion being their 21st Anniversary.

They are supported by a young indie quartet from Leeds called Marsicans, who go down pretty well with the sold out crowd both for the quality of their performance and their infectious enthusiasm.

As regards Feeder, the big question for me is whether anything different would be chucked in to what they played in Leeds. Apparently they teased the Birmingham crowd on Thursday by offering 'Crash', another oldie, but didn't play it.

Their crowd are a diverse bunch. They have amassed a devoted following over the years that has stuck with them through thick and thin. For them, this Tour has been a sort of payback time with the band delving deeper into their classic debut album 'Polythene' than we’ve seen for many a tour. Among the many that are here reliving the old days, you could probably include the band themselves. Although judging by his Mohawk and shades, no one has dared tell Taka that he's over 50 now.

They have also continued to attract new fans and I don’t think they’re all the offspring of their older fans. Popularity wise, the band are bigger now than they've been in fifteen years and are selling out decent sized venues up and down the county.

The gig itself turns out to be very similar to Leeds, obviously just in a better venue. There is a slight set change in that 'Stereo World' is moved earlier to follow equally terrific 'Insomnia'. This means that the three in a row from ‘Polythene’, that happened at Leeds, doesn’t occur tonight. In fact it’s not even two in a row because, as expected, the set is trimmed to fit Rock City’s curfew and ‘Cement’ loses out. Fully vindicating my trip to Leeds.

Marooned on it’s own 'My Perfect Day' steps up gallantly to fill the void and soars ever higher tonight as it is joyfully welcomed home by all the hardcore oldies (and youngies) down the front, me included.

Other highlights are another ‘Polythene’ song that is a set regular ‘High’ which is emotionally dedicated to Jon Lee, the band’s former drummer who is no longer with us. ‘Piece by Piece’ is again outstanding and ‘Yesterday Went Too Soon’ sublime nestled in the middle of the five song encore.

Hopefully those who have come mainly for the hits from the early 2000s will also appreciate these early songs and also Feeder’s material from the last decade which includes some of their finest work. Songs which Grant Nicholas is always rightly very proud of and keen to play. The likes of ‘Renegades’, ‘Borders’ and ‘Eskimo’ show what those who haven't been paying attention have been missing out on. 

Appreciate it I think they do. Nicholas himself looks almost shocked at how well everything goes down and I am intrigued to see where Feeder go from here. Their set has always been a bit of a hits package because Nicholas has always seemed reluctant to leave anything ‘big’ out in case he offends anyone, which can makes things a touch repetitive at times. He’s got around this dilemma for this tour by pushing the set out to two hours, and they have cleverly paced it as well, never playing more than two nights back to back. This has enabled them to jump deeper into the archives to keep awkward customers like me happy.

The question now is can they put the genie back into the bottle and go back to shorter sets? Probably not... I hope not... and this celebration of their first 21 years won’t kill off the repeated calls for ‘Polythene’ to have a birthday tour of it's own. Here's to the next 21 years...
Feeder Setlist Rock City, Nottingham, England 2018, The Best Of Tour

Tuesday 13 March 2018

Feeder, Academy, Leeds

Supported by Team Picture

Feeder are out on another big tour to celebrate the 21st anniversary of their first release, 25 years of existence and last year’s ‘Best Of’ collection. They have promised to dig deep into the ‘Best Of’ to dust down some of the classics they haven’t played for many a year.
I’d booked tickets for the ‘warm up’ show in Lincoln last week to see if they were going to make good on that promise but sadly that show was snowed off. So instead, with tickets already for Nottingham on Friday, I thought an extra trip to Leeds was in order.

The support bands are Sweet Little Machine and Team Picture. Feeder have been offering their support slot up to local bands and tonight they have teamed up with Kerrang! Radio to offer two of them.

I miss the former but the latter, dressed as some sort of toy soldiers, are eclectic knob twiddlers and guitar pedal geeks if you like creating an almost psychedelic sound. It’s a slightly obscure mix of sounds that might take them somewhere but might not. Good luck to them.

Feeder meanwhile don’t disappoint, playing 24 songs and clocking five minutes over two hours on stage. This was the biggest Feeder show I've ever seen. Of course they played all their big hits as usual and opened with ‘Feeling A Moment’. Never a great favourite of mine and I’ve never been too sure about it as an opener either but I guess it gets it out the way. From there onwards they really rocked.

The crowd took a while to get going but they got there eventually. The big question though was what were the band going to dig deep for. Sadly there isn’t time in the set to give new mini album ‘Arrow’ a fair hearing and only ‘Figure You Out’ features but you can’t have everything.

The first nugget of gold was ‘Piece by Piece’ which is so rare that despite being a serial Feeder gig goer I’ve never heard them play it live before. Criminally it wasn't even played on the Echo Park tour despite coming from that particular album, so it has been a very long time coming. It was just WOW.

However the main meat of their back catalogue digging came towards the end of the main set, after the band had done another first and taken a mid-set siesta after playing ‘Tender’ or was this just to get Grant Nicholas’s cat Bamboo up on the big screen. Don’t ask.

The meaty highlight was a trio of tracks back-to-back from the bands début full LP ‘Polythene’ from 1996. First was punchy début single ‘Stereo World’, then the illusive legend that is ‘My Perfect Day’ which was dedicated to Jon Lee and then my beloved ‘Cement’. ‘Cement’ being the track that got me into Feeder all those years ago and unheard live by my ears since 2001 (that 'Echo Park' tour again) where incidentally they also played ‘Stereo World’ before retiring it. It was so terrific to hear both live again after 17 years.

The Polythene pair were included in an audience vote for which only hard core fans need apply along with Silent Cry’s 'Who’s The Enemy' from 2008. A rather unfair choice as the excellent but not well known ‘Who’s The Enemy’ could do with the exposure.

After the usual jump around to ‘Buck Rogers’ the band return to play a five song encore that really wound the 'casuals' up who had been shouting for the closing ‘Just A Day’ since about the third song of the evening. We all love a bit of ‘Just A Day’ of course but sometimes you wish they're throw it in early so then the rest of us can then enjoy the rest of the set in peace.

First Nicholas aided by Tom Gleeson on guitar played an acoustic ‘Silent Cry’ before Dean Deavall joined them to add keyboards to ‘Children of the Sun’. The pace is gradually being ramped back up and next is the always epic but not always present ‘Yesterday Went Too Soon’. It is immense, as ever.

Now guys you can go mental to ‘Seven Days in the Sun’ and ‘Just a Day’.

It was possibly the best set I've seen Feeder do for 15 years and well worth the long drive. Now to Nottingham, where sadly they may have to trim the set a little due to the strongly enforced early curfew there.

Feeder Setlist O2 Academy Leeds, Leeds, England 2018, The Best Of Tour