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Chris Helme – Concert Review – The Record Factory, Glasgow – October 8 2016

The Back Of The Crowd ’90s revival has officially jumped the shark.

After a year spent catching the 20th anniversary tours of seminal albums by Manic Street Preachers, The Bluetones, Kula Shaker and catching up with The Stone Roses twice in Manchester and New York we’ve finally got round to seeing…Chris Helme.
Who? Well, ’90s music trivia fans and die-hard Roses aficionados (like me, sadly) will tell you that Helme was the shaggy haired frontman of John Squire’s short-lived post-Roses project The Seahorses.

The band was hugely popular in the late 90s (mostly because of Squire), but critically derided for their naff lyrics (mostly Squire’s) and slight whiff of inauthenticity.

Former busker Helme was recruited straight from the streets, and he was thrown onstage with a couple of pub musicians – hardly a match for the streetwise cool of Brown, Mani and Reni.

However, The Seahorses’ failings weren’t Helme’s fault so his low key acoustic set at Glasgow’s Record Factory was greeted with goodwill and few expectations.

Squire’s guitar playing on their only completed album Do It Yourself was outstanding in its own right, but it was a bit too showy and suffocated the rest of the music – not that you would be desperate to tune in to most of Squire’s horrid lyrics about strap-ons, discount Weetabix and interstellar police cars.

Tellingly, the best songs on the album were Helme’s and they still stand the test of time 20 years on.

He opened in Glasgow with DIY’s closer Hello, a simple little ditty which wasn’t too despoiled by Squire’s fretwanking on the album and sounds even better stripped down to just an acoustic.

A loud cheer goes up when he begins playing one of his lesser known (or rather, completely unknown) post-Seahorses songs and Helme must have thought he had found his next single until it emerged that Scotland had just equalised in the World Cup qualifier being shown at the back of the pub.

The crowd gamely sang along to the ‘Horses final standalone single You Can Talk To Me, another Helme track with hints of Paul Simon, and he recalls The Seahorses “greatest ever gig” at Glasgow’s Barrowlands.

Helme later played one of Squire’s more accomplished lyrical efforts Boy In The Picture, before holding his nose for the Seahorses naff debut single Love Is The Law.

“You’ll need to clap through the intro cos I can’t play it,” he said, gamely trying to emulate the Zeppelinesque riff on his acoustic guitar.

“I had to Google ‘dogfish egg case’ when John wrote this,” he added with a wince and a shrug.

He closed with Blinded By The Sun, by far Helme’s best song both lyrically and musically. It’s not quite as epic without the bluesy intro but the acoustic version has some interesting flourishes and a more bombastic vocal.

For an encore, he does a note perfect rendition of The Doors Five To One, giving a hint of what The Seahorses could’ve become if Squire had loosened his grip on the band, turned down his Les Paul and let Helme off the leash.

But with Squire now limbering up for another round of Roses stadium gigs in 2017 (hopefully, finally, with a new album), I wouldn’t hold out much hope of a Seahorses reunion!

 

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Manic Street Preachers – Concert Review – SSE Hydro – May 21, 2016

First it was a self-aware and self-depreciating Bluetones. Then in was a resurgent and unapologetic Kula Shaker. For the final leg of our 20 years later Britpop tour it would be Manic Street Preachers performing Everything Must Go at the Hydro in Glasgow. This gig would give me a chance to right some personal wrongs.

In 1996 me and one of my school friends had planned to get tickets for the Manics,
Everything Must Go tour. It would have been my first gig in Glasgow, and at the Barrowlands to boot. Regretfully we didn’t get our arses in gear and it quickly sold out so instead the memories of my first gig are my mates heckling Semisonic for an hour to “Play Wonderwall!” at the Garage, but that’s a story for another time.

20 years on and the Manics wasn’t going to be a sell-out, illustrated by the fact my friend, upon finding out we were going on the Thursday night, managed to pick up a ticket for Saturday’s gig no bother. I was looking forward to the Hydro as despite it having being open for a couple of years now it was my first gig there. I’d been a few weeks previous to watch the darts and had been impressed by how wide and relatively shallow it was, certainly a big improvement on the old SECC venues. The fast food options are woeful though.

Editors were supporting but due to the FA cup final overrunning we managed to pitch up just as they were closing their encore with a couple of slow songs, which I didn’t recognise. I really enjoyed their first two albums (The Back Room (2005) and An End Has a Start (2007) and have had the pleasure of seeing them a few times before, notably headlining the Edinburgh corn exchange as well as supporting Razorlight at Meadowbank stadium back in the day when T at the fringe festival managed to attract big names. Now they seem to merge in with other Joy Division wannabe also-rans such as White Lies and She Wants Revenge.

After the usual debacle of decanting a couple of overpriced Desperados into plastic pint glasses we were back down the front again, ready for Manics to begin.

In an attempt to get closer to the action our group got a bit split up during the first song (Elvis Impersonator: Blackpool Pier) mainly due to some rotund Hawaiian shirt clad oaf making a point of blocking our mate off.

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Despite it being billed as an Everything Must Go tour I wasn’t sure at this point if they were planning to play the album in its entirety but then the trademark guitar of A Design for Life kicked in and with the best part of a pint still left I knew I had a decision to make. Now I’m very much in the camp of never chucking your pint but this was as close a call as I’ve had, as I was desperate to start jumping around. Being the value merchant at heart though I managed to resist and stood for the additional few seconds carefully seeing away my pint before jumping into the mixer.

In a moment of respite, catching our breadth after the first chorus, one of the boys that was jumping about next to us produced the age old Glasgow pick-me-up: a bottle of Buckfast. He had a swig and offered me some. Well, rude not to! Given we were only a few rows from the front it wasn’t long before the bouncers clocked it at which point the guy had the ingenious idea of just “going low” trying to hide behind the mosh pit and hope the bouncers wouldn’t be able to see him. I think he managed to sneak off somewhere though as that was the last I saw of him, but that gave me a good chuckle.

Now reunited with our mates we spent the rest of the performance cruising about at the front bellowing out crowd favourites Kevin Carter Everything Must Go and Australia. I really respected the fact that they stayed true to actually playing the entire album in its entirety rather than some bands I know that would bill it the same but their gig would end up as a glorified paint by numbers greatest hits show.

Having said that the second hour of the show more than satisfied fans of their entire back catalogue. They started with a couple of solo acoustic covers: “Suicide is Painless” and “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head”, before the rest of the band came on and ramped it up with Motorcycle Emptiness. With the mess that our country is currently in, the lyrics couldn’t have been any more poignant: “your joys are counterfeit, this happiness corrupt political shit.”

At one point a paper cannon of red white and green exploded from the heavens, allowing the crowd an impromptu Mumm-Ra costume, and I was half expecting a rendition of the Welsh football team euro 2016 song but alas but it never came.

They introduced “Show Me The Wonder” as their wedding song, from their 11th studio album, Rewind the Film, and I’m a fan of that albums chilled out vibe. They closed with part ballad “If You Tolerate This Then Your Children Will Be Next” which I always saw as their comeback song (from their fifth album “This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours”) but it makes me feel especially old to find out this was released way back in 1998.

Cue a gentle power walk back into town, with my pal Chris feigning a minor heart attack along the way, to catch the train back to Edinburgh.

Setlist:

1. Elvis Impersonator: Blackpool Pier

2. A Design for Life

3. Kevin Carter

4. Enola/Alone

5. Everything Must Go

6. Small Black Flowers That Grow in the Sky

7. The Girl Who Wanted to Be God

8. Removables

9. Australia

10. Interiors (Song for Willem de Kooning)

11. Further Away

12. No Surface All Feeling

 

1. Suicide Is Painless (Theme from MASH) (Johnny Mandel cover) (Acoustic)

2. Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head (Burt Bacharach cover) (Acoustic)

3. Motorcycle Emptiness

4. Walk Me to the Bridge

5. Your Love Alone Is Not Enough

6. Nat West-Barclays-Midlands-Lloyds

7. You Stole the Sun From My Heart

8. Roses in the Hospital

9. (It’s Not War) Just the End of Love

10. Show Me the Wonder

11. (Feels Like) Heaven (Fiction Factory cover)

12. You Love Us

13. If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next

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The Stone Roses – Concert Review – Manchester Etihad Stadium – June 17, 2016

I had ached to see The Stone Roses live when I was a teenager

I discovered them in 1996 the day John Squire left the band and signed their death warrant.

One of the first NMEs I bought was Squire’s parting interview, having been drawn to the newsstand by his brooding cover photo looking like an outlaw on a “Wanted” poster.

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I was so overjoyed at seeing them at Heaton Park in 2012 that I rather overdid the party juice and obliterated most of the gig from memory, but I stayed relatively upright for Glasgow Green and briefly pledged that it would be my final Stone Roses gig, regarding my teenage longing to see them live sated.

However, I found myself almost hypnotically gravitating to Ticketmaster when the Manchester Etihad gigs were announced.

The band are notoriously flaky and workshy, with a history of bust ups and walkouts, so every gig could be their last. Seeing them live is something to be cherished – even if they play more or less the same set every time.

With only two new songs in 20 years – including Beautiful Thing which they apparently haven’t learned to play live yet – their setlist remains largely limited to the tried and tested crowd pleasers that they dusted off for Heaton Park four years ago.

Back Of The Crowd made a rare foray into the mosh pit at the Etihad as it was the first time us plebs were allowed to see the Roses up close – with the front rows at Heaton Park and Glasgow Green reserved for VIPs and premium ticket holders.

When The Stone Roses start to play all the cynicism about the repetitive setlist and pricey entrance fee melts away and you’re swept up in a tidal wave of pure joy.

The opening bass rumble to I Wanna Be Adored strikes like a lightening bolt at every gig like you’re hearing it for the first time.

Ian Brown doesn’t have the bombastic arena shaking voice and stage presence of Freddie Mercury but he doesn’t need it – the songs were built for stadiums and where Brown falls down the crowd carry them on.

Most of their songs harbour massive singalong refrains:

“Seems like there’s a hole in my dreams.”

“Sent to me from heaven.”

“Sometimes I fantasise.”

“This is the one.”

The Roses dutifully played their flawless debut album in its entirety, and looked like they were having great fun with Don’t Stop – the incoherent psychedelic reverse tape loop of Waterfall that many of the Roses’ more fickle fans skip over.

It takes quite a bit of skill to learn a song backwards and emerge with another singalong chorus.

“Don’t stop, isn’t it funny how you shine?”

There were a few variations in the set from last time round.

It was good to hear Begging You, the Led Zeppelin on ecstasy techno-rock monster from Second Coming, belted out live – particularly as Public Enemy, the band that inspired the track, were the Roses’ warm up act.

All For One remains uninspiring, despite the crowd gamely pogoing along, particularly after the 10 minute long self-indulgence of Fools Gold. I must be the only fan that doesn’t bow down in awe at the overwrought fret wanking that closed Shane Meadows’ Roses rockumentary Made Of Stone.

Unlike I Am The Resurrection (more of which later) – Fools Gold just doesn’t go anywhere after about three minutes.

There was no room this time out for Ten Storey Love Song, one of the few big anthems from Second Coming, probably because Squire breached curfew scraping the barrel of Fools Gold.

Made Of Stone was air punchingly epic, and they launched straight on from there into She Bangs The Drums sending the crowd into a frenzy.

Then they took it down a notch with Breaking Into Heaven, another Second Coming track they’ve pulled from the vaults, which fell a little flat after the previous two era-defining classics.

Squire has apologised for writing songs that were about two verses too long on Second Coming and Breaking Into Heaven is a perfect example. It’s a cracking tune but it really is too long and over-written, even shorn of its apocalyptic intro, and slows down the momentum.

It was probably for the best though, as going straight from She Bangs The Drums to This Is The One would have caused a few coronaries amongst the Roses’ pot-bellied middle-aged bucket-hatted fans (although the crowd was noticeably younger this time suggesting the Roses have captured the imagination of another generation).

The inevitable closer I Am The Resurrection was literally breathtaking. The crowd belted out every chorus as though their lives depended on it, and the solo remains a masterclass in dramatic axemanship. Unlike some of Squire’s other solos Resurrection never outstays its welcome.

The crowd stopped pogoing and started dancing like it was 1989 at The Hacienda, and then it was all over. No encores. No frustrated food stomping and cries of “one more tune”.

The crowd were happy and judging by the massive grins and hugs the band were happy too. Their payday has finally come after decades of legal wrangling and mudslinging.

I felt briefly sated after Glasgow Green but Etihad Stadium left me wanting more. We even toyed with paying a tout to go again on the Saturday but wiser heads prevailed.

Hopefully, this will not be my final Stone Roses gig.

Setlist:

  1. I Wanna Be Adored
  2. Elephant Stone
  3. Sally Cinnamon
  4. Mersey Paradise
  5. (Song for My) Sugar Spun Sister
  6. Bye Bye Badman
  7. Where Angels Play
  8. Shoot You Down
  9. Begging You
  10. Waterfall
  11. Don’t Stop
  12. Elizabeth My Dear
  13. Fools Gold
  14. All for One
  15. Love Spreads
  16. Made of Stone
  17. She Bangs the Drums
  18. Breaking into Heaven
  19. This Is the One
  20. I Am the Resurrection

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Coldplay – Concert Review – Hampden Park, Glasgow – June 7, 2016

I’ve never been 100% convinced by Coldplay.

When they emerged at the turn of the millennium, I wouldn’t have placed a bet that the pasty faced posh boy in the anorak singing slightly off key in the rain would go on to have an unbroken string of international platinum albums, fill stadiums around the world and marry a Hollywood blonde.
Even when Coldplay hit their stride with their second album, the undoubtedly great single Clocks became so ubiquitous on commercial radio that it became irritating.

I much preferred the third album X&Y, slightly darker and less radio friendly, and was mightily impressed with their live set around that time in Glasgow’s Bellahouston Park, closing with a still sublime Fix You.

So it was with these memories in mind that I ventured to Hampden Park over a decade on to see how the have progressed.

Coldplay reached a career high in 2008 with the epic single Viva La Vida and it was undoubtedly the highlight of the Hampden set – big enough to fill the stadium with the entire band belting out the triumphant yells and drummer Will Champion stealing Chris Martin’s limelight with his massive tom and bell.

However, after Viva La Vida in 2008 they went a bit pop and became the confirmed radio fixtures that turned Clocks from a classic to a car radio bore.

Teaming up with Rhianna on Mylo Xyloto was almost unforgivable, and the follow up Ghost Stories was so dour the band considered it unworthy of a tour.

Now they’re back (perhaps for the last time, if you believe the press) with the poppish bombast of Head Full Of Dreams.

Neither Mylo Xyloto nor Head Full Of Dreams are bad albums, but they’re just a bit too polished and pop-filled to feel authentic.

The stage show is spectacular, filled with lasers, fireworks, pyrotechnics, coloured glitter and even your own personal flashing wrist band – but one wonders if all of these baubles are just a distraction from how mediocre much of the set is.

If any militant fans are reading, please hold on to your hate mail. As I say, I’m not a fan – more a fickle admirer who has never been enchanted so my opinion doesn’t count for much in Coldplay quarters.

But aside from half a dozen big tunes, most of which I have already mentioned, very few songs set the pulse racing either on record or, unfortunately, live.

There was a noticeable mass-stupor whenever they played anything from Ghost Stories but otherwise there was a sea of smiling faces down in the mosh pit, most of them teenage girls suggesting the pop moves have paid off if that’s the audience Coldplay are looking for (it is vast, and lucrative).

But towards the end they retreated to a tiny stage at the back of the crowd, and played a mini acoustic set with some old numbers including one they played in their formative years at Glasgow’s career stepping stone King Tut’s, suggesting Coldplay still regard themselves as a mid-sized indie band at heart and not the Hello magazine darlings they have transformed into.

You can’t really grudge Coldplay their success. Most of their slightly earlier contemporaries are now trotting out 20th anniversary tours in small venues (as we have documented fairly extensively in recent months).

But they’ve become a stadium band without a full quota of stadium tunes. You can shuffle along to a song like Ink in an old ballroom but it feels a bit underwhelming in a huge stadium.

It’s doubtful whether Coldplay will ever come down to the level of a mid-sized indie band again, which is a shame as they have enough classics to forgive them a bit of filler if you don’t have to walk a mile for a pint or queue for two hours in a traffic jam to get out of the car park.

For that kind of hassle, you want something historic, era-defining, once-in-a-lifetime, but for me Coldplay just don’t cut it.

Setlist:

A Head Full of Dreams

Yellow

Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall

The Scientist

Birds

Paradise

Magic

Ink

Everglow

Clocks

Midnight

Charlie Brown

Hymn for the Weekend

Fix You

Heroes (David Bowie cover)

Viva la Vida

Adventure of a Lifetime

Kaleidoscope

In My Place

The Hardest Part

See You Soon

Amazing Day

A Sky Full of Stars

Up&Up

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Teleman – Concert Review – Hidden Door Festival, Edinburgh – May 29, 2016

Teleman / Lanterns On The Lake

Edinburgh’s eclectic Grassmarket is hosting a mini arts and music festival Hidden Door until July 4.

Nestled away in the bombsite-cum-artspace is a neon installation by Jill M Boualaxai packed with tapes, wires and old computer keyboards.

The installation is a vision of the future circa 1982 – like a discarded set from Doctor Who or Blake’s 7.

Headlining Hidden Door’s live music room on May 29 was London art-rock band Teleman.

Teleman sound like a vision of the future circa 1982 – a band assembled from discarded bits of prog-rock, post-punk, new-wave and electronica with a bit of Britpop glue.

The four-piece are both modern and retro, with the stripped down production and the slightly hackneyed electronic effects which are back vogue thanks to bands like Alt-J.

Dusseldorf, the opening track on their new album Brilliant Sanity, and Strange Combinations reach back through Franz Ferdinand to their new-wave antecedents The Cure and Depeche Mode, while Fall In Time and Christine are pure Alt-J.

Steam Train Girl and Tangerine recall mid-period Blur, around the time of their lo-fi fifth album and 13.

Teleman’s debut album Breakfast was produced by Bernard Butler, and while they aren’t as ostentatious as Bernard’s old band Suede there are hints of the ‘90s indie darlings in there – particularly in Thomas Sanders’ well spoken English dandy intonation.

Sanders is an unlikely looking showman with his neat side parting and and stripy Topman-style shirt but he has some rock moves, even venturing out into the crowd for an extended audience participation version of Drop Out.

While their influences are clear, Teleman do have a few modern classics in the making to add to the alt-rock pantheon, packed away into the mini-encore at the end of the short festival set.


Glory Hallelujah sounds like it’s been around forever, so much so I had to check the iPod during my pre-gig research to make sure it hadn’t skipped to prime-period Arcade Fire.

I’m Not In Control is unnerving and hypnotic with obvious hints of Joy Division, particular the title and vibe which aren’t a million miles away from She’s Lost Control.

Thomas Sanders’ robotic delivery and his brother Johnny’ retro synths drew the crowd in, reaching a crescendo before cutting out just at the point where everyone was about ready to erupt into a mass Ian Curtis style freakout.

I’ve already bought a ticket Teleman’s return to Edinburgh in October, in the 250 capacity L-shaped buzz-kill Electric Circus.
While they’re still playing small (and in Edinburgh, sub-standard) venues a bit of love could upgrade them to the 650 capacity Liquid Room, which is currently two-for-two in Across The Pond’s gig-o-meter after Kula Shaker and The Bluetones redeemed the city’s reputation from the sins of the more cavernous Usher Hall.

I’ll also be paying more attention to Hidden Door’s penultimate Sunday band Lanterns On The Lake, who apparently haven’t visited Edinburgh for several years but are welcome to bring their fine noise back any time.

It takes a lot of talent and guts to resurrect the Les Paul and violin bow routine made famous by Jimmy Page, and subsequently pilloried into prog rock’s Room 101 by Spinal Tap.

But LOTL’s burly bald axeman Paul Gregory pulled it off, ably assisted by Angela Chan’s proper violin work to make the rafters of the dilapidated makeshift concern venue reverberate with powerful soundscapes and perhaps even upstaging top of the bill Teleman.

Setlist:

Skeleton Dance

Fall In Time

Steam Train Girl

Tangerine

Düsseldorf

Christine

Strange Combinations

Brilliant Sanity

Drop Out

Glory Hallelujah

I’m Not In Control

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Kula Shaker – Concert Review – Edinburgh Liquid Rooms – May 15, 2016

Grateful When You’re (Un)Dead – The Spectacular Rebirth of Kula Shaker

Psychedelic rockers Kula Shaker have a timeless quality about them so they have aged better than many of the Britpop era bands now doing their 20th anniversary testimonials.

Even in the 90s they were a throwback to the 60s so they’ve always sounded a bit other-worldly, making them a quirky cult band in the years since their smash hit debut K.

They clearly don’t give a shit – and if you have been ignoring Kula Shaker over the years then, boy, have you been missing out.

Their intimate gig at Edinburgh’s Liquid Rooms was the best show I have seen in at least a year and probably up there with my greatest gigs of all time.

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Every song was a crowd pleaser, even their lesser known mid-career material, and there wasn’t a single filler or minute’s downtime to buy a pint without the risk of missing something spectacular.

In the soft stage lights frontman Crispian Mills doesn’t look a day older than his 90s heyday, and in the harsher spotlight he looks a bit like the ageing Studio 54 era Andy Warhol, with his floppy blonde locks, sparkly suit and cravat.

Kula Shaker are currently promoting their excellent new album K2.0, a conscious tribute to their double-platinum selling debut album K, but such is the strength of their extended back catalogue that they only dipped into it.

Promo single Infinite Sun already ranks among their top tunes but it was robbed of some of its power by being sandwiched mid-set, clearly not ready to be promoted to the encore slot it may one day enjoy.

They opened in Edinburgh with Sound of Drums from their gold-selling second album Peasants, Pigs and Astronauts, with its feelgood chorus setting the tone for the rest of the gig.

I recall thinking that Kula Shaker had rather jumped the shark with PP&A , particularly its second single Mystical Machine Gun with its wacky lyrics that were way out there even by their standards: “You’re a wizard in a blizzard…you walked through a fire with a ten headed lion.”

However, it sounded absolutely epic live. Mills is a virtuoso guitar player, twisting old Hendrix and Floyd riffs with eastern scales and flourishes to turn them into something unique – or at least rarely heard since the days of Sgt Pepper and His Satanic Majesty’s Request.

They launched into K’s hippyish double header Grateful When You’re Dead/Jerry Was There three songs in, while the album’s celebration of life on the road 303 was the song of the night – leaving my new Kula convert companions open mouthed that this band should be scratching around in relative obscurity in the roughly three-quarters full 650 capacity Liquid Room.

Mills has showbiz running through his veins as the grandson of British thespian Sir John Mills and son of former child star Hayley Mills, so he’s probably not short of a few bob despite his band’s niche appeal and soldiers on for the love of rock’n’roll rather than a need to meet mortgage or alimony payments (the rumoured impetus behind The Stone Roses’ precarious return).

However, as the Dylan-esque encore 33 Crows demonstrates they’re no stranger to the odd broken relationship.

Kula Shaker have had a lot of requests for this new song on their current tour, Mills reveals, suggesting many identify with its spiteful warning to women who dump their men to take up with losers with perhaps the best lyrics I have heard all year:

“Be careful that you don’t go blow his brain out in the end/You might end up with no-one to call a friend/Unless they’re canine, or equine.”

It almost tops 303’s closing line: “I think I’ll grow myself a big ol’ hairy moustache.”

The rest of the encore was hypnotic, opening with an extended Tattva and going straight into Hush, their twist on the rock classic which is arguably better than Deep Purple’s acclaimed version.
Harry Broadbent bashed out the hook on his ornate Hammond organ, looking like his mum’s old sideboard in its sturdy wooden case, having taken over from founder member Jay Darlington who left in 1999 for an uncredited but undoubtedly better remunerated role as an Oasis sideman.

The band’s biggest hit Hey Dude was followed by Great Hosannah, and for their curtain call the crowd belted out word-perfect Sanskrit from eastern mantra Govinda like it was the ‘na na na’ of Hey Jude.

K2.0 is already their best-selling album since PP&A suggesting Kula Shaker is enjoying a bit of a renassance.

They built their reputation with a series of blistering festival shows in the mid-90s, and with festival season shortly upon us they could be returning to bigger halls very soon.

Setlist:

Sound Of Drums

Hurry On Sundown

Grateful When You’re Dead

Jerry Was There

Let Love B (With U)

Temple Of The Everlasting Light

Infinite Sun

Shower Your Love

303

Oh Mary

Mountain Lifter

Peter Pan RIP

Ophelia

Smart Dogs

Mystical Machine Gun

108 Battles (Of The Mind)

Tattva

Hush

33 Crows

Hey Dude

Great Hosannah

Govinda

dd ee ff

 

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Pearl Jam – Concert Review – Madison Square Garden – May 2, 2016

Eddie Vedder announced early in the night that their last night at Madison Square Garden would be a “Garden Party” and what a party it turned out to be. The crowd comprised of mostly 30 and 40 year olds were more than willingly to help Eddie Vedder and the rest of Pearl Jam do their collective best to rip the roof off of MSG.

Pearl Jam through all their ups and downs over the past 26 years, have continued to provide the type of live show that fans talk about their whole lives. Unlike many bands that stick to a dedicated tour set list, every night for Pearl Jam fans are a different mix of classic fan favorites, new material, rarities, and spirited covers. This would be the 36th time Pearl Jam performed in NYC (10th at MSG) and they seemed determined to make this night extra special.

As Pearl Jam has aged, so has their crowd. Unlike in the 90’s when PJ concert conversations might be made up of who’s better Nirvana or Pearl Jam; conversations now are about children, jobs, and receding hairlines. “Hey honey, did you bring my earplugs?” could be overheard in our section. Although times have changed, when PJ plays songs from their older catalog, it was as if many in the crowd were instantly transported back to High School or College when music was the most important thing in their lives. Throughout the night PJ would give everyone an opportunity to remember when they first learned the lyrics to Jeremy (Ohhh, it’s Jeremy spoke in class today, not Jeremy spoke, yes he did) or bought their first Pearl Jam CD at Tower Records, Sam Goody’s, The Wiz or The Wall. Pearl Jam is one of the few bands that have endured from the 90’s and luckily for us, they seem to be getting even better with age (just like the crowd..wink,wink).

Pearl Jam took the stage with all the house lights on to thunderous applause from the second sold out night at Madison Square Garden.  The band took their familiar spots on stage as Eddie performed his ritual of laying down his notebook at the front of the stage. The night kicked off with the Vitalogy classic Corduroy.  As Matt Cameron slammed down the opening drum beats, Mike McCready, Eddie, and Stone Gossard ripped into the opening guitar riffs that made the standing room floor seem to explode in a controlled riot. Jeff Ament stood legs wide apart as he slapped the bass giving Corduroy its heavy beat.  Eddie raged from the initial line, the appropriate “The waiting drove me mad, your finally here and I’m a mess!”. Throughout the song Mike McCready wandered his side of the stage chucking guitar picks and playing up the crowd. The crowd would also be tested early to see if they were ready for one of the many crowd participation moments. “Everything has chains, absolutely nothings changed!!!”. The crowd nailed it and away we went.

The next 3 songs were just as intense and full of energy as Corduroy. Pearl Jam kept the show at full throttle and thrashed through Mind Your Manners, Once and Animal. It seemed after Animal the crowd were collectively trying to catch their breath from the blistering start. Mike McCready offered a quick reprise as he played the amazing guitar intro to Given To Fly, but it was only a quick rest before the crowd was rocking and exploding to

A wave came crashing like a fist to the jaw

Delivered him wings “Hey look at me now”

Arms wide open with the sea as his floor

Oh power oh

He’s..flying…Whole…High.. wide, oh

It was quite clear from this start, tonight was going to be a great show.

Eddie then took to the mic to deliver on his Garden Party promise as he introduced recently inducted Rock n Roll Hall of Famers, Rick Nielsen & Tom Petersson of Cheap Trick. Rick and Tom joined Pearl Jam in a great rendition of Surrender. The chorus hit home with much of the crowd “Mommy’s alright, Daddy’s alright….They just seem a little weird…..Surrender, Surrender But don’t give yourself away!!”

After a few selfies by Rick Nielsen, Cheap Trick quickly exited and Pearl Jam decided to get more acquainted with the audience when they went in to Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town. The entire crowd hugged and swayed as they belted out the entire song. For the first time Pearl Jam would be overtaken by the crowd.

The band continued to play crowd favorite after crowd favorite Nothingman, Betterman, Garden and Even Flow. It was during Even Flow that Mike McCready showed why he is one of the most talented guitarists alive. McCready who recently celebrated his 50th birthday (to join most of the band) shows no sign of slowing down. Throughout the night McCready played extended solos, not only traditionally but also behind his head, behind his back, and behind his back while walking/running through the arena. We all know Mike McCready is a tremendous guitarist but when you see up close and personal exactly what he can do, it really leaves you awe struck.

A touching moment came when Eddie Vedder dedicated Sirens to Lance Corporal Tom Rorke who tragically died in a car accident in tiny Breezy Point Queens last summer. Eddie acknowledged his friends and family in the crowd and delivered a heartfelt rendition of the song. It’s moments like this that make being a Pearl Jam fan different than being a fan of almost any other band. Whether it be song requests by fans or stories that reach the band, they treat their fans with the utmost respect and show genuine love to all the fans that have supported them throughout the years. The Pearl Jam 10 Fan Club gets most of the fan requests and stories to the band and is a amazing group. Unlike many fan clubs, Pearl Jam interacts constantly with the fan club, and it gives you the sense that you are part of their very large extended family. After ripping off a few more monster hits Jeremy and Do The Evolution, Pearl Jam ended their opening set.

After a quick break Eddie returned solo to play an acoustic cover of The Beatles, You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away. The acoustic cover section is always great and this was an excellent choice for the night. Before the song Eddie joked with the crowd saying “we aren’t leaving yet since we only have to drive to Canada. New York or Canada? Do they even have internet there yet.”

The 1st encore was mostly reserved compared to the opening set and saw some of the crowd realize MSG actually had seats. After a few slower tunes PJ kicked it in to high gear with State of Love and Trust and Porch, ending the 1st encore.

The second encore would start with Pearl Jam acknowledging the crowd to the back of the stage and playing Last Kiss directly to them. Not a favorite of mine, but I was definitely in the minority.

Following Last Kiss, Eddie addressed the crowd for a bit. For most of the night, Eddie had been reserved in his dealings with the crowd; he was letting the music speak for him. That changed when Eddie started talking about the amount of information we are subject to in the modern age as compared to the 17th century and how all of that information can wear you down. “So if you’re every feeling crazy or overwhelmed or insignificant or frustrated or beaten down, there’s a fucking reason,” Vedder said “It’s impossible to keep up. There’s a lot of tragedy in the world; we just didn’t used to hear about all of it”. He continued and spoke about politicians spewing bullshit and promoting fear. Eddie then suggested that the networks like to make sure that elections go “all seven games” for ratings. He then declared that Bernie Sanders might be the best candidate but the press has a business to run. The crowd reaction to the mentioning of Bernie Sanders was hilarious. Half the crowd cheered while half booed. Eddie laughed to the reaction and yelled “Well that’s a vote!”.

Eddie then introduced the next song as one of the best ever that describes that feeling of being overwhelmed by all the bad news and fear mongering in the world. As they began playing, most had no idea what they were playing. After the first verse the crowd roared as Sting sauntered on to the stage. He took to the mic and sang the rest of Driven to Tears. The Garden Party was in full swing and seeing Sting rock out with Pearl Jam was a great moment.

It was clear as 11pm approached the night was quickly drawing to a close. After two and half hours both Pearl Jam and the crowd were still rearing to go. To close out the night PJ ripped in to the quintessential grunge rock anthem Alive. There are few songs that give me chills when played live, this song is one of them. Screaming with 20,000 plus that “We’re all Alive!!!” is one of the greatest concert experiences you can participate in. McCready absolutely destroyed the solos while the crowd chanted and fist pumped “hey” throughout. It truly is one of the best live songs you will ever see performed. Pearl Jam followed Alive with an amazing cover of Baba O’Reily by The Who. Eddie channeled his inner Pete Townshend windmilling on his guitar and jumping all over the stage.

To cap the night Pearl Jam ended with Yellow Ledbetter. Mike McCready would shine one more time and with all the house lights on, the crowd gave one last push towards the end of the night. “I don’t wanna staaaa-yyyy!!!”. As the band thanked the crowd, McCready put a punctuation on the night by playing The Star Spangled Banner.

And so ended Pearl Jam’s two night run at the World’s Most Famous Arena. As the crowd spilled out onto the streets few cared about work or family obligations, most were still riding the emotional wave from seeing the best Rock Band in the world. With a nod to the past and hope for the future, Pearl Jam delivered on their promise of a Garden Party. For 3 hours everyone in that arena was part of something special. A true living community made up of music, memories, love and positive vibes. If you could bottle that up and spread it around the rest of the world, what a perfect world it would be. I better stop here since it sounds like Eddie got me drunk on the Pearl Jam change the world Kool Aid. Thanks again to Pearl Jam and all their fans for making another night I will never forget. As with the end of every Pearl Jam tour there is only one question, “When are they coming back???”

Set list:

Corduroy

Mind Your Manners

Once

Animal

Given to Fly

Surrender (Cheap Trick cover) (with Rick Nielsen & Tom Petersson of Cheap Trick)

Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town

Nothingman

Leatherman

Better Man

Garden

Even Flow

Sirens (dedicated to Lance Corporal Tom Rorke)

Deep

Jeremy

Leash

Do the Evolution

Encore:

You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away (The Beatles cover) (Eddie on solo acoustic guitar)

All or None

Pendulum

Present Tense

Breath

State of Love and Trust

Porch

Encore 2:

Last Kiss (Wayne Cochran cover)

Driven to Tears (The Police cover) (with Sting)

Lightning Bolt

Sonic Reducer (Dead Boys cover)

Alive

Baba O’Riley (The Who cover)

Yellow Ledbetter

The Star-Spangled Banner

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The Bluetones – Concert Review – The Liquid Room – Edinburgh – April 25, 2016

“Some bands split up because of musical differences,” says The Bluetones’ Mark Morriss.
“We had musical differences with the audience,” he adds, halfway through the band’s ‘reunion phase two’ gig at Edinburgh’s Liquid Room.
The Bluetones split in 2011 after their last album, A New Athens, failed to make the top 200 but it always seemed like a reluctant departure.

The band had dutifully produced charming and well crafted albums every three years or so since their platinum selling breakthrough album Expecting To Fly in 1996, but with ever diminishing returns.

With ETF celebrating its 20th anniversary the band dutifully reformed for a series of gigs last year, which were so well received that they hit the road again this spring.

Rather than bask in the glory of that glorious debut album, The Bluetones seem determined to prove themselves and their extended back catalogue again to an audience that had rather taken them for granted.

Slight Return, their biggest hit single, was churned out near the end with all of the enthusiasm of a toilet attendant going through the motions.

Bluetonic, its successor and predecessor (Slight Return was re-issued in 1996 after failing to chart the previous year), was more well received by both band and audience.

Now in their mid-40s, the band look like they’ve still got plenty of good years ahead of them if the audience would only give them a chance, with only Adam Devlin threatening to grow into the fat suit they wore in the video for post-ETF standalone single Marblehead Johnson.

Although a little thicker in the waste, his riffs are even fatter and he remains one of the greatest guitarists of the Britpop generation.

Solomon Bites The Worm, from the distortion heavy second album, still rocks hard and its world-weary tale of a whole life lived in just a week has taken on new irony from a band that had apparently run its course and is now enjoying a precarious rebirth.

“Here’s a song we wrote when no one was paying attention,” says Morriss as they launch into Firefly from A New Athens, clearly bitter that a track that’s as good as anything on ETF failed to capture the public imagination.

“And one for the purists,” he says on encore track The Simple Things, B-side to Marblehead Johnson and arguably one of their greatest songs from a pre-iTunes era when bands were forced to throw away top tunes at the back end of four track CD singles to make up the numbers, with scant regard for the day when the well might run dry (much like Oasis did in their prolific early years).

Sadly, there appeared to be tickets on the door at the 650 capacity Liquid Room, suggesting The Bluetones are at risk of exhausting their “limited edition” reunion good will.

They’re still a top live act, though, and some new music could fill a niche in an increasingly fragmented music scene where chart hits are becoming less important (creatively, at least, although I doubt it pays the bills).

Set closer If… sends the crowd home happy, with its Hey Jude style “na na na” outro an easy singalong after two hours supping two pint pitchers.

Setlist

Talking To Clarry

Are You Blue Or Are You Blind?

Cut Some Rug

Mudslide

The Fountainhead

Marblehead Johnson

Keep The Home Fires Burning

Sleazy Bed Track

Bluetonic

Tiger Lily

Firefly

Fast Boy

Solomon Bites The Worm

Carnt Be Trusted

Slight Return

After Hours

The Simple Things

If…

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Of Monsters and Men – Concert Review -Barrowlands 25th November 2016

Given that the gig was booked for the night after we’d spent the best part of a day travelling back from (humble holiday brag incoming) Japan, I was a bit worried about either not making it through to Glasgow or passing out mid gig. Thankfully our friends offered to drive through and my mosh pit orchestrating skills weren’t required given that the Icelandic indie folk pop Of Monsters and Men is very much more suited to a sway along at the back type of vibe. Which is exactly where we made a beeline for upon arrival at a packed Barrowlands, within striking distance of the bar, naturally Back of the Crowd. The support act, a Norwegian indie pop band very in keeping with the main act, Highasakite. Well, not literally but they did finish of a uplifting trio of songs, and I’d recommend giving them a listen.
Of Monsters and Men then assembled: nine of them in total including various backstage percussion, all colour coordinated in black, with the irrepressibly rock and roll drummer standing out in particular given he looked like he moonlights as an extra in Game of Thrones or Vikings. I wistfully imagined that his name might be something fitting such as Ragnar. It turns out his name is Arnar, whilst the lead singer, a short rotund man donned in a baseball cap, happens to be called Ragnar Þórhallsson. Can’t win them all.

This tour was promoting their second album, Beneath the Skin, a decent hiatus following 2011’s My Head is an Animal. There was an eerie vibe in the barrowlands half light as they opened: brass came out of the darkness, before the drums began to build into their first number Thousand Eyes. Another new song Empire followed, before Arnar started orchestrating the crowd for King and Lionheart. This was followed by Black Water with the double drum combination given it a very tribal feel. Fan favourite Mountain Sound then allowed for a bit of a “hold your horses now” crowd sing along. Crystals was probably the highlight of the songs from their new album, although a few of the lower key songs in the middle of the set felt like they just merged into one. Though just when it seemed that new song Hunger was beginning to drag its heels it awakened into a powerful crescendo of trumpets, lights and drums, signalling a move towards the finale of Lakehouse, Six Weeks and Little Talks.

The highlight for me was unsurprisingly their biggest song Little Talks. I think the reason why this song is so memorable is the fact that both the lead singer, Nanna and Ragnar, play off each other so well, finishing each other sentences. I’d like it if more of their songs were like this with both female and male vocals interchanging although it’s probably bit more time consuming to write these songs, and maybe it would be a bit clichéd if they did. It also had a killer trumpet solo.

The lead switched to keyboard for the encore of Organs, Dirty Paws, and We Sink. The opportunity to hear tweaked versions of the songs live was certainly worth it. Whilst I have for preference for the upbeat over the introspective, I think the magic is in the variety in composition of the songs, and it will be interesting to see what their third album holds when it comes.

Setlist:

Thousand Eyes

Empire

King and Lionheart

Black Water

Mountain Sound

Winter Sound

Slow Life

Human

I of the Storm

Backyard

Crystals

Hunger

Wolves Without Teeth

Lakehouse

Little Talks

Six Weeks

Encore:

Organs

Dirty Paws

We Sink

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The Corrs – Concert Review – Glasgow – January 26 2016

To misquote Primal Scream: “On this website you will read gospel, and rhythm and blues, and jazz, and ’90s Celtic girlie pop.”
Are we doing this? Yes, we are! It’s The Corrs at Glasgow’s SSE Hydro.

Back in the ’90s The Corrs slotted somewhere between the cartoonish commercialism of The Spice Girls and the studied grungieness of All Saints (aka Mrs Liam Prodigy and ex-Mrs Liam Oasis plus two other chicks).

However, they weren’t your average girl band. One of them was a bloke, for a start. (more…)