Monthly Archive: December 2011

Marillion + Tin Spirits @ HMV Institute, Birmingham, 13th December 2011

Review for Birmingham Live! Pictures: Ken Harrison.

Tonight, out in a bitterly cold Birmingham, we should be in for a festive treat. In the lovely HMV Institute with a band who refuses to go away and have created their very own special independent path – Marillion as part of their handful of UK dates for their Christmas Tour 2011.

Support tonight comes from Tin Spirits, featuring former XTC guitarist Dave Gregory, who has also worked with Marillion’s Hogarth in his H-band. The set is eclectic bluesy prog rock and ends with XTC song ‘Senses Working Overtime.’ One of those moments, when you smile with nostalgia, the intro reminding you of times gone by.  A friendly fan walks past and says “You liked that didn’t you…. you was singing along…”

Marillion’s career is in two parts. Formed in ’79, Marillion with the big character that was Fish on vocals, they gained cult like success with their prog rock Peter Gabriel / Genesis inspired ‘Script for a Jester’s Tear’ and follow up ‘Fugazi’.  Next up ‘Misplaced Childhood’ sold in bucket loads and contained the massive single ‘Kayleigh’ which spawned a generation of children named after it. By ’88 Fish chose to go a separate way; at a time when the loss of the vocalist, could mean the end of a band. But that wasn’t going to be the end of Marillion. Steve Hogarth took over vocal duties, joining members Steve Rothey (lead guitar), Mark Kelly (keyboards), Pete Trewavas (bass) and Ian Mosely (drums) and twenty odd years on – part two are very successfully still going. This ‘new’ Marillion took a more independent rock sound, whilst taking the net revolution and interaction with their loyal fan base to the next level, years before other bands even thought of it. They pulled away from record labels and managers and crowd sourced funds to allow them to record and issue albums via their website, whilst regularly gigging. Tonight is their Christmas Party – a festive celebration for their fans…..

I ask an avid fan what they will be like tonight – “Absolutely fab” comes the reply, before they even come on. And so to a big cheer, spotlights circling the crowd, flashing red lights reflecting and dancing across the set backdrop; the crowd start double clapping and on comes Hogarth, followed by each member of the band. Set starts of with ‘Splintering Heart’ with full iconic Marillion sound. Hogarth plays a ‘cricket bat’ with sampler / keyboard embedded. He’s is truly charismatic, very engaging with the fans, his voice strong, totally complimenting the rest of the band – the days of ‘part one’ Marillion a long distant memory. “Thank you…. alright this is ‘Cover My Eyes.’” The audience clap – the sound in the Institute tonight is great – truly showing Marillion in their true musical rainbow colours.

Hogarth sits to play keyboards – “Oh that’s fucked…. slight technical hitch, that’s up the duff for the moment.…” But totally unfazed they simply switch songs, ‘Somewhere Else’ features a megaphone with a Clannad like swirling melody. Keyboard fixed we’re back on track – ‘Fantastic Place’ with a post song dedication to a fan in the audience. The set rolls on and, within the encore, a Christmas treat for fans, the usual ‘part one’ career song ‘Sugar Mice’ is replaced with that song – ‘Kayleigh.’

Marillion 2011 are a class act – truly professional, truly talented, playing songs listing towards prog rock but with no self-indulgence. They are open and very engaging with their fans – a true family beyond just of that of a band. Tonight there’s no restrictions on photos (quick thanks to Adam here!), no limitations placed on fans or those that review. Their fans are dedicated, some in festive spirit wearing Santa hats, and one woman in reindeer antlers and Christmas lights, and are a friendly bunch – great atmosphere. And a comment should go to the HMV Institute – great venue, fantastic sound system (you can clearly hear throughout the venue). Please get more bands on here. Bands – listen in – this is a great venue – go play here!!!!!

Dedicated fans know just how good Marillion are, and are truly loyal. A confession – I saw them twenty years ago, in their Fishy days and once after. And to see them in full glory, after all this time; tonight it was a joy. For those of you (who like me) may have lost touch, or who haven’t come across them, go and take a peak when they are next around. Musically very impressive, hugely enjoyable, they take you on a fantastic journey; their fans are a great bunch. Go. Enjoy. Support.

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Setlist:

1.Splintering Heart

2. Cover My Eyes

3. King

4. Somewhere Else

5. Fantastic Place

6. You’re Gone

7. Man Of A Thousand Faces

8. This Strange Engine

9. Afraid Of Sunlight

10. Neverland

Encore:

11. The Invisible Man

 

Encore 2:

12. Kayleigh

13. Three Minute Boy

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Listening:

Script For A Jester’s Tear [1983]

Fugazi [1984]

Misplaced Childhood [1985]

Somewhere Else [2007]

Less Is More [2009]

 

The Lemonheads + Meredith Sheldon + Nile Marr @ 02 Academy 2 Birmingham, 10th December 2011

Take yourselves back to ’92, when life, just maybe, was a little more carefree. We have all grown up since then, as part of life’s journey – as have these guys – tonight in a rather chilly Christmassy Birmingham, we’re here to tune into Evan Dando and The Lemonheads, playing ‘It’s A Shame About Ray’ in its entirety. Plus lots more.

‘It’s A Shame About Ray’ morphed The Lemonheads from college rockers to the mainstream, making Dando a gorgeous pin-up for alternative rock. He even gained a spot in Auntie Beeb’s ’97 version of Lou Reed’s ‘Perfect Day.’ Not long after The Lemonheads went into hiatus, until 2004, when they started playing gigs and have continued to do so to this day. This gig, totally sold out, is one of a series of pre-Christmas gigs throughout the UK, although these days the ‘band’ only includes Dando from the original line up, joined by Vess Ruhtenburg, Devon Ashley and Mark Cutsinger.

First up tonight it’s Nile Marr, son of one Johnny Marr.  Trading under the name of Man Made, akin in a sparkly jacket, Marr is a one man band, playing electric guitar to accompany his songs, with gadgets to generate repeat and effects with lots of feedback. A serious young man, the set is pretty intense.

Then we’re onto another one ‘wo’man band, this time in the shape of Meredith Sheldon, again with guitar, playing melodic folk / punk tracks, she too is pretty intense, though pleasant enough to listen too. Few words between songs, the stage is covered with a stupid amount of dry ice (which does nothing for anyone with a cough – like me!) 25 minute set and she’s off and the venue fills, waiting expectantly for the main act.

Just after 8.30 a dark shadow meanders onto the small stage and starts up on his guitar. The darkened silhouette is indeed Evan Dando and starts off tonight’s set with two solos ‘Being Around’ and ‘The Outdoor Type.’ A big cheer goes up from the crowd, and as the rest of the band appear on stage join in, “Okay here we go with the album…” and we’re into ‘It’s A Shame About Ray”.  Fourth track ‘Confetti’ in Dando stops, clearly not happy with how it’s going, to brief boos from the crowd, the band reset and start from the beginning of the track. “Thank you” as they complete it successfully; the crowd cheer.

The album takes you back in time, especially ‘Rudderless’ – a melodic chilling rock that winds to a crescendo – live the album covers harmonies to feel-good college rock, more intense to grungey sound – tonight is Dando having fun, in his serious way.  This set is a time-warp, with a chill out vibe, man. For the last track of the album ‘Frank Mills’ and the band depart and we’re left with just Dando, once again, playing a solo. The crowd cheer; Dando makes an apology for technical problems with his guitar cabinet, as the roadies sort it out.

The into a solo set, starting off with ‘It’s About Time’, the crowd sing along, filling in the words. “….. play whatever you want for the rest of the night…….” Dando has no dedicated set setlist, on stage there is a rough guide more for the band than him, and he does what he feels like, inspired by the crowd to play.

Throughout the gig, behind the band, a video, shot like a old 35mm home movie, with views from the front of a vehicle driving down roads, motorways, through town and cities – looks like the road trip across the UK…..

The solo set continues with a further five songs before the band re-appear, another apology from Dando for the technical difficulties “…. we’ll keep playing now…” and we get the band in full flow on a further ten songs including ‘Big Gay Heart’, ‘Favourite T’ and ‘Stove.’  Curfew is 10pm tonight (weekend at the 02 Academy, it’s an early night) and the gig feels like it will pleasantly roll on and on, as we cruise towards the deadline. And then last track ended, the band and Dando meander off, just like he came on, and it’s over. Bang on 10pm.

Dando is a serious lad, and man of few words outside his lyrics. Tonight’s gig, full of thirty-somethings, was a trancey, folky, grungy, night. Dando is yes, playing his most successful album, but with a set of an eclectic mix of thirty songs, (and no ‘Mrs Robinson’) he’s clearly a man enjoying the solos and jamming with the band, and the fans that came along too play tonight, clearly enjoyed themselves. There have been rumours of a new album for a while, but rumour has it you can shortly re-live on their greatest hits – double CD due for release in 2012. In the meantime, while we wait, tonight was thoroughly entertaining reminder – a good night had by all.

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Listening:

It’s A Shame About Ray (1992)

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Review for Birmingham Live!

 

Twin Atlantic + Dinosaur Pile-Up + Arcane Roots @ O2 Academy 2 Birmingham, Friday 2nd December 2011

It’s a Friday gig at the 02 Academy 2 Birmingham, so it’s an unusually early start to see a bunch of new rock kids on the block. Back after a pretty successful few months, to round of their year, it’s time to bounce along with Twin Atlantic.

First up, Arcane Roots from Kingston, a three piece who play an eclectic mix of vocal melodic rock (think Kings of Leon), screamy grunge plus full on jammin’, man – they are an intriguing mess of genres – difficult to pinpoint. Be interesting to see how these guys develop – and even though it is early (they’re on at stupidly early time of 6.45pm) the venue is near half full, and they go down well.

Next up the cheekily named Dinosaur Pile-Up from Leeds. Allegedly their name came from a scene in the original King Kong where a load of dinosaurs fall down a mountain and end up in a pile – so funny lead singer / guitarist Matt Bigland thought it would be a great name for the band.  Musically, they are clearly inspired by Nirvana and have a great bass rhythmical beat going on.  The drum kit takes up most of the tiny stage, how they find the space to move beats me. As the crowd begins to fill the venue, they too, go down well, and get the crowd clapping along. Another young band of talented individuals who will also be interesting watch where their musical journey takes them.

So bang on 8.30pm, on to a blue-lit moody set, come Twin Atlantic, to a huge scream from the crowd. I saw them at the Academy 3 earlier in this year, playing to a maximum of couple of hundred fans; tonight they’re playing the Academy 2, capable of holding up to 600 fans,  and this gig is pretty much sold out.

Formed in ’07, Glaswegians Sam McTrusty (vocals and guitar) Barry McKenna (guitar), Ross McNae (bass) & Craig Kneel (drums) are Twin Atlantic. Noticed after the release of their mini-album ‘Vivarium’ in 2009, they have toured internationally with the likes of Biffy Clyro, Smashing Pumpkins, My Chemical Romance, Blink 182 amongst others. They’re finishing off their year of promotion for their first full album ‘Free’ with their largest UK tour so far.

McTrusty appears on the tiny stage with his band mates, and punches the air, like a returning hero; they’re straight into ‘Serious Underground Dances Vibes’, followed by new single ‘Make A Beast of Myself’ – the crowd bounce and sing-a-long – these guys are obviously up for the gig. “Thank you Birmingham… glad to be back…”

The audience is well into the band, bouncing exuberantly and energetically throughout the gig. McTrusty’s stagecraft continues to get better and better  – he’s chatty and keen to get the audience fully involved, encouraging them to clap and bounce, and inviting everyone to “party.” The crowd knows all the words; for  ‘We Want Better, Man’ “Get a fucking grip….” rings out around the room. McTrusty at one point stands on the barrier that holds the crowd back, arms in the air and then leaps into the crowd, guitar in hand, for a bit of crowd surfing. ‘Crashland’ is an acoustic affair, ALL the crowd singing all the words, couple of people sitting on their mates shoulders (to the concern of the bouncers who shine a warning light on them), audience group hugs do the rounds, and McTrusty looks suitably impressed by the everyone’s efforts.

The encore gives us ‘Yes, I Was Drunk’ – “Thank you Birmingham we’ve got two songs left…” then a riff, and bang, we’re into ‘Time For You to Stand Up’ followed by title track ‘Free.’

According to lead signer McTrusty, “Music’s been dumbed down and homogenised. There are lots of people who don’t believe in it anymore. But we’ve made a record with substance – we’re giving people something to believe in again.” Tonight’s crowd certainly believe.

When I saw Twin Atlantic earlier in the year, I thought they gave a good gig, but wondered how far they were away from sounding like the bands that inspired them. After a summer of gigging, Leeds and Reading festival appearances and a US tour, this has clearly done them the world of good – they are coming into their own, making their songs far more ‘Twin Atlantic’ rather than sound-a-like. They are energetic, the crowd responds in full flow, the set far more professional than their young years. This year’s school report has to be “Great year boys, progressing nicely” – Twin Atlantic are carving out success the hard way, gigging tirelessly. Will they be able to rise to the next level? They’re clearly building an exuberant and loyal fan base, and tracks are getting breaks on UK and US radio airtime. The real big break could come with the next album – a standout track, showcasing their great live performances and, what you need in the modern music industry, a lot of luck and that chance break. Once again, a good night was had by all. All in all good end to 2011 for Twin Atlantic – just what will 2012 bring?

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Setlist:

  1. Serious Underground Dances Vibes
  2. Make A Beast of Myself
  3. The Ghost of Eddie
  4. Eight Days
  5. What is Light? Where is Laughter?
  6. Wonder Sleeps Here
  7. Apocalyptic Renegade
  8. Edit Me
  9. Caribbean War Syndrome
  10. We Want Better, Man
  11. Lightspeed
  12. Human After All
  13. Where is My Mind
  14. Crash Land
  15. Audience and Audio
  16. You’re Turning into John Wayne

Encore:

  1. Yes, I Was Drunk
  2. Time For You to Stand Up
  3.  Free

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Listening:

Free (2011)

Vivarium (Debut mini-album) (2009)