Monthly Archive: November 2012

Heaven 17 @ O2 Academy 2, Birmingham, 29th November 2012

Review for Gig Junkies. Pictures: Ken Harrison,

A Monday autumnal night and later start time for the gig (8.30pm on stage) Heaven 17 are here to show us just how great they are and I have so say I’m looking forward to it!

As we arrive tonight we find the gig has been relocated, from the main Academy 1 to Academy 2, a room which holds about a sixth of the capacity of the main room. Given that when Heaven 17 toured a couple of years ago with ‘Penthouse and Pavement’ the played the main room at the HMV Institute, while then they may not have sold out the venue it was pretty full – this change in location is quite a surprise.

As with so many early eighties bands, Heaven 17 have a story; original band line-up split, morphed and did something entirely different. Inspired by the godfathers of electronica Kraftwerk, at the turn of the 80s, two members of the Human League, Martyn Ware and Ian Craig Marsh walked away and formed a band / production company B.E.F. (British Electronic Foundation). Initially recording music under the guise of BEF, they subsequently recruited photographer Glenn Gregory on vocals, and eventually became Heaven 17.

Tonight’s venue is already pretty cosy in the crowd as we enter; at 8.10, blue neon LED lights beam messages from the tiny stage, and the music blares out, 12″ classics from the 80s – Blancmange’s ‘Living on the Ceiling’, Japan’s ‘Quiet Life’. Just to get us in the mood.

Dry ice permeates from the stage and seeps across the room and we begin to feel like sardines crammed in this tiny room. 8.30 on come Heaven 17 – a smart looking Glenn Gregory (lead vocals) and Martyn Ware (synthesizers, vocals) supported by female vocalist Billie Godfrey, Asa Bennett (guitar), Joel Farland (electronic percussion) and Randy Hope-Taylor (bass).

‘The Luxury Gap’ peaked at number 4 in the UK charts and gave us some of Heaven 17’s iconic hits. And tonight they’re playing it in its entirety and start off with the crashing ‘Crushed by the Wheels of Industry.’ Sometimes in this venue the sound can be ear-shatteringly loud – but tonight it’s just right, great balance and sound. Gregory: “Hello Birmingham!” as he goes on to relate how they would journey down to Birmingham for the clubs years ago “… far better than Leeds or Manchester…” And then into their favourite track ‘Let Me Go.’ Heaven 17 are a class act – vocals from Gregory and Godfrey are great – especially on the powerhouse track that is ‘Temptation’ (album version) – equally as powerful today as it was twenty years ago. And as they go through the various tracks – we thoroughly enjoy ourselves.

Post ‘Luxury Gap’ we’re treated to a rendition of ‘You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling’ Martyn joining in on vocals, he’s out from behind his keyboards. Gregory: ” The last time he did that was 22 years ago with Phil Oakey…. he’s a new boyfriend – I’m his bitch now….” Crowd laugh. ” Love it…. we get him out from behind his keyboard- only ever the second time ever he’s done this….”

And then we boogie on down to ‘(We Don’t Need This) Fascist Grove Thang’. This track originally got limited radio play due to Radio 1 DJ Mike Read effectively banning it due to its left wing lyrics, leaving debut album ‘Penthouse and Pavement’ outside the Charts, at a time when the Top 40  was key to success. It was ‘The Luxury Gap’ that really gave them commercial success.…

‘I’m Your Money’ is dedicated to local club night Only After Dark, followed by the aptly named final track from first album ‘ We’re Gonna Live For A Very Long Time’ which indeed  lasts for a very long time. And to top off the set, we have a Human League classic: ‘Being Boiled.’

Encore gives us a stunning version of The Associates ‘Party Fears Two’, a track Heaven 17 play to honour Associate Billie McKenzie who committed suicide. A sad loss and hear-rending rendition. And then in this packed, hot (and now smelly) venue, drenched with dry ice, the stage flooded in red light, the 12″ House driven remix of ‘Temptation’ complete with morph into ‘Love To Love You Baby.’

Heaven 17 are very possibly one of the best nostalgia electronica bands out on the touring scene. They’re a tight act, Gregory’s vocals accompanied by Godfrey are truly awesome. My only downside on tonight’s gig was the venue – it was rammed to distraction. Next time Heaven 17, there are better venues in Birmingham – don’t let them downgrade the venue, I want to dance, enjoy and love your gig.

If you get a chance to catch them on this tour – go for it. You will truly have a blast!

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Setlist:

  1. Crushed by the Wheels of Industry
  2. Who’ll Stop The Rain
  3. Let Me Go
  4. Key to the World
  5. Temptation (short)
  6. Come Live With Me
  7. Lady Ice and Mr Hex
  8. We Live So Fast
  9. The Best Kept Secret
  10. You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’
  11. (We Don’t Need That) Fascist Groove Thang
  12. Geisha Boys and Temple Girls
  13. I’m Your Money
  14. We’re Going To Live For A Very Long Time
  15. A Crow and a Baby
  16. Penthouse and Pavement
  17. Being Boiled

 

Encore:

18. Party Fears Two

19. Temptation (Long)

 

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Listening:

Heaven 17 – The Luxury Gap (1983)

BEF  – ‘Music For Stowaways’ and ‘Music Of Quality And Distinction Vol.1’

The Associates – Singles (2007)

The Levellers + Citizen Fish + Gaz Brookfield @ 02Academy, Birmingham 23rd November 2012

All three rooms being used at the Birmingham Academy tonight, including Therapy? in Academy 2, but we are in the main room: All come all yee faithful followers – lets party with The Levellers.

The 02Academy is pretty full and there’s a buzz about the crowd, in eager expectation of a party. There are the faithful here and those that just know that The Levellers ‘live’ are just an energetic blast. There’s a good vibe, man. And one or two people who, even before the gig has started, have participated in some falling down water…

As you might expect at a Levellers’ gig, the support acts will neither be insipid nor lacking in social and political comment. You kinda feel sympathy for solo singer-guitarists who try to entertain a big crowd before the main band come on stage, but Gaz Brookfield is up to the challenge and easily wins the audience over. He exudes confidence, humour and enthusiasm, as he romps through songs on all sorts of topics, including the pointlessness of voting and the plasticity of much of the music industry. Towards the end, after making another dark social comment, he adds that he is available for children’s parties.

Then, to get us in the mood for the main act we have ska punk band Citizen Fish, a band ‘spawned’ in Bath in ’89. More enjoyable cutting social and political comment set to music by a raucous outfit, with a lead singer with a machine gun delivery of lyrics, who looks and sounds like an underfed Ben Elton (in his classic motormouth stand-up comic days). “Let’s get angry, let’s get mad” he sings. An eclectic mix of ska and punk with political overtones. That gets us in the mood for the main act.

And then a tad before 8.25pm, the venue darkens, dry ice fills the stage and the rag taggle bobtail crew that are The Levellers come onto stage. Mark Chadwick, Jez Cunningham, Charlie Heather, Simon Friend, Jon Sevink (the fiddler) and Matt Savage as usual, fill the stage, bouncing around –  hugely energetic live.  Starting off we get ‘We are All The Gunmen’ with harmonised vocals on a blue lit set.  Last time I got to see them was on their ‘Levelling the Land in its entirety’ tour – this time, they have free reign on their setlist – we get the old the new and the downright classic.

“Good evening – how are you doing?” as they blast into ‘Beautiful Day’ and the crowd start to dance. The band are well on form tonight – ‘The Game’ starts of with Sevnik on his fiddle, rises and rises, followed by “A new one…” ‘A Life Less Ordinary…..’

The classics are just that “Birmingham – how are your singing voices tonight? We’ll find out – let’s have a go…” ‘Fifteen Years’ may well be over twenty years old – but we’re all singing…. ‘The Road’ … “every day, every day, every daaaaaayyyyyyyy” with the exquisite fiddler mesmerizing us all.  The whole band bounce in time as they set off on the ‘Sell Out’ another ‘Levelling The Land’ track. We bounce too… The Levellers are a tight outfit, one of the most energetic organized chaos of a band you’ll see touring.

And so the the fluorescent didgeridoo – before leading us into ‘One Way’  – the eco-anthem for the masses – the crowd enthusiastically sing and bounce along. And the songs keep coming – ‘Carry Me’, ‘Dirty Davy’ and the completion to this part of the set ‘Cholera Well.’

Quick break and then; come on everyone – sing along “… far from home…..” We all still partying – “Si wants to say something..” “Liberty!” he screams. The set is filled with dry ice, white lit. And Sevnik cranks it up – we’re still singing, partying, dancing:  “This means nothing to me…the way we want to BE!”

“Thank you, cheers”. The crowd start to leave – as the band leave and roadies swap the set – but no it’s not quite over. The Levellers have invited local talent – singers and musicians to join them on stage for a number. So as the already crowded stage swells  “Well it’s that time of the evening, musicians representing the locality, have said ‘I wanna play with the Levellers’…” and we’re into a pretty good rendition of ‘The Recruiting Sergeant’.

The Levellers were on great form tonight, there was a buzz in the crowd were you wouldn’t know it was nearly mid-Winter – imagining we were dancing away in the middle of a field on a warm Summer’s day.  These guys just put a big smile on your face – they may have matured, but they haven’t lost any of their passion, enjoyment – they clearly have a blast on stage and expect everyone else to do so. There may have been no ‘Beanfield’, ‘Hope Street’ or their dervish rendition of ‘The Devil Went Down to Georgia’ but they just keep it simple – they just do what they do very well: punk, folk, Irish-inspired, fiddly, bouncy music.

Tonight guest list passes were asked for a £2.00 contribution to charity – don’t mind if I do. The Levellers aint daft, they’ve found a way to continue, without the mainstream, doing it their way, and without selling their souls to the devil, yet still able to play to nearly 3,000 people in a gig. And have over 40,000 followers on that old Facebook thing. And they’ve been recording, they’ve recently released their tenth studio album ‘Static on The Airwaves’.

And every year they do the true ‘No Logo’ festival Beautiful Days – which celebrated 10 years in 2012. No corporate sponsorship, no branding, no advertising.  2012  line-up including Frank Turner, PIL, the Model Army, The Waterboys … plus a huge list of others. 2013 tickets are available – £120 to camp 16-18 August in Devon. 2013 is their 25th anniversary. They will be back –  not just one way, but their way. Come and party.

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Setlist:

  1. We Are All Gunmen
  2. Beautiful Day
  3. The Game
  4. Life Less Ordinary
  5. Fifteen Years
  6. Truth Is
  7. The Road
  8. Sell Out
  9. Raft of the Medusa
  10. Before the End
  11. Mutiny
  12. The Boatman
  13. Boatmen Jig
  14. Our Forgotten Towns
  15. One Way
  16. Carry Me
  17. Dirty Davey
  18. Riverflow
  19. Cholera Well

Encore 1:

  1. Far From Home
  2. Liberty Song

Encore 2:

  1. The Recruiting Sergeant

 

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Listening:

Levelling The Land (1992)

Levellers (1994)

Zeitgeist (1995)

Static on the Airwaves (2012)

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Beautiful Days 2013 Tickets are on sale @ http://www.beautifuldays.org/

 

Evanescence + The Used + Lost Alone @ NIA Birmingham, Thursday 8th November 2012

Review for Birmingham Live! Pictures: Katja Orgin.

Beginning of November and out in a mild evening, we’re at the NIA for a bit of rock gothic melodrama – Amy Lee and her support crew are here to bring Birmingham to life – it’s time for Evanescence.  

I didn’t get there in time to see the support act – but a bit of a plug here. Lost Alone are a trio featuring Mark Gibson on drums, Steve Battelle on guitar and Alan Williamson on bass.  Current album ‘I’m A UFO in the City’ is available to purchase through the usual channels with new single ‘Creatures’ released a couple of days ago. Pundits have given them Queenesque / Muse comparisons – listening they have a raw American punk sound with harmonized vocals – a number of reviewers saying these guys are rising stars. On the UK tour with Evanescence, you can catch them on their hometown Christmas gig at Derby Assembly Rooms on 21st December 2012.

Second support, The Used are giving it some screamy rock as I take my seat in the gods. I think I can touch the roof from here, but it’s a great vantage point. When Evanescence announced this gig at the NIA I wondered whether they would take the leap near sold out 02 Academy Birmingham show they played pretty much 12 months to this day. That venue holds about 3,000. Well they gave it a good effort – stage moved forward – third of arena fenced off – standing on the floor – I guess max of 5-6,000 here. Maybe a thought that Brum could do with a venue larger than the likes of the Academy, Ballroom and Institute but not as big as the NIA or LG. Anyway – back to the gig….

The Used are an LA based outfit: Bert McCraken singer, Quinn Allman on guitar, Jepha on bass and Dan Whiteside on drumming duties. New album ‘Vulnerable’ apparently, reflects The Used trademark ability to ‘ turn personal adversity in to art.’  Formed in Orem, Utah in 2001 they’ve had quite a journey – not only in music but in their own lives too. “Without music and you guys I probably wouldn’t be here today – don’t take yourself too seriously don’t be afraid to smile.…”  – you can hear the inspiration behind ‘Vulnerable. These dates with Evanescence are part of a European tour.

The Used think that “Birmingham fuckin’ rocks…. best show so far of the tour.” Band are clearly enjoying themselves McCraken is energetic and chatty and pretty good fun: “ … a lot of hardcore fans here in the UK!” as the singer invites these selected fans to come and have “hardcore fuckin’ sexual intercourse…” And then offers the same to the hardcore Evanescence fans. The Used are American pop punk rock with thrown in screamy bits – a kinda cross between Blink and Deftones. They’re pretty good and go down well with the crowd – although the sound in this venue echoes around and it ain’t the best for rock gigs. Maybe when the NIA gets it’s multi-million pound refit it’ll improve. Fingers crossed.

So between bands – a half an hour break – we have a snooze and listen to the likes of Nine Inch Nails, Alice In Chains and a smattering of Faith No More….

Formed just seven years ago by Amy Lee and Ben Moody, Evanescence’s first album ‘Fallen’ had stratospheric sales: over 17m albums worldwide (winning a vast series of awards including two Grammys) driven by huge hit ‘Bring Me To Life’ (with vocal support from Paul McCoy of 12 Stones). Their follow up album, ‘The Open Door’ continued that success with sales over 6 million and their latest self titled 2011 ‘Evanescence’ looks to be following the trend. The singles are certainly getting airplay…

The band appears on stage, Lee in her usual mystical goth-inspired clothing, to a rather loud scream from the crowd. With far more space then the Academy she prowls the stage, pumping the air with her arm as she sings, engaging the crowd. First track ‘What You Want’ clearly shows the sound is far more balanced than it was for the support acts.

The stage is pretty simple, however they clearly employed a lighting guy who loves to have fun – and it’s pretty impressive, giving full reflective mood to Evanescence’s tracks – ‘Weight of The World’ blasts powerful white light across the stage. ‘Going Under’ Lee and the band go for it – the guys in the band are pretty hardcore, tight and loud. “Hello Birmingham – it’s wonderful to see you – it’s wonderful to see you after all these years…”

Then a piano segment for a few tracks – a real piano is brought to the front of the stage, Lee takes her place, a green spotlight focused just on her. As she gives us ‘Lithium’ from where I am you can see thousands of mobile phones recording. Once it would have been lighters waving, with a few burnt fingers. ‘Lost in Paradise’ is probably one of the standout tracks of the night; Lee’s vocals are pretty impressive on this big epic ballad.

The songs swirl, powerful and strong, and then we get the big hit. Opened up by that piano melody, the crowd sings the words and Evanescence blow us away.

Evanescence had massive success on their first album. 17 million + sales worldwide and 43 weeks in the Billboard Top 10 is pretty incredible. They have brought gothic rock to the masses, there’s a real eclectic mix here, from rockers to little people and everyone in between. Evanescence have brought rock to a young, female crowd, who will hopefully seek to experience more that rock and metal has to offer. If you like Evanescence they give you exactly what you would expect, they have followed ‘Bring Me To Life’ template to the letter – there is no deviation from their gothic metal, ethereal sound, they are far louder and harder rock than on record. It’s clearly a formula that works for Lee and her gang.

Pretty impressive and, at £28.50, not bad for an arena gig. If you like their music – they will impress you. Go and enjoy.

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Setlist:

  1. What You Want
  2. Going Under
  3. The Other Side
  4. Weight of the World
  5. Made of Stone
  6. Lithium
  7. Lost in Paradise
  8. My Heart is Broken
  9. Whisper
  10. The Change
  11. Oceans
  12. Swimming Home
  13. Call Me When You’re Sober
  14. Imaginary
  15. Bring Me To Life

 

Encore:

15. Disappear

17. My Immortal

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Evanescence Listening:

The Fallen (2003)

The Open Door (2006)

Evanescence (2011)