Tuesday 12 February 2019

Tears For Fears, NEC Arena, Birmingham

Supported by Alison Moyet

Tonight we are at the Resorts World Arena in Birmingham. Yes, WTF. Formerly known as the Genting Arena. Yes, also WTF. Ok, I fess up, it's the NEC and I've competed at Crufts in this very arena and we are sat approximately where the weave poles were but that's another story.

This gig was supposed to be in May but it was rescheduled due to Roland Orzabal's wife falling ill and then sadly subsequently dying. All that is fine and unavoidable but what was annoying was seeing the concert moved from a Saturday to a Tuesday and from the nice centrality of the NIA to the ruralness of the NEC where it's also £12 to park your car. Presumably all done by the promoter to sell a few extra tickets. We had a hotel booked for May and a night out in Brum planned but it is what it is.

I’ve never really been an Alison Moyet fan and nothing she can do tonight would be likely to win me over and that’s fine. Other folk like her and she undeniably has a strong voice. Each to their own. However I am a little bemused by her set list choices. She plays a lot of recent material, as you would expect, including several tracks from her latest album ‘Other’ from 2017 but seems to eschew her own solo catalogue on which she made her name.

Alf does play her first two solo hits 'Love Resurrection' and 'All Cried Out' but none of her other hits from the 80s and 90s. No 'Invisible', 'That Ole Devil Called Love', 'Is This Love?, 'Weak in the Presence of Beauty' or 'Love Letters' for example.

Consequently she doesn’t really get the crowd going and then seems to realise this towards the end of the set where three of the last four tracks are Yazoo songs. Not that, I for one minute, think this wasn’t a pre-planned move. It suits me. I've always had a soft spot for Yazoo and everyone is on their feet for the closing ‘Don’t Go’.

Alison Moyet Setlist Arena Birmingham, Birmingham, England 2019, Rule The World (as special guest of Tears for Fears)

Tears For Fears also do something slightly unusual, in that they take to the stage to Lorde’s brooding version of 'Everybody Wants to Rule the World' before launching into the original. Presumably this means they approve.

There follows a very polished ninety minutes of entertainment as Roland Orzabal, Curt Smith and their band run through their back catalogue right up to 2004’s comeback album ‘Everybody Loves a Happy Ending’ and even including 'Break It Down Again' from the period where Orzabal used TFF as a solo project following an acrimonious split from Smith.

Personally I loved the first two albums but they lost me with the different direction they took with ‘The Seeds Of Love’ album in 1989 and seemingly Smith agreed with me as he was gone shortly afterwards.

Thankfully Smith who sang all the early hits, and presumably Orzabal too, still have a lot of love for the band’s debut album ‘The Hurting’ and Smith comments on how the younger generation were now discovering the band through that album. Here’s a thought. How good would it be to hear them play that album in it’s entirety sometime?

He then introduces a run of four tracks from it. 'Pale Shelter' had already been played earlier and now we get 'Change', 'Mad World' and the amazing 'Memories Fade' sung by Orzabal.

If that is his finest singing moment on ‘The Hurting’ then ‘Suffer the Children’ is probably his second finest. So I am at a loss to understand why he hands over vocals on this epic track to backing singer Carina Round. Yes she does a good job but it’s just not right. She is much better suited to duetting with Orzabal on 'Woman in Chains’ which comes next.

The set then loses it’s momentum with the rather tepid 'Advice for the Young at Heart' and the meandering and indulgent 'Badman's Song' before a set closing 'Head Over Heels / Broken' lifts things to a satisfying conclusion.

Naturally I’d have finished things off a little differently, for a start 'Songs from the Big Chair' was criminally underused tonight. 'Mother's Talk' and 'The Working Hour' would have been nice, then perhaps 'The Hurting' followed by the full ‘Broken’ sandwich for 'Head Over Heels' but I'm an awkward sod to please.   

There is then a mad rush for the exits, presumably to get out of the car park. This is something I’ve never understood, just like I’ve never understood people who have never seen the end of a football match because they always leave on eighty minutes. It’s always been all or nothing for me.

The band return to play ‘Shout’ to those who are left, which is still most of us, completing an excellent evening.

Tears for Fears Setlist Arena Birmingham, Birmingham, England 2019, Rule The World

Tuesday 5 February 2019

The Vaccines, Academy, Leicester

Supported by Hatchie

I arrive at Leicester's Academy in time to catch the main support Hatchie, having missed opener Jesse Jo Stark.

Hatchie is effectively a person, real name Harriette Pilbeam, rather than the band she arrives with. She’s an Aussie whose music has been described as ‘dream pop’ and she’s even been lumped in with the shoegazing era by some but this sounds mainly like bog standard indie pop to me. Admittedly with some very nice hooks. There’s a touch of the Dolores O'Riordan’s (aka The Cranberries) about her but she seems a bit lost amongst her band. She may need to decide if she’s a person or a band. In the meantime, her sound is extremely pleasant but not life altering.

Now on to... ah yes, rediscovering my youth with a band that weren't even around in my youth. Funny that but The Vaccines are the sort of band I would most definitely have seen back then, so I feel very at home. It’s also probably why there are many people of my own generation here and down the front with me as well.

Classic Queen, in the form of ‘I Want to Break Free’, heralds the band's arrival amongst the palm trees and glitter on the stage before they open with ‘Your Love Is My Favourite Band’, from last year’s 'Combat Sports', which is also emblazoned across the drum kit.

Then we're straight into the seemingly never ending list of the infectious songs with which they’ve made their name and all of course with immensely sing-able lyrics. The Vaccines are a engine of entertainment if at sometimes an unsophisticated one.

I mean... 'Teenage Icon'? Oh please, then perhaps I should just grow up but instead I bounce along with some twentysomething with purple hair. I’ll grow up tomorrow, maybe.

Lead guitarist Freddie Cowan may never grow up, he’s loving it out there, absolutely loving it. As of course is singer Justin Young who doesn’t say a huge amount tonight and keeps his focus mainly on the music.

Then 'Wetsuit' wraps itself around the hall. Everybody loves Wetsuit and, as ever, it moves me almost to tears. It reminds me of how old I am but also why I'm here. I’ll grow up tomorrow, maybe.

Justin does tell us that, apparently, their first gig as the Vaccines was in Leicester, although presumably not here, and that no one knew the words to 'Post Break-Up Sex'. That's certainly not the case tonight.

'Nørgaard' is mental, as ever, and then two new tracks ‘Lets Jump Off the Top’ and recent single ‘All My Friends Are Falling In Love’ hint perhaps at a slight change of direction away from the guitar heavy riffs.

Someone dances into me, holding his drink above his head which he then tips down me. He’s older than me and he apologises, I think. I can’t really hear what he was saying, perhaps he was saying he’ll grow up tomorrow, maybe. I nod my agreement and he goes off to bump into someone else.

The finale, after a frenetic ‘If You Wanna’ and ‘I Can't Quit’ is more measured. The slower ‘Rolling Stones’ closes the set but more pointedly gets the message across that that ‘this one's for you’.

They return with the brilliant ‘Put It on a T-Shirt’ that we didn’t get in Nottingham last year, followed by a rocking ‘Nightclub’ before, as is tradition, ‘All In White’ ends the night.

Cracking stuff and I’ll grow up tomorrow, honestly, maybe.

The Vaccines Setlist O2 Academy Leicester, Leicester, England 2019