Britpop

Originally posted on Chris Payne Images - a blog:

If you’ve been living on another planet, you’ll be unaware that this week is the 20th anniversary of the beginning of Britpop. I left home to go to university in September of 1994 so found myself right in the middle of the whole thing. Echobelly played at our Fresher’s Week. I ended up going to about a gig a week for the next 2 years, but was always a bit confused as to what constituted a Britpop band.

Suede? Radiohead? Did the band have to have just come on the scene in 1994-95 (which cancels these two out) or did a popular album in those years count as well? I count The Bends amongst the most Britpoppy of tunes but purely because it reminds me of a time (1995) and place (QM Halls in Glasgow). I suppose Blur are most synonymous with the whole wretched Britpop moniker but their first single…

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Mark Morriss – Ruby Lounge March 9th

I’d been looking forward to this gig since I’d seen Mark Morriss supporting Shed Seven on their annual tour. From within the venue three of us had assembled a gang of nine to join us for this excursion. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the name Mark was the lead singer of the criminally underrated band The Bluetones who were part of the Britpop scene but had more staying power than most and kept going until their farewell tour in 2011. Mark has released 2 solo albums one,whilst still in The Bluetones, Muscle Memory and his new release A Flash Of Darkness which I think is up among the best work he has ever done. He has a reputation for being one of the nicest and funniest guys in the music business which was evident in his recent appearance on Steve Lamacq‘s round table on 6 Music. There was also the added bonus for this tour that this would be a full band show and the backing band were his previous band The Bluetones. He has also never to my knowledge sang Return Of The Mack which hopefully clears up some of the confused tweets I received when I said I was going to see him.

On the day, one of our friends had to drop out due to illness so our gang of nine became a posse of eight. The venue for the gig was The Ruby Lounge which I had never been to before so I was also excited to be visiting a new venue. It is just on the edge of the Northern Quarter so it seemed rude not to go to one of the many wonderful eateries around there for some grub before the gig.

We opted to meet two of our party at Luck, Lust, Liquor & Burn for some food and meet the rest in the bar later. I’d been to this restaurant several times and the food was delicious as always. My husband and I opted for burritos and our friends for burgers. I love their Barrio fries so if you do ever go there I strongly recommend ordering them. I know Mark dines by himself a lot more these days so if he ever finds himself looking for somewhere to eat in Manchester he could do worse than to grab a bite here. We then had a few drinks downstairs whilst the rest of our gang arrived. Once everybody had arrived we headed to the Ruby Lounge. We got there in time for the second support band  a band called Dead Eye. They sounded quite good though I think they are quite a new band as I’ve not been able to find anything online for  them and so can’t give you names of tracks I enjoyed. I really liked the set up in the venue. The bar is away from where music is being played but people can still hear the music from there so if you are more interested in drinking than the music you can be at the back out of the way of those who are interested in the music. There was also a booth/kiosk but definitely not an alcove (more on this later) where artists can sell their merchandise from. The sound was also really good in there. We got to right near the front during the support so that we had a unimpeded view when Mark Morriss and band came on.

As fantastic as it was to see Mark supporting Shed Seven in December at the Academy,there really is nothing like seeing him with his own band  especially in a venue of this size.  He opened with Consuela which is the ridiculously catchy opening track from his new album A Flash Of Darkness . Go on, I dare you to listen to it and not end up singing it to yourself for days! It was great to see the old band back together and sounding as lovely as ever. Mark’s solo material is not so far removed from The Bluetones and so it totally makes sense to have them performing with them. His solo material is a familiar blend of his distinctive vocals with indie pop melodies.  Mark seemed to be enjoying having his friends onstage with him as well and reminding them that he was in charge now. Everybody in Manchester seemed to be able to comprehend that it was a Mark Morriss show and not a Bluetones one so we didn’t have to put up with any shout out’s for Bluetones songs which seems to have happened on some of the other dates of this tour.  The songs sounded great live and were enthusiastically received by the audience. I was very happy with the set list particularly the inclusion on Bienvenido which I gather isn’t always performed as it’s one of my favourites from his first solo album Muscle Memory. There were too many highlights to mention each song individually but suffice to say each song hit all the right notes with me from the more upbeat songs like Life Without F(r)iction to the more chilled out tracks like Low Company.

Mark Morriss - Raconteur extraordinaire and bloody great singer songwriter too

Mark Morriss – Raconteur extraordinaire and bloody great singer songwriter too

It was great to hear the songs fully fleshed out with a full band and Scott harmonising with his brother as well proving once again that there is something quite special about sibling vocal harmonies. At the end of the concert Mark said it would be a shame to have them all together without doing one Bluetones track and so he launched into Never Going Nowhere from their 2006 album Luxembourg. They all looked to be really enjoying themselves and Mark seemed to relish being front-man of a band again.

To only talk about the music would be to miss out on at least a quarter of what makes seeing Mark Morriss so great. You see he is not just a great singer/musician but also hilariously funny. I don’t just mean funny for a musician either. I’ve been to see stand up comics that have not made me laugh as much. Quite often  I’ve gone to see new bands who have suddenly become really successful and come away thinking the music was great but there wasn’t much audience interaction, that little something extra that can change a good gig into a great gig. This is what Mark Morriss has in spades. Between almost every song there is some chatting whether it’s telling the band off for chatting to each other and playing teacher by asking them’ if they’d like to share their conversation with the rest of the class’ or anecdotes about the rest of the tour (I won’t telly you what he said about Holyhead!) or jokingly challenging an audience member to a fight for suggesting that the kiosk/booth might actually be an alcove. ‘An Alcove – do you want to take that shit outside? to introducing How Maggie Got Her Bounce Back as the song he thought would make him loads of money last year.

A lot of artists could learn a lot from him about how to engage with your audience and have a relationship with them. In an ever-changing era for singer/songwriters having a passionate fan base can be the difference between still having a career in the music business  and having to find alternative employment. It’s no coincidence that Mark’s latest album was made through PledgeMusic and that he managed to raise 250% of his goal. After the gig he was signing merchandise and for the first time ever I actually hung around and bought a physical copy of his first CD. He had sold out of his latest album which is hopefully a good sign of how well it is selling. He was very nice and happily chatted to us about possible festival appearances. I have been true to my word and tweeted Glastonbury to tell them I would love to have him there and am keeping my fingers crossed.

Me and Mark after the gig

Me and Mark after the gig

He will definitely be playing at a number of smaller festivals and I am considering a trip to York for one of those in June. He will also be touring with Matt Berry & The Maypoles (The IT Crowd) in April. If you get the chance to catch him, please do. I guarantee you will not be disappointed.

Haim – Manchester Academy 8th March – Sisters Are Doing It For Themselves

A week after the 6 Music festival and we were off to the Academy to see the sisters Haim in concert. Haim may well be one of the hardest working bands around at the moment. Since we last saw them a week ago at the 6 Music Festival they have been to Paris, Amsterdam, Nottingham, London and Brighton. They are also DJ’ing tonight at the Deaf Institute after the show before heading off to Dublin. I feel tired just thinking about all that but I guess they have youth on their side.

Tonight they are supported by Broods a brother and sister duo from Auckland, New Zealand though there was another person on stage with them. I’m not sure if they have a new member of if they just need another person on stage to help them re-create their recorded sound. They have a pleasant, pop vibe and I liked a couple of their tracks. A bit of research when I got home and I discovered that Never Gonna Change, Bridges and their cover of  Empire Of The Sun’s hit We Are The People were probably my highlights. The sound was a little distorted for them (the perils of being a support act) though Georgia’s vocals were very clear and she had a beautiful voice. We managed to find ourselves a decent spot right next to the mixing desks. Still suffering a bit with my sprained ankle, it was the perfect spot for us as nobody could get by on one side so I could protect my foot a little better. It also gave my husband somewhere to rest his poor aching limbs from his marathon training and meant that both of us could satisfy our inner geek by taking a keen interest in how the lighting man operated the lights during the gig. I found this quite fascinating.

The only disadvantage of our spot was my view of what was going on onstage was awful limited to occasionally seeing one of the sisters at a time depending on the dancing in front of me.  From what I could see they have bags of energy and really know how to play. They command the stage well and have masses of rock ‘n’ roll swagger. They looked like a band that are having the time of their lives and really enjoying themselves. That enthusiasm and fun-loving spirit is infectious and radiates around the whole venue with everybody dancing and singing along to every song but especially the big hit singles such as Falling, If I could Change Your Mind, Don’t Save Me and Forever. My favourites on the night were My Song 5 and Don’t Save Me and the final song of the night Let Me Go which has all three sisters bringing the show to a percussive climax. They also did 2 great covers the first being a band they are often compared to Fleetwood Mac’s Oh Well and the second was Beyoncé’s XO. They all chat to each other and the audience and on a couple of occasions tell us how much they love Manchester because of the enthusiastic audiences.  The demographics of the audience was pretty close to a 50/50  male/female split and I was probably (ok, definitely) on the older end of the audience.

As I already mentioned, I spent a bit of time looking at the way the lighting guy did his work during the gig. I was surprised in this day of technology to find that he was actually playing the lights like they were an instrument themselves. I guess I assumed that as you can buy light bulbs that react to sound that lighting would be pre-programmed to create the effects that you want. He actually had notes for each song. Seeing him in action has given me a bit more respect for the job they have to do on the night as well.

Haim - The lighting does its' work

Haim – The lighting does its’ work – photo courtesy of my husband

This gig took place on International Women’s Day and  I  found myself really wishing I had seen them when I was 11 and trying and failing to learn the guitar because I think it might just have persuaded me to stick with it. When I was young, there really weren’t many accessible, mainstream female bands who played their own instruments around apart from maybe The Bangles. With all the criticism that many female singers receive at the moment it’s nice to see a group that are just being a good old-fashioned band, playing together and having the time of their lives doing it. I also like the way they are quite unpretentious about their music and their likes and dislikes. They have drawn on influences from pop, rock, RnB etc and molded it into their own style. Live, they are definitely more rock n roll than the album but they still have the magical sibling vocal harmonies. They are the band I hope my nieces listen to on repeat.  They are pop enough to still be on mainstream radio but they have enough of an edge to hopefully pique the curiosity of their fans to explore even edgier music. They are only young themselves and they give me great hope for the future of music. I left this gig have had a lot of fun and feeling very optimistic about the state of music today. 

6 Music Festival – Victoria Warehouse Day 2

Day 2 started with some icing of my foot along with a bit of internet research on Jagwar Ma’s tour so we could see if we could do something to ensure we avoided our biggest clash of the day. It turns out we could get tickets so that meant that we were free to watch Bombay Bicycle Club on the better stage safe in the knowledge that we would still get to see Jagwar Ma. We were going to be seeing Bombay Bicycle Club anyway but my friend had missed out on those tickets so it would mean we’d all get an opportunity to see both bands. When we got there we headed for the balcony overlooking stage one as there were seats there that we could sit on and as my foot was throbbing already despite having taken some ibuprofen I thought I needed to be vaguely sensible to ensure I got through the day. I could hear Kiran Leonard from the seats. I really like Port Aine the song I had heard on 6 Music but the rest of the songs seemed very different to that one and didn’t really grab my attention in the same way.

Kiran Leonard

Kiran Leonard

We found a good spot behind a VIP section (which was pretty empty and so didn’t impede our view) to stand and watch The Staves. We had a barrier in front of us that I could rest on as well. My husband and I had seen The Staves sound check twice at Glastonbury and heard their first 3 songs once and on the back of that we had gone to see them at Royal Northern College of Music in November of last year. That performance was brilliant and the entire audience listened in a kind of reverential silence that sadly you don’t get at a festival. It has been said that there is something special about vocal harmonies of siblings and I think this is certainly true of The Staves. The three sisters all have beautiful voices and chose this performance to play some songs from the second album they are currently recording with Bon Iver as well as some from their debut album. The new songs sounded beautiful and I look forward to hearing their follow-up album. My only slight disappointment was that they didn’t perform Mexico which is one of my favourites of theirs. If you like folk-tinged music then I’d happily recommend you listen to Dead & Born & Grown which was their debut album. It was a shame to miss out on Nick Mulvey so I hope he plays at Glastonbury so I can rectify that. 

The Staves - Perfect sibling harmonies

The Staves – Perfect sibling harmonies

We stayed in position to see Bombay Bicycle Club. I’d heard them do their live session on Lauren Laverne’s show and I had listened to their Radio One live lounge as well and had been hugely impressed by both so I had high expectations about their set. They more than met them. Maybe it’s because I’m getting old now but they still feel like a new band but as they are on their fourth album they have a wealth of material from which to choose. They mainly played material from the new album which sounds incredible live. They are not easy to categorise as their music encompasses so many different genres but their whole set had a joyful, uplifting feeling. It also made me dance more than I strictly should have (on account of the poorly foot and all) but heck at that particular moment it was more than worth it.  I couldn’t really highlight any particular song from the set as I thoroughly enjoyed the whole thing. I will say that I look forward to hearing more of Rae Morris who sounded sublime on Luna.    It made me quite giddy about seeing them again next week and they were my second day highlight. 

Bombay Bicycle Club doing their thing and doing it superbly

Bombay Bicycle Club doing their thing and doing it superbly

After the set we hot footed it down to the food outlets. Luckily from the balcony vantage point there was a stairs directly outside which meant that the queues were not that big by the time we got down there. We decided to get pizza and we didn’t regret the choice. They were cooked in a proper wood-burning oven, cooked in 3 minutes and tasted delicious. Sorry I don’t remember the name of the company but if anybody does feel free to let me know and I’ll update this to give them credit. None of us were fussed about Jake Bugg. We’d seen him at Glastonbury and been a bit underwhelmed and our friend wasn’t a fan. I think he’s a better songwriter than he is a performer. Maybe that will get better with time and age. We were all keen to see Lykke Li so we headed to stage two. Unfortunately there seemed to be a lot of people who were just chatting and so it was quite hard to hear her which was a shame as I liked the sound of what I could hear. We decided to go to the silent disco. We had skipped this so far as normally if I have a choice between recorded and live music, I’ll always go for live. Strangely enough, I could actually hear Lykke Li better from in the silent disco so I did spend a little bit of time just listening to her. Kwes was DJ’ig in there at the time. I prefer my silent disco’s a bit cheesier to be honest but was glad that I got to see it in action.

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Silent Disco with Kwes at the helm

All our legs were beginning to get the better of us now so we decided to go for a small sit down before the next act. I’ve mentioned my foot problem but heroic shout out to my husband who is running the London Marathon in just over 4 weeks times and ran 16 miles on the Friday of the festival and 6 miles on the Saturday. He has been working his way through a very punishing training regime and an equally gruelling gig schedule. I keep telling him that it will improve his stamina and endurance on the day! He is running to raise money for WaterAid and if anybody would like to sponsor him the link is below. http://my.wateraidfundraising.org.uk/PersonalPage.aspx?registrationID=456436 We went down on the floor for Franz Ferdinand. Our friend had declared that he didn’t like them but he wanted to be in a good spot for The National. I saw them once just after their first album came out and I told him that I was fairly certain he would enjoy them. The reason I was so confident that he would like them became obvious as soon as they came on. Franz Ferdinand are a perfect festival act. Even if they are not the sort of music you’d choose to listen on your home at own they are great for communal listening. The vast majority of their songs are upbeat, have easy to remember or easy to follow lyrics and positively encourage bouncing. Franz Ferdinand had left 6 Music listeners pick the first 5 songs of their set via a public vote as well so they started with lots of their hits such as Bullet, Michael and Do You Want To. They got the crowd, my husband, our friend and me bouncing perhaps a little too much! As by the end of their set we were all feeling a little delicate. One thing you notice when you have a sprained foot and you go to a gig is just how much you get pushed around. I was deliberately trying to put my weight on my other foot but every time somebody pushed past they kept pushing me onto my weak foot. The crowd was no more rowdy than any other gig, If anything less rowdy but I was really feeling it by now. Ironically my friends pick for best act of the second day was Franz Ferdinand. He has even decided he might like them!

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Franz Ferdinand got the crowd bouncing!

We stayed where we were for The National. I was really looking forward to these. I didn’t know them that well but liked what I did and I had heard that they were excellent live. It turns out this information was correct. They were much more energetic and upbeat than they appear on their albums and as tired and sore as I was, I thoroughly enjoyed seeing them. I really hope they play Glastonbury  because as a result of the festival I have listened to them a lot more and would like to see them again when I’m not in quite so much pain. My highlights of the set were Bloodbuzz Ohio, Abel, England and Graceless. I should clarify though that we left just before the encore as I was hobbling badly and needed to make sure I could get on the tram quickly. It’s the first time I’ve ever left a gig before it had finished which is a sign of how bad I was hurting.

The National - Beautiful set to finish off the weekend

The National – Beautiful set to finish off the weekend

It was a fantastic weekend and I really hope that 6 Music continue to do these events annually. I’m sure if they did it would probably be moved around the country but you can rest assured we’d welcome you back to Manchester with open arms whenever you want. I also have to say that I do think Manchester really pulled out all the stops for this event from the excellent venue to the many local musicians who got involved in making  it a success like Tim Burgess, John Bramwell, Peter Hook etc . who DJ’d or played a part in the fringe festival.Each day was well worth £25 of anyone’s money. My photo’s are not great quality but hopefully they give a flavour of the event.  If you want to see some professional (and rather excellent) photos of the festival see the link below. http://chrispayneimages.4ormat.com/home He has also written an article about it which can be found here  http://www.northernsoul.me.uk/northern-soul-goes-behind-the-scenes-at-the-bbc-6music-festival/

 

6 Music Festival – Victoria Warehouse Day 1

I love 6 Music. I love the eclectic mix of music they play. I love the DJ’s who all seem very down to earth and totally passionate about  the music that they play. I love the friendly vibe of the station and how well they interact with their listeners via social media. I love some of the new friends I have met via Twitter through our mutual love of 6 Music. I love the fact that every day I am introduced or re-introduced to artists both old and new, signed and unsigned who make really great music. And for the past few weeks I’ve been mainly loving the fact that 6 Music had chosen to host its very first 6 Music festival near me and that I had been fortunate enough to get tickets for both days.  The closer we got to the event the more I was also wishing that I had applied for fringe tickets as well but with so many people disappointed at not getting tickets for either day it just felt greedy to apply for them as well.

So as you can probably gather from the above I was very excited about this event  and then just 3 days before disaster struck. Out running, I somehow managed to sprain my foot and by the next day I was hobbling badly. Emergency Rest, Ice, Elevation and Compression measures were deployed because there was no way I was missing out on this. By the Friday I could walk just about and set about listening to 6 Music to get me in the mood for the event. My first two highlights of the weekend happened before I even left the house. The first was the surprise Elbow session from their Salford Studio on the lovely Lauren Laverne’s show. The new songs sounded fantastic especially New York Morning which seems certain to join their canon of wonderfully evocative songs about city life but hearing Lippy Kids performed so beautifully was all kinds of spine tingling, goosebumpy, wonderfulness which I know reduced more than one of my Twitter friends to tears. The second highlight came when Midlake were being interviewed in the afternoon. They started talking about a special guest and when they were describing him it seemed like they might just be talking about the genius that is John Grant and sure enough they were. Once I stopped squealing in a way that really wasn’t very dignified I was ready to leave the house already safe in the knowledge that this was going to be a very good Friday. We picked up our friend who is also properly obsessed with John Grant so we chatted excitedly about the news that he would be performing and looked at the line up trying to make choices about who we would like to see in advance.

Outside the venue I bought one of the lanyards that came with the running times for the day. Both of the stages were using the same running times so not easy to catch a bit of both sets like you sometimes can at festivals with staggered starting times so the agony of choice was going to be even worse particularly as some of my favourite acts were clashing directly with each other such as Haim vs Drenge and Kelis vs Jimi Goodwin and on Saturday The Staves vs Nick Mulvey and the worst clash for me Bombay Bicycle Club vs Jagwar Ma. Once we got inside we took a bit of time to get our bearings. I had never been to Victoria Warehouse where the festival was being held but I would certainly go back there. I love seeing old industrial buildings being brought back to life with a totally different purpose from their original use mainly because I like old building and hate seeing them laid to waste or even worse torn down. Stage One was beautifully decorated in a way that reminded me of the BBC’s Glastonbury set with beautiful lamps and trees on the stage. It looked really atmospheric and created a beautiful vibe.

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Stage 1

The second stage was more neon lights and was a lot smaller. It also quickly became apparent that as a short person I would struggle to see anything on that stage and it wouldn’t be as easy to find resting points and this did dictate a lot of our decision-making when it came to what to see over the 2 days as the injury meant I probably didn’t flit between stages as much as I may otherwise have done.

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Best photo I could manage of Stage 2 and this was courtesy of my tall friend – That’s Drenge on stage. 

By the time we had finished looking around both the first bands were halfway through their first set. I heard more of BIRD and I was  impressed with them. I believe they are off supporting Rodriguez on tour. I’ll definitely be listening to more of them in future and hopefully will catch them again live soon. We stayed at Stage One for Luke Sital-Singh mainly because I really liked a couple of songs of his I had heard on 6 Music. I was glad we did he has a beautiful voice and his set was great. If you haven’t heard of him I’d definitely suggest you check him out. Nothing Stays The Same and Fail For You were the tracks I’d heard before the set and they were really special live. I think I can predict big things for him this year and I have no doubt he’ll pick up lots of new fans if he performs like this in the festival circuit over the Summer.

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Luke Sital-Singh

After his set we decided we were going to do our only set flitting of the day. Drenge vs Haim was a tough one. I’d seen Drenge already supporting Peace at the end of last year. I’d really enjoyed them then. My husband was less convinced calling them an impressive noise but noise none the less. However, prior to seeing them I had heard their album a few times whereas he hadn’t and since last seeing them he had said he actually liked a few of their songs. Our friend was curious about them as well. I really like Haim as well and in fact am going to see them today so I wanted to catch a bit of both and the boys decided they would join me. We watched the first four songs of Drenge before moving on. I’m glad I got to see Bloodsports live again. They really do create an impressive noise for just two people on stage but it is more than just noise. I think they are a grower band rather than immediately impact though so if you gave them a listen before and you weren’t sure persevere they are worth it. Haim were also really good. We only caught the last few songs but it certainly whet my appetite for tonight’s gig. They put great energy into their live performances and they do great vocal harmonies. I won’t talk to much more about them as they have their own full review coming up after tonight.

We decided we were going to stay with Stage One for the rest of the night mainly because we wanted to get a good spot for Midlake (and John Grant) and because it was so much easier to see what was going on. We were kind of divided on Kelis. I was curious to see her. My husband and I had seen her many, many years ago (2001)  supporting U2 on their Elevation tour. I’d really liked her but my husband hated her. I remember buying Kaleidoscope on the back of that performance and Caught Out There is an essential listen for me when I’m in a bad mood. It really helps to get the anger out! However, since that time apart from the hits that have had lots of radio airplay I’d not really kept up with her career that much since that time but she had co-hosted the last hour of Lauren Laverne’s show on the Monday before the festival and she had really impressed me with her conversation and musical choices. Our friend was curious to see her and didn’t really know Jimi Goodwin who was on the other stage. It’s safe to say my husband would have been happier at the other stage but he appreciated the benefits of trying to get a good spot for the later acts that he did want to see. I’m telling you all this information because I think it is important when it comes to my review of Kelis‘ set.

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Before the set I was most excited about seeing Lauren Laverne who is my favourite DJ 

None of us were by any means super fans of this lady, but we sure are now. From the moment Kelis stepped out onto that stage she proceeded to give a masterclass in how to do a short festival set. Her set was just 45 minutes long, but what a 45 minutes. She looked like she was channeling the look of Diana Ross but the spirit of Nina Simone by singing a spine tingling version  of Feeling Good in three parts throughout the set. She ensure she included most of her hits (Millionaire, Trick Me, Milkshake, Acapella)  albeit in shortened form whilst also showcasing her new songs which sounded amazing especially Jerk Ribs. I assume she had put lots of work into rehearsing that set because it was pretty much perfect. The pacing was fantastic, the way she transitioned between slower and faster songs. If you are in a band and are about to do a festival go to 6 Music’s website and watch that set before you do. I don’t know if I have ever been so blown away by a short festival set in my life.  It feels appropriate to be posting this review on International Women’s Day because this woman absolutely nailed it. As soon as her set finished we all just turned to each other and said we are going to go and see her when she next tours. She is amazing and we were all a little bit in love with her after our brief 45 minute affair. My husband has for the past week been singing Acapella non stop. He’s adding it to his running playlist as well. And the amazing bit is she didn’t even do Caught Out There. 

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Kelis shows everybody how it’s done. I didn’t even mention she’s a cordon bleu trained chef as well hence the Food album! Talk about a multi-talented lady. 

The only unfortunate side effect of Kelis’ set was that during it somebody who walked past me and with the precision of a ninja kicked my sprained foot in the epicentre of its pain, so I was really starting to struggle with standing. As a result of this,  we decided to try to head right for the front to give me the barrier to hang onto for the remaining 2 acts. Being at the very front at a gig is not something I do very often but I didn’t think Midlake or Damon Albarn would create too riotous a crowd. It does give you an interesting perspective on things particularly as our position was to the side so we could see people at the side of the stage watching like Kelis and John Grant. Midlake had some sort of technical problem with an amp at the start of the set as well which I probably wouldn’t even have noticed if I had been further back. I’m a bit of a latecomer to Midlake only becoming aware of them through John Grant when in fact it was them that catapulted him back into the spotlight and helping him get the recognition he so richly deserves by co-producing and playing on his debut solo album Queen Of Denmark. This is the first time I’ve seen them live and I am really impressed. The vocals are beautiful, again some lovely harmonies.

Midlake

Midlake – Created a beautiful sonic landscape

They have a really full sound and each individual musician sounded spot on.  They also display an impressive array of beards which seems to be something of a pre-requisite for most men at the moment. As I’m not that familiar with their work I most enjoy the hits that I’ve heard on 6 Music a lot like AntiphonRoscoe and The Old And The Young and of course their performance with John Grant which is a track from Queen Of Denmark called Sigourney Weaver which is a great track that highlights his  fantastic songwriting ability. Who else could write a song that includes the lines:

‘I feel just like Winona Ryder
In that movie about vampires
And she couldn’t get that accent right
Neither could that other guy’

Sing off and Beard off commences!

Sing off and Beard off commences!

As huge a John Grant fan as I am (and I clearly am!) I did think it was a little bit disrespectful to Midlake that some people were shouting out for him between songs particularly when they are very clearly very accomplished performers and musicians in their own right. Midlake won best tribute to 6 Music of the entire weekend. It is not overstating in this day and age to say that a station like 6 Music is probably responsible for keeping a fair few musicians in a job. Without the platform they give them some of these artists might not find their audience and would end up doing jobs outside of music, and for us music lovers the world would certainly be a poorer place. Listening back to their set online afterwards it has been even more enjoyable as I get more familiar with their songs.

The final act of the night was Damon Albarn. There is not much I can say about him that has not already been said. The man is a musical genius producing some amazing songs with Blur, Gorillaz, The Good, The Bad And The Queen, Bobby Womack, Africa Express etc. He was here to showcase his new solo album Everyday Robots. His new band The Heavy Seas are a stylish group and very talented musicians. I was quite shocked at how nervous Damon appeared. You imagine a musician as experienced as him has long since vanquished any sign of nerves but when he first appeared he looked quite frightened. After a good reception to the first few songs he visibly relaxed. I actually thought it was quite sweet to see that he still cared enough about his audience to be nervous.  Unsurprisingly the new album seems much more introspective. I really like Everyday Robots but the album is definitely going to be a grower. The stand out tracks on the night were Tomorrow Comes Today and Mr Tembo (because how can you not love a song about a baby elephant!) I was also really pleased to hear my favourite Gorillaz track On Melancholy Hill played. I think once I’ve heard the album in full and listened to it more I could go back and enjoy the performance even more.

Damon Albarn with his drummer Pauli

Damon Albarn with his drummer Pauli

I understand and totally respect why he didn’t play any of his big Blur hits opting to only play a B-side called All Your Life but I would be lying if I didn’t say that I wish he had put maybe one or two of those wonderful songs in from a purely selfish perspective. My musical coming of age years were the britpop years. I was at University from 94-97 but I was at University in Aberystwyth (not a destination for the big bands of the day) and was a very impoverished student at that time so as much as I loved all those bands I never got to see many of them play live. I’ve now seen Damon live twice, (first time being Gorillaz at Glastonbury in 2010) and I’ve still never heard the songs that soundtracked my Uni years and ignited my love of music. Oh well guess I’ll have to keep hoping for another Blur reunion! Despite the lack of the hits I really enjoyed the performance and left the venue hobbling but buzzing and looking forward to Day two.

I’m still catching up on the footage online from the fringe and the things I missed on Stage two so I’m very  glad that the BBC have put it all online for everybody to enjoy. I will post my review of Day 2 soon as well but for now If you haven’t already checked it out then do yourself a favour and head over to the BBC 6 Musical Festival website and watch some of the performances. You can do so on the following link.  http://www.bbc.co.uk/events/e8gmxj/videos/p01t2lby#p01t4k45 and in case I have made it clear enough so far I’d suggest you celebrate International Women’s Day by starting with Kelis. 

 

Rudimental – Apollo 21st February

Another weekend, another gig at the Apollo at least that’s how it has started to feel. This was going to my last trip here for a while though and after seeing their performance at the Brits I was looking forward to it though as an act that relies on the performance of guest vocalist I was curious to see what they would be like live.

They were supported by Bipolar Sunshine. They were pleasant enough and had some lovely vocal harmonies but I felt they were the kind of act I would enjoy more if I was more familiar with their work. I think they are growers rather than instantly catchy. They piqued my interest sufficiently that I will check out more of their work but not enough that I’d rush to go and see them live.

There was quite an interesting demographic for this gig. I feared that I would be one of the oldest there but actually it was quite mixed. I did as always get one of the tallest people on earth turn up to stand in front of me just about 2 minutes before Rudimental came on. He was also a chatter and had to bend down to chat to all his friends because he was much taller than them which made the situation worse. I don’t like to focus on the crowd at a gig but I may one day do a blog on gig etiquette because it is sometimes sadly lacking from some people. I did a bit of moving around without straying too far from my friends who I was at the gig with so I could see something and hear the band.

As for the band themselves aside from a slight sound issue ( a bit too much reverb on the bass) they were very good.  The session singers were excellent and not too far off the sound of the guest vocalists from the album. The highlights were the big singles like Not Giving In,  Feel The Love and of course Waiting All Night which had the crowd  totally up for it. I also really enjoyed Home and Right Here. Obviously they are a relatively new band and so only have one album of material to play which did mean that for some of the slower tracks that people didn’t know as well the atmosphere did dip slightly but the highs were very high. If they can keep producing music of the quality of their debut then I think they will be an amazing live act in years to come as they are reminiscent of the wonderful Basement Jaxx.

 

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Photo courtesy of my husband

This is a fairly short review but next week I’ll have some mammoth blogging to do as I attempt to bring you a flavour of  the 6 Music Festival.

 

Something As Simple As Rock ‘n’ Roll Would Save Us All – Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls Review

Originally posted on Gigpusher:

It had been about a year since I had last been to a gig at the arena enough time for there to be a change of sponsor. For an arena it’s actually pretty good and you do have a decent view from most seats. I do have a slight bug bear about the venue though and that is that for the second concert running they sent out tickets saying show starts at 7:30 when in fact the 1st support act is almost over by that time. Luckily I had learnt from the first time they did this and checked twitter and got the correct show start times but not everybody will think to do that so it really is something that should be correct on tickets. I’m really glad I did this because the whole show was fantastic including both support acts. Beans on Toast, the first support did a…

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Something As Simple As Rock ‘n’ Roll Would Save Us All – Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls Review

It had been about a year since I had last been to a gig at the arena enough time for there to be a change of sponsor. For an arena it’s actually pretty good and you do have a decent view from most seats. I do have a slight bug bear about the venue though and that is that for the second concert running they sent out tickets saying show starts at 7:30 when in fact the 1st support act is almost over by that time. Luckily I had learnt from the first time they did this and checked twitter and got the correct show start times but not everybody will think to do that so it really is something that should be correct on tickets. I’m really glad I did this because the whole show was fantastic including both support acts. Beans on Toast, the first support did a great job of getting the crowd warmed up. He set up a whole voting system for his songs so people could choose between which songs he should play during his short set. His songs were mainly humorous folk songs on topics as diverse as the way all venues are sponsored by mobile phone companies to blow jobs to the moon.

We then had a turbo charged set from The Flogging Molly’s who were so energetic and upbeat that even though it was a Sunday night (traditionally not a great gig night) you couldn’t help but feel energised by them. I had heard of them but didn’t know any of their songs but having watched how they managed to get the Arena going I would love to see them in a smaller venue. Have my fingers crossed that they’ll tour Manchester on their own or maybe play at Glastonbury this year.  They also showed the true meaning of  ‘The Show Must Go On’ spirit when the stage backdrop fell down on top of the band and I’m pretty sure the drummer didn’t miss a beat despite having to play underneath a gigantic sheet. They just kept going until the end of the song when Dave King just joked about how you’ve got to love those Spinal Tap moments.

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Shows just how big that Spinal Tap moment was and kudos to the drummer for his in the dark drumming

I really enjoyed Float and Revolution and there were a few others which sadly I don’t yet know by name . They were immensely fun and a great support act as they got everybody foot tapping and dancing. In the past week I’ve listened to them a lot on You Tube which is always a good sign. The line up was also a great example of something that seems to be happening more and more often in music and that is Trans-Atlantic cooperation. It seems that Frank Turner supported Flogging Molly’s in America where they are a lot bigger and then Frank returns the favour over here. I think it is a great model and usually means you will get quality bands.

For a while I wondered if Frank Turner would seem sedate in comparison to The Flogging Molly’s but he came out and continued the blistering pace with a fantastic version of Photosynthesis. I was surprised at just how much him & of course his band the wonderful Sleeping Souls rocks up all his songs live. It genuinely didn’t feel as folky as I thought it might (not that I have any issue with folk music) but I did wonder if he would be a bit lost in such a large venue but actually he filled the space brilliantly and had great stage presence and lots of wonderful banter with the audience. He also came across as a very genuinely nice guy. He chatted a bit about his OCD side which means he knew that this was his 1525th live show and his 21st in Manchester. He chatted a bit about the many venues he had played from Retro bar to the Night & Day which has been in the news recently and he said as long as he was playing music for a living he really didn’t care how big the room was and I believed him. He seemed to be loving being on stage despite the fact that he is suffering with really bad back pain he was still running around and jumping all over the stage. I’ve been thinking a bit about stage craft recently and how important it is. I can’t help but feeling that people like Frank Turner who haven’t been immediately mega-successful and have had to fight for attention in pubs or at festivals playing, to smaller disinterested crowds develop an arsenal of weapons to use when they do finally achieve success. All the acts on the bill tonight were great at audience interaction something which I think is often missing from young bands who are playing quite large venues on their debut album. My highlights of the set were Glory Hallelujah which oddly had a kind of religious communal singing quality about it, Reasons To Be An Idiot, Losing Days, Wessex Boy and Recovery. 

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I do have to give special mention to my 2 favourite songs though. They are both songs that I actually find quite emotional and it really was something to hear them both live. The first is Long Live The Queen. For such a sad subject it is actually an incredibly uplifting life-affirming song. I first heard this song not too long after my cousin died far too young as the result of a brain tumour and I try to take its message to heart. I have been unlucky enough to lose a few people in my life far too soon and it has taught me a couple of things Life is for living, not enduring. You need to be making the most of your time on this planet and having fun and that means go out on the dance floor and dancing like nobody’s watching or singing karaoke tracks badly rather than sitting on the sidelines worried you might embarrass yourself. Try to spend your time doing things you love and take risks and set yourself challenges. The second is I Still Believe which is basically a love song about music and the power it has to improve our lives immeasurably, to soundtrack our lives to make the high points higher and to get us through the tough times. To hear a whole arena screaming it out and knowing that each of us has our own soundtrack to our lives but that all of us now have that song and that moment to cherish for life was really quite special.

Apologies for the quality of the video I’m about to link to. It is not mine but the sound isn’t awful and it does kind of show just how bouncing the gig was. The photo’s are as always courtesy of my husband.

A Night Of Glorious Noise – Foals and Cage The Elephant and That Fucking Tank

So 6 days after Del Amitri and we are back at the Apollo this time to see Cage The Elephant and Foals. I mention both bands even though Cage The Elephant are the support act rather than co-headliners because it was their presence on the bill that made me buy the tickets. Don’t get me wrong I really like Foals and I have all their albums whereas I only really knew Cage The Elephants eponymous debut but I love that album and it has probably been one of my most listened to albums in the past few years. I’ve listened to that one album perhaps more than all the Foals albums combined. As I’ve mentioned before we are spoiled for choice when it comes to live music and so sometimes as much as I’d love to see everybody my budget doesn’t allow so when a band picks a great support it can be a deciding factor for me and it certainly was on this occasion.

On the night it turns out we had another support act added to the line up. That Fucking Tank (with their non-radio friendly name) are possibly not looking for commercial success but they were actually very good and very loud. They are a guitar and drum duo and kind of reminded me of Drenge mixed with Public Service Broadcasting as they used an automated voice to do audience interaction. I had never heard of them before last night but would be more than happy to hear them again in the future.

Next it was Cage The Elephant’s turn. Obviously I have already revealed my bias but they ROCKED. Matt Schultz is an incredibly charismatic and energetic front man. The security guys must have been wishing they could cage the lead singer as I haven’t seen that much stage diving in years and how he managed to keep singing whilst doing that I don’t know. He lost some buttons on his shirt and ended up performing shirtless and standing on the shoulders of the crowd at the front who were lapping it up. Even up in the circle where I was everybody was on their feet by the end of the set if only to see where on earth he had disappeared to.  I’m guessing when they play Manchester they have usually played the Academy as he talked about seeing people after at Big Hands and Abdul’s but really for the show they put on they deserve a bigger crowd. I was stood for the whole set and sung my little heart out to my personal highlights In One Ear and Ain’t No Rest For The Wicked though I was impressed with the whole set and will definitely be listening to their other albums now. If they come back to Manchester on their own I will definitely be buying tickets to see them. I’ve been scouring YouTube for some great live footage of them but I can’t really find anything that does them justice so I’ll just link to the official video of In One Ear. I have asked my husband who didn’t really know them at all were they as good as I am saying to try to bring some measure of objectivity to this and he has said they were excellent as well. One other thing I feel I really should point out like lead singers I believe elephants should be free range and not caged.

Onto Foals who were also fantastic. They started with Prelude the opening track from the new album. Their lighting designer deserves a lot of credit for creating a beautiful light show to match the music.

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Photo courtesy of my husband as always 

I don’t know why but the sound for all 3 bands was significantly louder than it was for Del Amitri last week and Foals music really suited it. Live their music is even more dancey and that will explain why my feet were still hurting when I woke up this morning. Yannis as front man took a little while to warm up though there was some excellent use of the word bitchin’. Vocally he was spot on and I was also really impressed with how tight the band were musically particularly the drummer who was immense. Highlights of the set for me were My Number, Blue Blood, Spanish Sahara, Red Socks Pugie and Inhaler. I also loved the version of Two Steps, Twice that they finished with which they built up and pulled in at just the right moment before asking Manchester to go savage as they gave it their all and Yannis also went walkabout to meet his adoring fans during this climactic song . The boys in yellow at the front certainly had to work for their money last night but they like the rest of us were treated to a night of glorious noise.

Del Amitri – Gig Review Manchester Apollo 1st February

So February is going to be a busy month for Gigpusher and it started on Day 1 of February with a trip to the Apollo to see Del Amitri. I am, in all honesty a couple of years too young (not often that I can write that these days!) to have fully appreciated the back catalogue of Del Amitri at the time it was released. Truth be told, it was rave reviews from several friends about Justin Currie’s solo performances that made me decide to buy tickets.

The venue was the Apollo which I’ve been to many times, though it was the first time that I’ve been to see a band there when it was laid out as an all seated venue. They were supported by The O’s. I’ll be honest and say I didn’t pay too much attention to them as I was discussing running playlists with my friend but they sounded pleasant enough. I think it was one of those gigs that is tough for a support band though as it was obvious that everybody there was very keen for the main attraction.

I don’t know why the Apollo was all seated for this concert and I suspect they misjudged just how old the Del Amitri crowd was as I don’t think the seats were much used as the band got everybody on their feet from the off from the opening bars of Always The Last To Know until the end of the gig.  It’s obvious that Del Amitri have a huge number of very ardent fans and it is hard not to get caught up in the obvious passion they all have for the band. I seemed to be surrounded by many couples whose relationships had clearly been sound-tracked by the band as they embraced and kissed and reverted to their teenage selves for much of the gig which was actually quite sweet to see.

The gig was in 2 sections the upbeat tracks, their acoustic numbers and then the encore. The whole thing was great  but whilst most bands acoustic section ends up being an excuse for people to head to the bar, It was where Del Amitri’s high points came. Be My Downfall was a beautiful moment showing the power that acoustic music can have. The biggest sing along of the night is of course Nothing Ever Happens but there were many other gems on the night like Tell Her This and Spit In The Rain. 

As a newcomer to Del Amitri,  I was hugely impressed. Justin Currie’s voice is exquisite live and if he does a solo tour again I would be there in an instant.  If you live in a part of the country that they are about to visit and you can manage to get hold of a ticket I would highly recommend it. I think I’ll be listening to their back catalogue as a result of seeing them.