Monday, 19 August 2013

V Fest 2013 - Weston Park

So after a good nights sleep, it's time to reflect on V Fest 2013. My eighth on the trot and one that created gems to remember.

The absolute highlight for me came not from a headliner, or a new comer but an incredibly emotional Fran Healy of Travis on their return to the music biz after a 5 year absence being Dads. I'd watched Travis at the start of their careers at V99 many moons ago, wowing the crowd with their feats of weather control whilst playing why does it always rain on me. I've seen them various times across the UK so I was an easy target for the come back in a rammed Arena stage at ten past six, as were a tent full of similarly 90's focussed indie/Britpop kids.

The set was a festival short 45 mins of hits and obligatory new one, songs with pace (the lust for life infused Selfish Jean) slower ones but mainly sing alongs throughout (Sing, Sing, Sing).

It wasn't the sing alongs that made this a stand out set of the weekend, but the emotional response of the crowd, reacting to the wondrous amazement of Travis to the response they received. All culminating with a tearful Fran Healy launching into finale 'why does it always rain on me' having received one of the loudest and longest standing ovations (not hard in a tent of standing people) which was ear splitting and went on and on and on.

Another highlight was the band sing along to Frans acoustic run through of flowers in the window (?) with them standing behind Fran, smiling and winking appreciatively, Dougie (looking far too cool for school with every passing year) and one of the other chaps taking over one end each of Fran's guitar whilst he waved his hands in the air.

Fran with suitably greying hair, the sign of kids

Once Travis finished the set, there was not much more to do, nothing could top that and Mrs P and I were more than happy to wander out of the Festival on a high leaving the youngsters to an evening of Fun, Beyonce and the Script.

Looking back, this was a good one, I'd been a little disappointed with the line up, and with Beady Eye pulling out but Saturday (with mate Neil) and Sunday with Mrs P had some standout stuff.

So Saturday and doing my tour guide bit for V festival virgin Neil, we got in for the start whilst I pointed out all the sights (emergency exits are here, here and here) bought the beers tokens and wandered down to settle into the first band,
the Saturdays. We lasted 3 bombastic songs, bass pumping, one which we should have known apparently per the Saturdays (we should have been jumping) before heading round to the 4 Music stage to see a band I was really looking forward to seeing, The Heavy. They could have done with the Saturdays bass, as their stand out tune, How you like me now, would have sounded grimier and dirtier with the bass turned up, but we were then away and into the festival. Beverage of choice in hand, we headed back to the main stage for Scouting for girls, not as I had said Scouting for boys, leading to a discussion about childhood TV celebrities who were now facing long stretches in chokey.

Scouting for girls lasted a few songs for us, and we could see the format for their success, name check an icon (James Bond, Elvis etc) and singing a chirpy indie pop song about it, sticking in a Bond theme cover too, then back to the 4 Music stage for
Reverend & the Makers, a band made for V Festival. John McClure is a front man who is not shy about telling the crowd what he expects of them, largely challenging us to jump up and down, dance and pitting the left hand side of the audience (our side, great) against the right hand side (poor effort). His comment about 'the Heavy weight champion of the world' being the best song we would hear this year at the festival this year was not far of the mark, but it has a distinct advantage being one of the best songs of recent years IMHO.

Kangaroo burger imbibed (nice but no Ostrich Burger) we were off to provide local support to
Laura Mvula, who has definitely worked on her Brummie accent both for singing and chatting to the crowd, she really sounds like a product of the States now. Sadly though, her show is not made for the Arena tent, iPhone came out, twitter was tried to be checked 57 times as album tracks of warbling were played. We didn't stay for the singles (which I do rate) it didn't work for me, so to restore the vibe we caught a bit of comedy in the Glee club tent, anyone in there works and we were back.

After him we were back over for a bit of
Seasick Steve, with John Paul Jones (legend alert) on bass. Now he is an artist. Guitars either bashed up or home made (cigar x or hub cap variety) he rattled through great blues tracks, leaving me hoping i'll have his energy at his age (whatever age that is). A nice touch was bringing a lass out the crowd, and romantically serenading her before leaving her with a signed LP (like a big cd he informed the crowd) and a John Deere cap.

Onward to the futures tent for a bit of solo Coral action by
James Skelly, not going to be making much money as a solo artist with bucket loads of people in the band and a couple of backing singers for a couple of songs in the set. Cracking set, definitely the worth investing in his album, especially as he threw in the Corals best tune Dreaming of

Then onto
the Vaccines, a band channelling the spirit of the Ramones, focussed on the brevity, pace and unashamedly pop tastic nature of the tracks. Having seen them earlier in their career it's a bit of a surprise to see the amount of hair now possessed by lead singer Justin Hayward-Young, again a highlight of the day, Melody Calling being a far mellower highlight of the set. Over to Maximo Park, who delivered a good set, a typical energetic front man performance, legs akimbo bounces into the air. A highlight is always Graffiti with the quality lyrics, 'I'll do graffiti if you sing to me in French' but we didn't stay long as they were on the way to the Eels. The Eels who for me fall into the category of the Flaming Lips, who don't care and will just do what they fancy. The Eels, kitted out in matching black Adidas trackies, topped off by band leader E with his sweat band round his head. The set didn't have songs I knew, or recognised but they were individual, whether it was the count down from 10 mid song, or the group hugs, or the iconic dancing by E. it all kinda sat perfectly together.

Food (Fish 'n' Chips) beckoned as we settled in down the front for the remainder of the evening,
Stereophonics (here's a new one off the new album) kicked off with rockets (red white and blue smoke) and ended with 30 ft flames, as if to suggest they should be headlining the stage, or just a nudge to Kings of Leon to ensure they realise they need to be worthy headliners. One thing that strikes you seeing the Stereophonics is the lack of ageing that is going on with Kelly. He hasn't changed since the 90's, and we were pretty close in, not changed in looks, leather jacket, sound, anything....he's either sold his soul to the devil, or has Shakin Stevens genes (Shaky always being pointed to for this in Smash Hits).
Shakin Stevens

Then the Kings of Leon, and worthy headliners, cracking set, all seemingly up for the gig, best songs by a mile though being the Bluesy belters from the early albums, Molly's Chambers sounding perfect. Mid set most people round us got distracted by the emergence of a pile of poo. Basically someone had done a dump and managed to clear a small area of the inner circle of the crowd. It's amazing how choking a dump can be when you smell it wafting around. Then, it being dark, you watched in amusement as unsuspecting people kept filling the space, only to be told by gleeful revellers that they may want to check their shoes....we wrapped up with a Sex on Fire driven encore and then an amble back to the car happy to not be spending the night under canvas.

Onto day 2 and the weaker line up, Mrs P (with a definite reduced stamina and appetite for random bands she doesn't know) confirmed we only needed to get their for
Deacon Blue at 1:15, and she was right to insist as Ricky Ross was definitely up for enthusing the crowd, apologising for the crowd for getting the dress code wrong in his suit, he implored us to do a bit of Scottish Country Dancing and cracked off hit after hit to a crowd who lapped it up despite not being the target audience. 'come see us we're on tour' he implored after a blistering rendition of Dignity left us jumping. Lissie by contrast is an up and coming star, the perfect embodiment of Southern USA with her 'yawlllll's, and to go with this one of the most amazing voices around. Again, can't wait for her new album to come out, so much energy and a real sense of her enjoying herself.
Misread dress code catastrophe

Another highlight, and
James. It's been 20+ years since me and Mrs P went on our first proper date to see James at Alton Towers and the years have not been kind to either my or Tim Booths hair since, the manc haircut and quiff both having bought it some years back. James picked a set list that suited themselves, not just hits but new song and early single Johnny Yenn. They did resurrect Sit Down, having presumably fallen back in love with it since becoming sickened of it previously and dropping it for years. Tim Booth was the joint most intelligent man at the festival (sending us to see his peer Eddie Izzard at the end of the set) intelligent banter, unique dancing and then sitting on the shoulders of the crowd for the finale. A belter. Then not being able to get close to Eddie Izzard, we strained to hear from outside whilst watching him on the big screen, an interesting tale about Vader, God and Keith(?) from marketing with a tea had to be there.

Showing off the Fish 'n' chips to Mrs P they didn't go down well, so we were then into uncomfortably watching
Paloma Faith, then the guilty please that is Mark Owen (4 minute warning is a perfect pop tune, but he should have a word with Kelly from the Stereophonics about his beauty regime) and then a nice doze whilst watching the Swedes Of Monsters and Men. A bit more comedy, then the mind blowing spectacle of Travis.

Home early, which chuffed Nan as she got out of full baby sitting duties and V Festival was over for another year, now when do those early bird tickets go on sale again.......

Thursday, 27 June 2013

The Strypes - Wolverhampton Slade Rooms Gig Review:

Arriving late to the gig despite racing back from London (mainly due to accident on the M42) and having to reassemble the leads at the back of the TV and sky box following a carpet fitting (penance for a pass out) I had missed the Brum support act. The Slade rooms were packed with a very Moddish crowd raring to hear the Strypes, a band I had decided to come to see having listened to them interviewed on Cerys's show whilst walking down a beach in Barbados, not owning a jot by them, but knowing that they had put on a fantastic show.

I had my head down whilst waiting for them, glued to my iPhone whilst the condensation ran down the walls in a sweaty Slade Rooms, a cheer and they were on, straight into a blistering opening, one of the loudest rawest rock n roll openings I have ever heard. It just sounded of a bygone age, exactly what I imagine the crowd packed in in Hamburg to see the Beatles would have heard, or in the States surrounding Chuck Berry or Jerry Lee Lewis (but without the running off with 14 year old cousin stigmas).

I imagine its the sound of youth with an average age (if you believe wikipedia) of 15 and 16. It took a while to get used to a band who were comfortably young enough to be my kids, ironic as I will be heading to see in The Who a band who are old enough to be my parents tomorrow.

The band looked cool too, lead singer with Blues Brothers shades propping up a fringe, whipping out an incredibly well used harmonica, bass player, looking like a cool Weasley Brother playing the bass like a man possessed (none of the barely moving coolness from Temples bassist here), lead guitar with boy band cool, matching suit jackets, shirt and matching pocket square and drummer (probably cool looking but hidden from my vantage point so I will give him the benefit of the doubt).

  The set was a mixture of covers and original material, all delivered at blistering pace, delivering banter between tracks. A brief journey to see whether there were Wolves fans in the audience got a muted response, followed but 'well i guess we've got a mixed audience in tonight, some football fans and some Wolves fans' these youngsters have confidence and decent music taste paying tribute to Slade and Dave Hill (rather than the usual Sir Nod). Covers such as Judge a book by its cover (Bo Diddley) and See See Rider, probably close to the Animals interpretation of it.

And so an encore of Route 66 complete with McCartneyesq shouts and whoops from Twist and Shout and they were off after a frenetic hour of rock and roll. Off no doubt to a rider of pop and haribos, whilst the crowd with ears ringing were given free posters when they stepped outside the venue, I doubt Mrs P will let me put it up on my bedroom wall, but hey.

The final thought that I was struck by when walking to the car, was that's what Marty McFly was looking for when he wigged out on stage at the end of Back To The Future, both the sound and the reaction from an ecstatic crowd.

My favourite new band.......I think so far this week.

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Daddy's Speeding

Brett Anderson looking on disapprovingly
There is nothing more frustrating than having an unannounced little brown envelope land on your mat, which then accuses you (usually very fairly) of speeding and giving you the options of a course or points and a fine. I've had this twice in the last 6 months, both times claiming I had ignored the first letter from them and that this was my final warning before they haul me off to court.

Now the cynic in me thinks that they just save on the stamp for the first one, never sending it out, and wind the offender up with the second. These chaser letters absolutely get me grumpy for the day. The last one was the worst, being done for travelling at 55 on the motorway when I apparently should have been doing 40. This was frustrating because having done the speed awareness course last October I had become very speed aware. I had realised that speeding places often only saves fractions of minutes of time, and the fuel efficiency is excellent otherwise. The course didn't even go on about speed killing particularly, it was very well pitched. So I had become quite evangelical about speed, I would tell people about the speed limit, 'did you know if there are street lights its 30 unless there are repeaters' explaining more, 'did you know that rural lanes are the most accident prone' etc etc.

My miles per gallon had increased 10% too - which given the price of fuel was quite a lot. Every time I was filling up I would think about the album I could buy with the saved £7.

Truth be told the speed awareness course was really useful, and everyone I have spoken too who has been has enjoyed it (they've not told me whether they changed their habits but they enjoyed it). What I found was that I could relax more at the wheel, pottering along the motorway would allow you to look round, check out what was going on. The 30 mph drive to work allowed a relax to think about the day ahead etc. Why didn't I realise this earlier....

I've only had one instance of being pulled over for speeding the rest have been flashing cameras. Stupidly it was after getting rid of my Beige Metro (rust bucket, 60 mph top speed) and getting a work car scheme car, a Peugeot 306, which was able to speed. On the way up to Mrs P's Mum's house I was not really focussed enjoying the freedom of an accelerator that did what it said on the tin and got pulled. The Copper wasn't impressed with my suggestion that it was the cars fault and that I hadn't noticed.

Again after a bad day at the office I came home grumpy grumpy grumpy and whistled past a speed camera I knew near home and flash it went. Bah. I took the mother in law to Shrewsbury too, good deed and boom got flashed. All suitably stressful experiences. Even when its not me its stressful, I got a letter informing me I had been done for speeding in Bognor Regis. Writing back I noted I had never even been there and had had to look the location up on the internet to find it, and I was in another part of the country at the time honest guv. But for a few weeks waiting for the letter back I was suitably stressed (turns out the reg inputted was a typo and it wasn't me).

So I am now slow and steady, fuel efficient and stress free.

Linking this to music though isn't hard, when your favourite band's Suede immediately you are drawn to Daddy's Speeding off the magnificent Dog Man Star album. A song about James Dean's demise. A haunting, theatrical song.

Here's what I found on the web about it.

On September 30, 1955 James Dean was driving his Porsche 550 Spyder on U.S. Route 466 (later State Route 46), when a black-and-white 1950 Ford Custom Tudor coupe, driven from the opposite direction, moved to take the fork onto State Route 41 and crossed into Dean's lane. The two cars hit almost head-on. The actor was rushed to Paso Robles War Memorial Hospital and pronounced dead on arrival. Contrary to reports of his speeding, the Highway Patrol officer who attended the crash said "the wreckage and the position of Dean's body indicated his speed was more like 55 mph (88 km/h)." Suede frontman Brett Anderson told about this story of a dream/fantasy about Dean' s death: "I was immersing myself in overtly clich├ęd Hollywood iconography at the time. I guess it was an extension of the isolation/ pornography themes where I saw people forming relationships with fantasy figures rather than real people; Our new communities were soap operas, our new friends were characters in American sit-coms."
Anderson told the Suede site about his singing on the track: "I wanted to give the vocal a Lennonesque quality, that magical dreamlike way he sang songs like 'Day In The Life' and 'Across The Universe,' which I thought would complement the phased, otherworldly tone of the music."

And here's a video for this non single, its from the lost in TV DVD collection - if there's one thing to say about Suede, they have always looked after their fans with the best extras, B Sides, fan club gigs etc ever.

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Temples & Charlie Boyer and the Voyeurs Gig Review Hare & Hounds.

Temples & Charlie Boyer and the Voyeurs. 19 June 2013. Hare & Haounds Birmingham, Gig Review. 

Tonight was the my turn to see a couple of hotly tipped bands in the quality venue Hare & Hounds in Kings Heath, a suburb of Brum with excellent musical heritage, Pink Floyd, the Beatles and the Stones all having played there possibly not in and amongst the cash converter and charity shops that now litter the high street.

It was the second time in seeing Charlie Boyer & the Voyeurs (great name) and third for Temples who had supported Suede, and both seem to be the darlings of 6 music. So whilst raring to see them when booking the tickets, a couple of work nights out and waking up at 6 in London that morning to get back for work meant I was jaded, and coupled with the heat and hay fever I wasn't in the best frame of mind.

Settling down with a revitalising San Miguel, the venue filled up as soon as the Voyeurs took to the stage. They looked suitably cool, singer/guitar 'Charlie' looking suspiciously like my mates cool little brother, but then I haven't seen him in a decade and I doubt being in his late 30's it's him. Drummer looked suitably modelled on Dave Grohl, keys, guitar and bass looking cool too, or perhaps it's just the kids all look cool now.

Second song in and the B side to the 7" I got last time 'Be Nice' gets an airing, it's a cracking glam rock stomper, complete with Bolanesque voice, sadly not to get the fake ending from the last gig or single (or to make their album, really??).

As the 30 minute set continued, the band that came most to mind was the Dandy Warhols, not so much the chirpy vodaphone advert but more the wider droney elements (in a good way I hasten to add). I got fascinated by the impact of the 2 middle band members in between Charlie and the keyboards, both able to contribute with the minimum of effort. Firstly the bassists rocking back and forth of his bass to the rhythm of the track, then secondly the guitarist, with black curtains, black shirt, black guitar, black trousers, no facial expression and minimal movement of hands. Neil Codling from Suede came to mind, it may have been he desire to save energy in the heat that caused the stance, but I doubt it.

The penultimate song is the quiet one, apparently, well just slow, with a Bowie style vocalising, smoke machines and shiny disco balls.

End of set and we (might) have been directed to the merch stand, but Charlie needs to enunciate better if he wants to sell his wares. Heading over to the back I was hit by the modern day issue of buying a 12 inch vinyl album being uncomfortable to stand with for the main act, so I didn't.....

After a stretch of smart phone surfing, the Temples came on for their 40 injure headline set. Again looking cool, guitarist looking like Noel Fielding, singer with a great Bolan hair cut and sparkly blouse. Again their appearance coincided with a flooding back of audience with suitably high enthusiasm for the darlings of the music blogs.

The set was cracking, every tune in their fleeting set hanging together well, the only slight mishap being perhaps the smoke machine placed on the speakers which launched dry ice head height onto the singer causing a speedy change in direction.

The gig was great but the stand out song was the last tune, recent single (Shelter Song) whether this is just familiarity or it's a classic I'm not sure but it's a cracking swirling slab of psychedelia that would grace any Austin Powers movie.

When they legged it, I took the plunge at the merch stall, finding out that talking to the Voyeurs enigmatic guitarist, and complimenting him on the set, plus buying an album and single meant that the face burst into a broad grin and some emotion was shown. Great stuff.

Leaving the hare & hounds in a balmy summers evening it was amazing the impact that vinyl, cracking bands and San Miguel has to produce a sunny disposition.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Wall of Sound A-Z: Garbage :Garbage

Wall of Sound A-Z: Garbage :Garbage

Garbage represented my first getting caught up live in the massive hype of Melody Maker and the NME as in 1995 Garbage arrived, having Nirvana producer Butch Vig in the band and strong female vocalist Shirley Manson. I got caught up in all of this and bought tickets to see them at Wolverhampton Civic Hall (best local venue I the West Midlands at the time).

The album starts with Supervixen which I can take or leave,  but then Queer is a fantastic tune, a single receiving huge airplay, I liked it because it felt like the outsider element of Suede fronted by a woman, what's not to like. Just when you think the song iswinding up after 2 minutes it leaps on with some more grungy guitars, confirming the Queerest of the Queer, Strangest of the Strange. Definitely a 5 star tune, Duh duh duh der duh, you can touch me if you want.

Next my favourite song on the album, Shirley showing how stroppy she is with the excellent only happy when it rains. Great tune, shouts out at you, again massive airplay, catchy title and probably why I bought the tickets, odd chorus though 'Pour your misery down on me'

So at the Civic Hall we had balcony seats and I had never seen the hall so rammed, everyone clammering to see Shirley and co, and missing the support I didn't have long to wait, it was electric with the mosh pit seeming to stretch for most of the length of the venue, that's what stuck with me most from the gig, this mass of humanity totalling hyped for a brilliant experience and a band raring to give it them.

Back to the album, 'As heaven is wide' takes the grungy baseline and sticks it over a beating drum machine and Shirley speaking huskily over the top very effectively. We slow down a bit with the marching 'Not my idea' again great song, Shirley's Scottish accent breaking through, it's always nicer to hear singers singing in the own accent.

I was lucky to get to see Garbage, as I had bought tickets to 2 gigs on consecutive nights, Garbage and the Bluetones, but working in Swindon on an away job, not having tickets on me and Pre the Internet era I got confused, I came back to Brum to go to Wolverhampton and found the Bluetones was actually the first of the 2 gigs and had happened the day before. I was gutted and this put me off the Bluetones for life, especially as I had to pay for my mates ticket too. Lucky for me that Garbage was so good.

The biggest Britpop moment for the album comes with Stupid Girl, which was a decent sized hit too, lots of AirPlay again, backed no doubt by various lovely formats of records, I seem to recall that Garbages packaging was impressive, furry cover on one I think. Stupid Girl hit number 4 in the charts in the UKwhen that meant something to me and was all over the TV chart shows.

Milk ends the album, a quieter relaxing end, their final single off the album, reworked with Tricky, showing what a big deal they were at the time, this is a quite haunting track, with the vocals 'Im waiting, I'm waiting for you' staying with you long after the single finishes.

I stayed following Garbage, really enjoying lots of the singles off less successful later albums but was most surprised when Shirley turned up as the key baddy in the Terminator Spin off TV series, the Sarah OConner Chronicles where she played one of the liquid metal terminators and was pretty effective as a cyborg!

Sunday, 2 June 2013

Richard Herring Talking Cock in Derby!

Richard Herring in Derby. Talking Cock Review.

There is no better way to spend a Friday night than to spend it watching Richard Herring. I laughed out loud so much throughout the show, it was infectious, I started to get a head ache from it at one point. I expected it to be a good show, as it was the penultimate talking Cock show (before Leicester who got suitably dissed) and so Herring should have the show down to a fine art, especially as it was the second time he had toured the show. He had also been excellent the last 3 times I had seen him, so he had a lot to live up to

I was willing to give Richard the benefit of a couple of duff jokes anyway following a recent encounter. On bank holiday Monday I was in London with the family, saw him stood next to me o the tube platform and nudged Mrs P. We jumped on the same tube and the kids sat cutely at his feet while he played iPhone games. They were dead cute and Richard smiled sweetly at them, so he will get a lot of slack should he need it.

He didn't

The show was, as I mentioned, blisteringly funny from start to finish, a bizarre blend of well thought through views on the psyche of blokes, liberally sprinkled with knob jokes and toilet humour. Sitting there in anticipation of the show, flicking through the free program, always a nice Herring touch, we were treated to a themed penis playlist, lots of smiles began there and then in the audience.

Into the show and within the first 2 minutes he reeled off a load of metaphors for ones John Thomas, many of which were new to me. But as Herring noted having researched the tour for some time with an online questionnaire he has the most comprehensive list euphemisms on the planet, pink lighthouse beckoning into the rocks springs to mind.

The show revolved round the answers to the online survey, and is set to be the male equivalent of the Vagina Monologues, running for over an hour and a half with an interval. The subject matter shouldn't put people off, it's a well thought through subject, but unfortunately given the final show in tonight, you won't get to see it!

Unless you get to buy it on DVD, as at the end of the show Herring races to the foyer to greet the punters selling them the rather good Go Faster Stripe DVD's of his former shows. you can get them on line, but it's much more fun to have Richard Herring ask your name, then write with permanent pen the fastest squiggle of a non discernible signature ever.

So I left with a copy of 'What is love anyway' which I'd seen in Worcester last year, a book of Talking Cock from 10 years ago and several signatures.

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Public Service Broadcasting 18 May 2013 Birmingham Institute Gig Review

Big TV, will make your eyes go square
Public Service Broadcasting Live in Birmingham: Last year for me was the year of Public Service Broadcasting, being introduced to them through the stunning Spitfire, then on through the other war room tracks, London can take it, checking out older tracks ROYGBIV then Everest and the war room remix ep (with an equally good, if not better version of Spitfire). I was gutted not to be able to see them live in my mega gig year, I think I was out the country when they toured.

As such it was with great enthusiasm I arrived at the little Temple room in the Institute, already rammed with quite an audience of older enthusiasts, I think this must be the typical 6 Music crowd, (6 Music fans keep voting PSB as rebel playlist winners) so I felt pretty much at home.

The support were on when I arrived, the unpronounceable XTXGXWXSXCX (The Grafham Water Sailing Club) a local band who made a good sound the 4 members stood round a table in the middle effectively, or that's what it looked like! But overall a good 'wall of sound type band'. Worth a listen on their sound cloud here

Then the covers came off quite literally, banks of TV's appeared looking like a scene from Max Headroom. All showing static, with a giant TV at the back, not beautiful flat screen TV's but old school wood surround. Minutes to go and on came the testcard. Then on walked the 3 members of Public Service Broadcasting, not a word was said, except a 'Hello' from the computer, and a cheery wave from the bow tie sporting Willgoose.

First track, inform, educate, entertain got us prepared for what the gig would be like, Guitar, Driving Drums, TV's showing cracking visuals plucked from Black & White movies / educational films and keyboards. The films taking centre stage, the band stepping back into the shadows, happy not to be focussed on by anyone, looking appropriately Geek Chic in their ties / bow ties and thick black rimmed specs.

It takes a little while to get used to not having any vocals, just being replaced by the narratives from the films, even between the songs there aren't any vocals, there are comments from the computer 'thanks' after the applause from the first song. It is very different to what you normally expect to hear, a sound tracked evening on National Geographic perhaps. This is though not a complaint, smile on face throughout.

The other aspect that jumps out differently to every other gig is the humour that is used by the interspersed Computer voice between tracks. For a particular favourite, we got
It's great to be here in......(press other button) ...Birmingham, then, We always wanted to play here in......Birmingham. They are definitely a band that doesn't take themselves too seriously, which is a good thing. Another example I thought of this was "Night Mail" which started with recurring pictures of train tracks and train wheels, a stirring beat, which could have continued in a serious manner being a Kraftwerkesque tune, but it wasn't to be, as the narrative from WH Auden Poem is interspersed, again bringing a wry smile as it states.

This is the Night Mail crossing the border,
Bringing the cheque and the postal order,
Letters for the rich, letters for the poor,
The shop at the corner and the girl next door.

Two thirds of the way through and the highlight for me, Spitfire gets a run through, for me the ideal choice for the end of the gig or encore, but it wasn't placed there. It was epic as I had hoped it would be, the audience Euphoric in their response to the song, the footage looking amazing with the Spitfires swooping all over the screen.

The computer announces the last song after an hours set, ROYGBIV another excellent tune and they walked off stage right, the computer requested the opportunity to intro the band (it shouldn't take long) and band introduced as Drums, Visuals (first time I have had a band with a Visuals person) and Everything Else.

Encore back on, and the other Epic tune Everest. Uplifting sums it up best for me. Then the end of the gig, Vinyl purchased (copy of the War room EP finally acquired) and home by 10:30.

So in overall terms, the PSB guys did not disappoint, every song is entertaining at least, not something you can say for many bands, no checking of facebook or twitter required for album filler tracks. I would recommend them to anyone, they had thought through their set, didn't take themselves too seriously and played some belters.

Reflecting on the songs though, it's interesting to consider whether they have anywhere they can go now with this mode of music as it may be that they are a one trick pony, providing an excellent artefact that people will hear in 10 years time and try to remember their names.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Eric Clapton Gig Review Birmingham13 May 2013

When I get the chance to see a legend play music, then I don't say no, that was the key reason I went to see Black Sabbath, not a huge Sabs fan, but a Midlands legend, stars on the Broad Street walk of fame and everything, which I reviewed here.

So the opportunity with work to see Eric Clapton was too good to miss. I had heard really interesting stories in the documentary about George Harrison Living in the Material World not least because of the stealing of George Harrisons wife the subject of the song Wonderful Tonight.

Settling in to my seat for the 2 hour set, I was hopeful of a real show, this was Eric's final tour (possibly) and he was celebrating 50 years since a young Eric kicked off his career in the Yardbirds. He had promised a selection of his more commercial hits, where could he go wrong.

Kicking off with some a couple of acoustic numbers, big screens focussed on the perfection of Eric's fingers flying around the fretboard making the guitar sing and squeal. Onto a few electric numbers and I found my mind wandering, the end of each song coming, I appreciated the perfection of the playing, the interaction of the band, but was left cold by the lack of atmosphere. Not sure which of the factors left me cold, the seated reverent audience, you could hear a pin drop in between songs. in between songs it was quiet because there was not a word from Eric, just into the next song. I think this was a shame, the opportunity to give a little bit to the audience about what the songs meant to him, where they came from, anything really the audience would have lapped up. Also for the songs that I didn't know, I didn't feel anything more than listening a song on the radio, it felt like there was no passion, energy, vitality or emotion. 

The audience though enjoyed the show (reverentially), with the focus of big screens sticking on hands, but it picked up massively for me when the songs I knew appeared. I can't believe how much The cod reggae of I shot the sheriff changed my enjoyment, as I was able to anticipate hum, clap and feel a bit more. This was felt even more so by Lay Down Sally. Best bit - the opening riff of layla, worst bit of the gig the realisation that Layla would be played out in a slow hand clap manner.

Wonderful tonight was my highlight, an incredibly beautiful song and knowing the background to it brought it to life. The Blues tracks were great but just made me think of the passion that jumped out of the Memphis Blues players I had seen when I did the driving tour a few years ago, and the need to watch the Blues Brothers with my kids.

So in overview, glad I was there to see it, can appreciate the excellent skills of a Guitar Genius, but give me a small venue where you can see the rawness and passion of the band playing the music. Compare the beauty of these songs to John Grant from Thursday - and I'm heading to the institute every time.

Non music related though - the Amplify food at the NEC was SUPERB

Setlist from the ever excellent Setlist website:

  1. Acoustic
  2. Electric
  3. (Albert Collins cover)
  4. (Harold Arlen cover) (Paul Carrack on lead vocals)
  5. (Taj Mahal cover)
  6. Acoustic
  7. (Robert Johnson cover)
  8. (Paul Carrack cover) (Paul Carrack on lead vocals)
  9. Electric
  10. (Cream song)
  11. (Robert Johnson cover)
  12. (Robert Johnson cover)
  13. (Robert Johnson cover)
  14. (J.J. Cale cover)
  15. Encore:
  16. (Joe Cocker cover) (Paul Carrack on lead vocals)