Monthly Archive: October 2011

Erasure + Frankmusik @ Wolverhampton Civic, 23rd October 2011

Another day, another review, again for Birmingham Live!  You can see the full review on their site here.

Unfortunately we couldn’t get any pictures at the gig, even though Ken Harrisoncame along –  complications beyond our control with the Photo Pass.

Once upon a time there was a guy, who formed in a band that went on to have stratospheric success. But he left after the first album. Then he formed a duet with a truly unique blues singer, huge success. Two years, two albums later, it was over. Then another act, with a former Undertone, and yet another hit. Moving on. He placed an advert in the Melody Maker and came across an unknown singer. With a pretty good voice. This time it lasted, over twenty five years later, tonight we’re here in Wolves to see Erasure.

Vince Clarke founded Depeche Mode, formed Yazoo with Alison Moyet, and then briefly formed The Assembly featuring Feargal Sharkey on vocals. In the early 80s, he was a song writing phenomena, the man with the golden touch.  In ‘85 he formed Erasure with Andy Bell, and after a slow start with the ‘Wonderland’ album, the hits began to flow with the platinum selling follow-up ‘The Circus.’ Between ‘86 and ‘97, Erasure had no fewer than 24 Top 20 hits. And they haven’t gone away – issuing new albums every couple of years since. This summer they’ve played festivals, including The Forestry Commission’s annual concerts series in the UK, followed up by this world tour promoting new album ‘Tomorrow’s World.’ They’re busy boys.

Support tonight comes from Croydon-born Vincent Frank, tonight on stage asFrankmusik. Originally starting out as a beatboxer, he is now very much commercial electropop. A talented lad, he’s done remixes for the Pet Shop Boys, Lady Gaga, Mika and CSS, and in his own right as Frankmusik he made it onto the BBC Longlist for Sound of 2009, supported Keane and the Pet Shop Boys on tour, and has gained chart success. He’s also produced Erasure’s new album, probably the reason he’s supporting them tonight. Good vocals, good-looking lad, more commercial success surely isn’t far away.

Tonight’s stage looks like an offshoot of Gotham city. Gargoyles and metals towers adorn the stage with a huge circular backdrop. On come Erasure, to a great response and applause from a packed Civic Hall – Bell in glittered jacket and feather headress, with two backing singers, and Clarke, his synths hidden behind another winged gargoyle, the lighting such on the first song he looks like he’s Batman – his head poking above the ‘suit’.  Starting off with ‘Sono Luminus’ they then follow up with the first of a series of hits they play tonight – ‘Always’, during which Bell flashes a sneaky peek of his shoulder, to which the crowd respond. Bell’s voice is still great with wide vocal range hitting high notes whilst belting it out, just when he needs to.

The set features a smattering of songs from the new album, third song and current single ‘When I Start To (Break It All Down)’ has great harmonization. The jacket off, Bell is chatty and jokey  “…. found a sequin in me crap….!”

‘Blue Savannah’ shows Bell’s true falsetto range. Then to ‘Drama!’ and ‘ Breathe of Life’ during which an overly warm Bell is untied from his corset, on stage, to be replaced by an armless Devo t-shirt, much to the entertainment of the audience.

And then we wave our arms in the air for the sing-along lullaby that is ‘Ship of Fools’, followed by ‘Chorus’ which aptly has a chorus just made to dance to with appropriate hand gestures - “….covered up the sun, ‘til the birds have gone away, and the fishes in the sea, have gone to sleep…..”  

Clarke ventures out from behind the synths for a couple of tracks, guitar in hand. One of their best songs tonight is their classic spurned love song – Erasure’s take on ‘I Will Survive’ –  ‘I Love to Hate You’ which has a rising melody that Bell truly belts out. Then to a couple of new tracks – ‘I Lose Myself’ has a musical composition, which live, is reminiscent of a cross between New Order and The Cure’s ‘The Walk’. And then main set concludes on two more classic hits – ‘Sometimes’ and ‘A Little Respect.’

Back on for an encore of just two songs, but yet more hits. The first is definitely a moment of Name That Tune In One – “Oh L‘Amour’ to which the already bouncy crowd bounce more and clap along. Then tonight is completed tonight with synth crescendo and starting line “We’ll be together again….” – ‘Stop!”

Erasure live are a great celebration – live, their sound has far more bass, far more range than on ‘vinyl’. Clarke has written phenomenal pop songs, which you just find yourself singing along to. And the new album contains tracks as good as any past hits. Bell’s voice is a real delight and continues to have far more vocal range than you would expect. There’s something shy about them live, but they want to entertain you and show you their great pop songs. They’ve not succumbed to the passage of time – there is something still current – you will dance, you will bounce, you will realize just how many songs you can sing along to. And you will smile. They’re not the cheapest act out there tonight’s tickets were £34 on the door, but it was a ‘happy’ feel-good gig, great crowd and a really pleasant and enjoyable night out. Go and see – ‘cos you will not be disappointed at all.  Respect.

*******

Setlist

1. Sono Luminus
2. Always
3. When I Start To (Break It All Down)
4. Blue Savannah
5. Fill Us With Fire
6. Breathe of Life
7. Drama!
8. Be with you
9. Ship of Fools
10. Chorus
11. Breathe
12. Victim of Love
13. Alien (Acoustic)
14. Love to Hate You
15. I Lose Myself
16. A Whole Lotta Love Run Riot
17. Breath Of Life
18. Chains of Love
19. Sometimes
20. A Little Respect

Encore:
21. Oh L’Amour
22. Stop

*******
Listening:
Frankmusik   

Complete Me (2009)
Do it in the Am (2011)

Listening:

Erasure   

The Circus (1987)
Total Pop! The First 40 Hits (2009)
Tomorrow’s World (2011)
*******

 

Steve Jobs RIP

I grew up ‘arty’. I could draw. I was always going to art college. My life was always going to  take this route. There was never any question. 1984 brought us the release of the MacIntosh computer. The advert is iconic. I didn’t know at the time, just what impact it would make on my career.

I trained on manually creating design for print. I’ll give an example. Just to draw an accurate square box for print. Take a piece of graphic blue gridded (blue didn’t pick up on reprographic plate cameras) art paper. Take a technical pen with a defined pen nib width, with sold thick black ink. Take a ruler. Draw a line, holding the pen at the right angle – hoping the ink didn’t smudge under the ruler. Try and get the lines to meet accurately, making sure the line is dead straight and the same width. Take a look – to clear the smudge and make the corners tight – take a scapel (yes one of those things used in surgery) and scrape the marks away. All this just for a simple box.That’s an hour gone. At least.

If you needed a typeface beyond the standard of professional typesetters – that would be rubbed off a Letraset sheet. And you hoped it would ‘fix’ onto the art paper.

To visualise a page layout – take multi-colors marker pens – and do it all by hand.

In 1987 / 1988 a tiny beige unit appeared in the office. Just one. With a black and white screen. It could create text – perfectly. It drew an accurate box in a second.

The Mac didn’t give us the software to do this – Aldus, Adobe, Quark did that. It gave us the platform to be able to do this. Easily. And for every poster, leaflet, magazine, newspaper banner you will see today – it is the Mac that gives us the capability to create easily. I used PCs. It was a nightmare. Then I used Macs. And it gave me the ability to make things happen. The Mac is fundamental in truly changing the creative media industry – and for many years it was the main area that Apple ruled. They continue to rule it today.

Over the past decade, Apple have made us ‘Think Differently’ beyond just the creative world. The iPod took digital music to a different level – vinyl, CD and tape, firmly confined to the bin. Log on. Buy online.

The iMac – brought back the single unit computer, get it out of the box, plug it in and it worked. Today’s iMacs you have the power to edit films on.  Remarkable. At one stage you could only operate one piece of software at a time – design a layout in Quark, close it down, edit a photo in Photoshop, close it down, re-open Quark to insert said photo, close it down, create an icon in Illustrator, close it down, open up Quark insert said icon. And that was using a high end desktop Mac (now defined as their range as a MacPro).

Right now I using an iMac – I’m typing this up, I’m streaming the news via Firefox, Twitter is running, I’m charging my phone, linked to iTunes, and have at least 6 other pieces of software up running and open. And it’s all easily and beautifully done, so much so, we don’t even think about it now.

The iPad is still new. It’s still shiny. It still has a way to go. We wait for Apple to show us where it can go next.

The iPhone. Apple made computers. Not phones. But the iPhone revolutionised the mobile phone industry, it gave us the App Store – it gave us the ability to have an App that would navigate us through the London tube in real time. Ability to transfer files easily via Dropbox.

And Apple took on retail. Until the roll out of Apple stores, if your Mac went down it was shipped back to Holland. Via an Irish Call Centre. Mac Stores gave us the opportunity to go and play – get hands on. To experience. If your iPhone has a problem – just take it back to an Apple Store. 99% of the time – no questions asked – here –  have a new one. They make it easy. For you who have been into an Apple Store or brought a product online, the experience blows most other retail companies away, in ease, usability, navigation and just, experience.

I’m not a groupie – though many would say I am. I have an iMac, and iPod, an iPhone, an iPad. Which all work beautifully. Together. Having used Mac for over 20 years – I know how  Apple operate, not everything works first time, worth waiting for second, third generation before jumping, not every upgrade is really worth it. Apple haven’t always got it right, and while they may be one of the biggest companies in the world right now, they have at times, really struggled to survive.

Steve Jobs had the drive, the vision, the unique ability to change the world that surrounds us. He took elements, be it of hardware or software or concepts, and built and supplied products that changed the way the world operates. He opened the market, drove his competitors to compete, giving us ultimately a far better choice.

He gave us customer experience – not telling us that’s what you get – learn and deal with it – but thought about how we engage, that infective child-like enthusiasm for how things work, not only raising expectations, but giving us the potential of new and unique horizons, the ability to join the dots, without a 500 page manual, or a long list of the reasons it couldn’t be done.

And beyond this – he backed Pixar. Who gave us Toy Story. And took digital technology in film making ‘to infinity and beyond.’

He thought differently. He’s made the world think, then operate differently. He made customer experience central. He made beautiful design and functionality as important as any product concept. A true pied piper with a vision to match.
As a creative person I get this. I love the fact that he loved the detail in design and that he made sure Apple delivered it. On every level.

Steve Jobs. A true legend in my lifetime.

stevejobs_apple_6oct11

Listen to this Standford Speech from 2005. A fine, and moving, moment.

Terrorvision + The Breakdowns @ Wolverhampton Slade Rooms, 2nd October 2011

Another review for Birmingham Live. With thanks to Beki Barret and John Bentley! They know why!

Full post due soon on Live with Pics, once again by John Bentley!

Well here we are in an Indian Summer. Hottest October day on record. So just the day to go to an intimate, excruciatingly hot, gig in a small bar venue in Wolves. Welcome to the Slade Rooms. Welcome to the band that made indie rock and roll just great fun with some great pop songs and just great downright straight ‘come and party with us lot” gigs. Welcome everyone ‘cos, with new album in tow, tonightTerrorvision are in town.

Support tonight comes from The Breakdowns as they travel across the UK with the Bradford boys. Coming on stage a tad early to a half filled hall, they are well received with their up-tempo new wave catchy-sounding rock. Lead singer adorned with Keith Richard-style headband, guitar player dressed and moving like he had walked straight out of The Ramones, but playing guitar licks that were very Chuck Berry. Clearly inspired by a variety of influences, according to their website – they’re doing ‘True to your School’ rock n’ roll baby!  With an album available ‘The Kids Don’t Wanna Bop Any More’ – well worth a listen.

Terrorvision bounced onto the scene in the early nineties, a mismatch amalgamation of art school buddies Mark Yates and Leigh Marklew, drumming loon Shutty and long-haired urchin Tony Wright. After the release of ‘Formaldehyde’ in ’91, they started gigging endlessly, including opening ‘up-north’ local heroes Def Leppard’s homecoming Sheffield Don Valley Gig to 40,000 people, while the previous night playing to just 100, at an impromptu gig at a local pub. ‘93s ‘How to Make Friends and Influence People’ spawned five top 30 hits, and remains an incredibly infectious listen. Two further classic albums, plus festival and regular touring made them THE fun, alternative band to see, still occasionally shipping out the classic indie pop chart-making ditty.

By 2001, after a decade of raucous misbehaviour, they decided to wrap it up. But you just can’t keep a good band down, they reformed in ‘05, then in ’07, then every year since. ‘08 brought the ‘How to Make Friends and Influence People’ ‘in its entirety’ tour, which totally sold out.  Drummer Shutty has once again called it a day, so joining the original members is Cam Greenwood. Oh and look out, they’ve release a brand new shiny album: ‘Super Delux.’

On they come, opening their set with ‘Neighbourhood’ complete with flashing blue lights and sirens – “somebody call the cops”- a track from their new album. By third track in, ‘D’ya Wanna Go Faster’, the crowd is in full-on bounce mode. “‘Ello”, says affable and chatty frontman Tony Wright. “This one starts with lotsa people clappin’ in Wolver’ampton.” And we’re into ‘American TV’. And on they go, good times indie rock n’ roll. ‘Babylon’, another track from the new album … “which you can buy on the internet.” Tonight’s version of ‘Tequila’ has a bluesy feel followed by “We’re not gonna tell you what this song is, we’re gonna just sing it in a Las Vegas style – where it starts and you just come in”  –  ‘Discotheque Wreck’ – during which Wright goes slightly rock n’ roll opening a beer over the crowd before downing the lot.

Lots of tracks from the new album, smattered with the old. “First song off our new album – first in ten years. People should hear these songs. Come to live music venues and support rock and roll. It starts with a big cheer in the Slade rooms.” Which of course, was followed by massive cheer from the crowd.  A more chilled moment – ‘Bad Actress’  – “This is one for all of you that ‘av still got a lighter or those of you have an application that serves as a lighter. … It’s a bit of a ballad.” ‘Pushover’ – “This is our new single. I think this is how you have a single these days. Make a video stick it on YouTube and go out and play it live to everybody. Now … dance as if you’ve heard it every day for the last year.” “I think this is the 12 inch version of it as well….” he jokes as the intro is extended then stops and restarts.

And then we’re back into the old days – ‘Oblivion’ –  part way through “put your hands in the air” and the audience willingly oblige, wave their arms back and forth and join in the moment. “I have these things in my ears to hear myself sing, but I took ‘em out ‘cos I prefer listening to you lot cheering” grins Wright.  For ‘Don’t Shoot the Dog’, a quirky anecdote – “This was originally a Christmas song called ‘Don’t Shoot My Reindeer’ but it came out in March! Let’s do one of them campaigns: Get Terrorvision to Christmas No 1 in March!”  And we’re still going –  ‘Middleman’, ‘Josephine’ and set completed by a very smily Wright singing ‘Perseverance.’

Off and back on again to the ubiquitous ‘Alice What’s the Matter?’, sound turned up and crowd getting louder and louder, everyone singing and into it by now. Wright applauds the crowd. ‘Pretend Best Friend’ and it’s over, the band link arms over their shoulders in a line at the front of the stage and gave a final bow to Elvis’ ‘Wonder of you.’

Terrorvison are just great fun. They are indeed, one of the few nineties bands, where it is a pleasure to see ‘em back on stage, back with a new album. Back just enjoying themselves, for the pleasure of everyone there tonight – well worth the price of a ticket (just 15 nicker boys and girls) and an uplifting night out. New and up and coming bands can learn a lot from em – maybe they could write a book: “How to be yourself and entertain everyone in bucket loads and have fun at the same time.”

Yeah, at times it was a bit like being thrown back into the mid-nineties. But their songs stand the test of time really well, and their new stuff is very much in the same vein. So if you want a break from the financial misery and you want to let your hair down, and have fun, go and play with Terrorvision. It’s an open party.

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

Setlist:

1. Neighbourhood

2. My House

3. D’ya Wanna Go Faster

4. American TV

5. Celebrity Hitlist

6. Babylon

7, Still the Rhythm

8. Tequila

9. Discotheque Wreck

10. Rock Radio

11. Demolition Song

12. What Makes You Tick

13. If I Was You

14. Bad Actress

15. Shiny Things

16. Friends & Family

17. Pushover

18. Oblivion

19. Don’t Shoot the Dog

20. Middleman

21. Josephine

22. Perseverance

Encore:

23. Alice What’s The Matter?

24. Pretend Best Friend

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

Terrorvision:

Web: www.terrorvision.com

Listening:

‘How to make friends and influence people’(1993)

‘Whales and Dolphins (The Best of Terrorvision)’ (2009)

‘Super Delux’ (2011)

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

The Breakdowns

Web: www.thebreakdowns.co.uk

Listening:

Listening: ‘The Kids Don’t Wanna Bop Any More’ (2011).