Monthly Archive: February 2011

Joan as a Policewoman + James Vincent McMorrow @ Birmingham Glee Club, 7th February 2011

Review for Birmingham Live! Photographer Ken Harrison.

Tonight it’s a small and intimate gig to see Joan Wasser AKA Joan as a Policewoman at Birmingham Glee Club.  I receive a very warm (missing you already) welcome as I arrive and another really pleasant and helpful person upstairs to show me where the free seats are (they’ve turned the light down earlier – it’s pretty dark in here and warm and cosy!). Brownie points on the old ‘customer care’ to The Glee! The audience tonight is seated and polite – it’s nearly sold out, and unlike other reviews I’ve seen, there wasn’t any talking over the support or the main act.

Support tonight is in the form of new talent converted-rocker-now-folk-singer /songwriter Irishman James Vincent McMorrow. Currently doing a mini tour of the UK (he’d played the Barbican the night before, Manchester following this gig) ahead of the release of his debut album, ‘Early In The Morning’. When he speaks his voice is tiny. Singing, he has a high, soulful voice, quite pretty, just him and an acoustic guitar.  He is deep and introspective – his songs cover  “the darker, less spoken about aspects of life, solitude and disillusionment…” If you feel like a reflection on life, he’ll be back at the Glee on Friday 4th March 2011.

Quick catchup with tonight’s Bum Live photographer Ken Harrison, then it’s down to the main act – New York’s Joan as a Police Woman. She arrives on the stage in a silver, bowie-trousered catsuit (first time she’s worn it to play live; later in the set she’s concerned it may come off!) joined by keyboardist Tyler and Barker on drums.

This set is to showcase her new album ‘The Deep Field’, an eclectic mix of tracks. Since assuming her Joan as a Police Woman moniker in 2002 (a reference to the 70’s cop show) Joan has toured and collaborated with Rufus Wainwright, Anthony and the Johnsons, Lou Reed, Sheryl Crow, Sparklehorse, Dave Gahan, Elton John and the Scissor Sisters. You can see where she has been inspired and where she has inspired them.

“The Action Man’ is quite bluesy, “The Magic” akin to the Scissor Sisters. She swaps between keyboards and guitar and as a three-piece, the band can certainly get on down and boogie and jam.

“Hard White Wall” from her previous album is made up of melodic swirls. “Flash” starts off sounding similar to Hazel O’Connors “Will You?” winding up as it goes along. Tyler and Barker “sing like angels” – complimenting her in a tight and professional performance. “This” she says, “ is our sixth show, sixth time live. Though we’ve obviously rehearsed.” She’s pleasantly happy to chat between songs and clearly likes playing Birmingham’s Glee.

She tells the tale of how she was on Radio about to perform the intimate and truly personal song “Forever and a Year” live. Asked by the DJ, how she could perform such an intimate song live without getting upset, she shrugged it of, denying any problem, only to blart halfway through. “Told you so” came the DJ. “Dick.” And it is indeed a powerful ballad.

Joan as a Police Woman is a recipe of a snippet of Scissor Sisters with a dash of Sgt Pepper’s Beatles, Patti Smith, Joni Mitchell, a sprinkling of Dylan, dusted with Anthony & the Johnsons. She’s pretty unique and is good fun. An engaging hour and a half set, in a friendly and intimate environment. I suspect she’ll be back at the Glee soon – well worth a night out for less than £15.

Set list included:  The Action Man, The Magic, Chemmie, Hard White Wall, Run for Love, Flash, Forever and a Year.

*********************

Listening:

James Vincent McMorrow 

Early In the Morning (due for release 7 March 2011)

www.jamesvmcmorrow.com

Joan as A Police Woman 

Real Life (2006)

To Survive (2008)

Cover (2009)

The Deep Field (2011)

 

Skunk Anansie @ Birmingham 02 Academy, 4th February 2011

For Fused Magazine with fab photographer Katja Orgin.

Entering the O2 Academy tonight it’s warm and a tad smelly – reminiscent of the old venue at Dale End. Joining a reasonably packed and truly mixed crowd including students, rockers and punks of a wide age range, we’re here to see the rescheduled Skunk Anansie gig postponed from late year. An early evening performance, SA are due on at 8pm with curfew by 10pm.

Merging beautiful soulful vocals and indie in-your-face aggression, front woman Skin is no doubt is one of the most striking lead singers in rock, in a world where few women can carry off. I have to say, I’m not a massive fan of female rock vocalists as they invariably can’t give it the welly rock tracks need, but Skin is the true exception to rule.

Formed in London in ‘94 (named after the West African folk tale of Anansi the spider-man) SA split in 2001, only to reform in 2009 to re-issue a greatest hits album and record new tracks and new album ‘Wonderlustre’ in 2010.  This sees the four original members Skin, Cass, Ace and Mark back together…

Skin is a striking figure when she appears on stage, shaven headed, in skin- tight leather and garbed in a massive black feather collar, giving it in-your- face aggression to ‘ Yes It’s Fucking Political’. Live they are far heavier than they are on record.

When she speaks, she has a tiny voice – you wouldn’t think she had it in her. Yet during ‘Weak’ she climbs into middle of the audience, literally standing on the shoulders of two “very, big strong Birmingham Boys”, arms aloft. And once again, during ‘Every Day Hurts A Little More’ she participates in more crowd surfing – she has more balls than most male rock lead singers.  As the gig goes on it gets louder and louder til the drums and bass make your ears bleed and unfortunately begin to drown out her vocals. Skin is still leaping around, telling everyone to “Jump! Jump! Jump!” along to new track ‘Tear The Place Up’.

Off for a break, and back on for the encore, the crowd sing-a-long-a-chorus ‘Hedonism (Just Because You Feel Good)’, before their new single and an older classic track. An hour and a half set, full of energy.

Tonight’s set is a mixture of SA classics and new tracks, a mixture of soulful ballads, indie anthems and drum and bass. In some ways, this is what makes SA a dichotomy. They had a lot success in the 90s, three great studio albums that spent a record breaking 141 weeks in both the album and singles charts – making them, surprisingly, one of the most successful chart acts in the UK. If they hadn’t split and took their indie venom and drum and bass mixture, they could have done achieved what bands such as The Prodigy achieved. And then there was the true commercialism of ‘Hedonism’ that took them to the masses. Either way, splitting and reforming nearly a decade later leaves them playing to less than 2,000 for £20 per ticket.

Worth seeing? Expect energy, expect in-your-face aggression, expect great vocals, expect great playing from the other SA members. The new stuff isn’t as good as their older stuff, but if you feeling like bouncing your socks off whilst watching one of the most unusual and dynamic singers out there – well worth a punt.

******************

Set list:

1. Yes It’s Fucking Political

2. Charlie Big Potato

3. Because Of You

4. God Only Loves You

5.  100 Ways to be a Good Girl

6. Talk Too Much

7. Over The Love

8. I Can Dream

9. My Ugly Boy

10. The Sweetest Thing

11.Weak

12. Brazen (Weep)

13. My Love Will Fall

14. Twisted

15. On My Hotel TV

16. Tear The Place Up

17. The Skank Heads

 

Encore included Hedonism (Just Because You Feel Good) and new single You Saved Me

******************

Listening:

Paranoid & Sunburnt (1995)

Stoosh (1996)

Post Orgasmic Chill (1999)

Wonderlustre (2010)

The Waterboys @ Warwicks Arts Centre, Butterworth Hall, February 2nd 2011

And so to see a rare outing of The Waterboys at Warwick Arts Cente’s Butterworth Hall.

Now if you thought you were going to get a set of Waterboys classics you’d be wrong.  Tonight we have “An Appointment with Mr. Yeats.” This set, in its entirety, sees Mike Scott’s passion for Irish poet W.B. Yeates (1865-1939) merged with the music of The Waterboys in, we are told, a truly unique and ambitious musical undertaking.

According to their website, Scott described the arrangements as being “psychedelic, intense, kaleidoscopic, a mix of rock, folk and faery music…”  This should be interesting as it is a set of UNRECORDED ENTIRELY UNKNOWN songs – Scott: “I appreciate you all paying to see us play songs you’ve never heard…”

Scott formed The Waterboys in ‘83, with keyboardist Karl Wallinger (notable for going on to form World Party) and saxophonist Anthony Thistlewaite (who subsequently went onto perform with the Saw Doctors, Psychedelic Furs, Fairground Attraction and The Mission amongst others).  Wallinger and Thistlewaite both left, Scott dropped The Waterboys name, went solo, only to re-incarnate it again around 2000.

Over the years, over fifty different musicians have performed live as a Waterboy including Eddi Reader and Guy Chambers. Tonight’s line-up of an incredibly talented ten musicians features an eclectic mix including Irish fiddle maestro Steve Wickham, Irish singer Kate Kim, Dublin singer-songwriter Joe Chester Flook, flautist Sarah Allen and Catalan trombonist Blaise Margail.

Scott first wrote a musical accompaniment for Yeates’ classic poem “The Stolen Child”, during the making of  ‘Fisherman’s Blues’. Five years later he set another Yeats poem to music, “Love and Death”, which appeared on their ‘Dream Harder’ album.

Scott is truly talented. He still has the distinctive voice, tousled hair and tonight is dressed in stripped trousers and leather jacket.  Songs cover twenty years of Yeats’ poems, spanning both famous and lesser known works, from the wry to the romantic, the political to the mythological. The musical interpretation is as equally varied – from classic Waterboys ‘big sound’ to traditional folk and Irish melodies, with band members appearing and disappearing on and off stage as required.

The cracked nursery rhyme about Jack & Jill “Full Moon in March” has overtones of Clannad in the harmonies, while ‘Sweet Dancer’ with fiddle accompaniment is quite commercial.  “White birds”, based on a love poem, is traditional folk with rising classic Waterboys crescendo featuring a clever bird sound from the fiddler, making you feel just like you were by the sea.

Then the blues and onto 70’s prog rock, complete with mystic face masks, spoken word segments and a battle between the trombonist and the fiddler.

I should point out we had a heckler, who clearly didn’t know what this gig was all about. Shouting the odd comment, slow clapping, in what was a very refined seated audience environment. Increasingly annoying and after retorts from audience members to shut up, Scott responded: “I remember when I had my first drink too. Oh deary, deary me….” A couple of songs later the heckler left… “I’m off home ‘cos you’re rubbish” – the audience applauded – he’d missed the entire point of tonight’s gig.

Scott said his interpretations allowed him to use one poem in a song, or two, or elements of different poems.  “Yeates” as he said, “wasn’t around to argue.” “Let The Earth Bear Witness”(available on You Tube) is a striking song made up in such a way, with a video accompaniment of Iranian protests, the ‘Sea of Green’, from 2005. Quite poignant, given the current protests across the middle east.

The last song “The Faeries” ended with each member finishing their piece and standing at the front of the stage.  To a standing ovation from the audience.

And then to the encore and to say thank you, Scott gave us three classics – the haunting “The Stolen Child” (based on the Yeates poem, from ‘Fisherman’s Blues’), the epic “Don’t Bang the Drum” (from ‘This is the Sea’) completing with the iconic hit “Whole of the Moon.” The later could be seen as a cop out but think of the mystical lyrics – it was accompanied with archive footage of Yeates himself. Scott: “Thank you WB Yeates.”

Then a promise to return in the Autumn… “when we’ve recorded all this stuff.”  If you return to the Midlands go to the Symphony Hall – your musical talent will be given far more justice.

You could say tonight’s set was self-indulgent. Few established bands come out and play a set of entirely new and unrecorded songs these days. But then again, many less talented 80s bands are out on greatest hits tours as part of the nostalgia cash in.  And it would have been easy for Scott to roll out The Waterboys and do the same.

I would say this was brave, this was different – almost classical, almost concept ‘album’, part art installation, certainly a performance – Scott has a very focussed, intense view on his masterpiece and him and the band clearly enjoyed tonight’s gig.

This was one a handful of UK dates following some Irish dates. If you are a Waterboys fan and are prepared to see them play entirely unknown songs and know what you are in for, they are indeed worth seeing. But be warned some elements are a little beyond what to what you may be used to from traditional Waterboys and tickets also could be seen to be a tad pricey side at £30.

Once recorded, the tracks from “An Appointment with Mr Yeates” are certainly worth a listen. Go to their website and You Tube to take a peek at what it’s all about. Listen, see if you like what you hear, go and see.

************************

Listening: 

“An Appointment with Mr. Yeats” is planned for recording later this year.

You can also hear tracks, songs and mashups from Mike Scott’s home studio on Soundcloud via http://www.mikescottwaterboys.com/

“Let the Earth Bear Witness” Mike Scott, available on You Tube 

************************

Classic Waterboys listening:

The Waterboys (1983)

A Pagan Place (1984)

This is The Sea (1985)

Fishermans Blues (1988)

» Newer posts