Tag Archive: Brum Live

The Levellers + The Selector + She Makes War @ 02 Academy Birmingham, 14 November 2014

Tonight we are assured of somewhat of a party as The Levellers declare early on in the set, they will be playing their greatest hits. The o2 Academy is three-quarters full and there’s a expectant buzz about the crowd; the faithful here and those that just know that The Levellers ‘live’ are just one hell of an energetic blast. And it’s a good mixture of age too – older people and little people – after all The Levellers are very much a family affair.

Levellers2014

Tonight’s line-up of acts are an eclectic bunch. First up and very early (this gig has a 10pm curfew so club night Propaganda can take place later) is She Makes War (aka Laura Kidd) one time member of Erica Nockall’s (The Wonder Stuff) band and here in her own right tonight. She’s currently crowdsourcing her new album ‘Direction of Travel’ and doing a bespoke tour in 2015 – but a ticket she’ll arrange the right size venue.  Kidd is a talented individual, I saw her recently at the Hare and Hounds, where she created her music as she goes along, singing or playing and then recording and feeding it back into a multi-layered loop, which she then sung over. Kidd is indie in sound and style, with smatterings of PJ Harvey and Melissa Auf der Maur. Shame it was too early for most the punters who bought tics for tonight’s gig – all round creative talent you can find out lots more about Laura Kidd at www.shemakeswar.com

A jump in genre, we get 2Tone ska band from Coventry – The Selector. Formed late 70s, they’d split by ’83 with singer Pauline Black leading a reformed version for 15 years from ’91. Confusion over differing versions of the band – a legal challenge ensued and Black’s official line up tonight now be the official version of The Selector. They get a good response as usual, the growing crowd bouncing along to the hits from their hey-day including ‘The Selector’ and ‘On My Radio.’  The Selector regularly play live; if  Ska and 2Tone are your thang, then you’ll be sure to catch them again soon.

And then bang on 8.20pm, the venue darkens, to a cheer, the hornpipe jig starts up. Dry ice fills the stage and the rag-taggle-bobtail crew that are The Levellers take to the 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. And start off as they mean to go on; it is indeed a ‘Beautiful Day.’

Chadwick: “Good evening everyone… how you doing…. Party!”  And as Sevnik fiddles, we sing: “….the girl from Fifteen Years ago – has packed and gone away…..” before they take us straight into ‘Belarus.’

It is indeed their greatest hits and they churn them out in frenetic manner. ‘Far From Home’ – the best so far – and we are all singing and dancing away. Then special guests on stage; for this one Pauline Black joins them – apparently she’s gonna “up the game” as they take us into ‘Together All The Way, ‘ while the brass section from The Selector joins for ‘Dog Train’ and we sing the La la la’s….

This rag-tag band-of-brothers are on great form tonight, there’s a buzz about the place – you wouldn’t know we’re rapidly heading to Christmas, we’re all dancing away in the middle of a field on a warm Summer’s day…

Get ready to jump, as ordered by fiddly Sevink, and we do, singing away on ‘Sell Out’ the rebellious political mantra about being sold down the river. Sevink, very tall and lanky, leaps and spins around the stage, occasionally standing on a platform to tower above us – all the time fiddling away – he is stunning in his playing. And then, the man with the didgeridoo is here, garbed in florescent clothing and face paint, the Aboriginal instrument festooned with lights…. the drummer on a single drum marching around the stage for ‘The Boatman’ and next, joined on stage by Laura Kidd, it’s ‘This Garden.’

“Birmingham – can you have too much of a good thing?” Chadwick asks. Oh no we can’t as the man is back on his wooden trumpee. there is only ‘One Way.’ And as they deliver us ‘Too Real’ rolling masses of people float overhead – to reappear from the pit with huge grins on their faces – don’t think crowd surfing is for the young – no, there be older people gleefully floating too.

‘Hope Street’ – everyone is singing. “Just checking you hadn’t fallen into a coma or something…” Chadwick cheekily quips. Like that’s something anyone is going to do tonight, we ‘Carry Me’ followed by “Come On’ to which over 2,500 punters all sing back, much to the band ’s appreciation. ‘Cholera Well’ is it’s usual frenetic delivery, followed by ‘Liberty’ – as more paper is fired over the crowd from a cannon, and we chant “This means nothing to me, to me. The way we were, is the way I wanna to BE!” And after an hour and twenty of true frenetic energy – they’re off. But not for long…

‘Just the One’ – we’re all in party mode now and then we are all red and Sevink is the devil with the fiddle, the whirling dervish – as we get The Levellers truly energetic take on ‘The Devil Went Down to Georgia’ – before a second quick break – before the finale ‘The Riverflow’ – a set which ends to massive cheers bang on the 10pm deadline.

The Levellers just put a big smile on your face, they make you feel life is worth living . 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. They just do what they do very well: rebel-punk, folk, Irish-inspired, fiddly, bouncy music.

And don’t forget their no logo, no corporate, no advertising Beautiful Days festival, which started in 2003. Next year it the weekend of  21-23 August at Escot Park in Devon and invariable will have a great line-up.

Tonight guest list passes were asked once again for a £2.00 contribution to charity, this year it is for ‘The Sophie Lancaster Foundation’ – stamping out prejudice, hatred and intolerance everywhere. The Levellers have found a way to continue, label and sponsor free, without the mainstream, doing it their way, and without selling their souls to the devil. Blood, seat and tears, really didn’t matter – today, with big grins on our faces, was indeed, a beautiful day..

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Setlist:
Beautiful Day
Fifteen Years
Belaruse
World Freakshow
Far from Home
Together All The Way
Dog Train
Sell Out
Exodus
Julie
Boatman Jig
This Garden
One Way
Too Real
Hope Street
Truth Is
Carry Me
Come On
Cholera Well
Liberty

Encore I:
Just the One
The Devil Went Down to Georgia

Encore II:
The Riverflow

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Listening:
Levelling The Land (1992)
Levellers (1994)
Zeitgeist (1995)
Static on the Airwaves (2012)
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Review for Birmingham Live.

Soundgarden + Graveyard @ 02 Academy Birmingham, 14 September 2013

Tonight it’s rammed in Birmingham’s 02 Academy as fans flock in to see one of the giants of grunge, the recently reformed Soundgarden.

And as I arrive, Swedish rockers Graveyard are giving it a bit of heavy bluesy-rock, smattered with psychedelic riffs. Joakim Nilsson (guitar and vocals), Jonatan Larocca-Ramm (guitar and vocals) Rikard Edlund (bass) and Axel Sjöberg (drums) came together in Gothenburg in 2006 out of the ashes of previous bands and musings. Similar in genre to the main headliner (which makes a change) the crowd responds well. They finish their half hour set with a Zeppelin inspired blues title track off their second album. Latest album ‘Lights Out’ was released in October 2012. To cheers from the crowd they promise they will return – check them out through their Facebook page.

And now we wait for the main act, we watch a ridiculous amount of roadies swapping kit – even one vacuuming the stage. And while we wait here’s a potted bit of history. Formed in ’84, Soundgarden were one of the seminal bands and leading lights in the Seattle grunge scene before it spread out across the globe. They may have been first to sign to a major label but international success came on the back of the bands following in the wake of Nirvana, Alice in Chains and Pearl Jam.

Chris Cornell (vocals and guitar), Kim Thayil (guitar), Matt Cameron (drums) and joined by bassist Ben Shepherd in 1990 and, after localized, success launched album ‘Badmotorfinger’. It was the follow-up ‘Superunknown’ which took then stratospheric – a dark multi-award winning album compete with Grammy winning tracks: ‘Black Hole Sun’ and ‘Spoonman.’  The follow-up ‘Down on the Upside’ was a tad of a departure – not as  heavy than their previous works and, as touring took its toll; Soundgarden spilt citing “creative differences.”  Each individual’s career took different directions. Cameron joined Seattle kinsmen Pearl Jam becoming their permanent drummer; Cornell went solo, hooked up with members of Rage Against The Machine to form supergroup Audioslave, before returning to a successful solo career, recording a Bond theme plus a sidestep with Timbaland and more recently, touring extensively with his ‘Songbook’ acoustic / spoken word gigs.

13 years after the split, Soundgarden got back together. Live gigs followed in 2012 with a trip to the recording studio culminating in their first album in 15 years ‘King Animal’. Soundgarden alone, let alone all the other projects, have sold well over 22 million albums worldwide; tonight is one of a handful of dates across the UK in O2 Academy venues.

The band is due on at 9pm, and at 5 past a roadie comes out and fixes the setlists to the floor; Soundgarden mix their set up – never doing the same two nights in a row. The crowd starts a slow handclap and start shouting in anticipation. Then to strobing lights each member separately appears on stage, to rapturous applause from the crowd.

First up ‘Let Me Down’, receives a big cheer but an even bigger response to second track; the tumthumping ‘Spoonman’. Cameron and Shepherd give it the bass rhythm core whilst Cornell stands and screams above the crowd as the track rolls on. The Brum crowd is well pleased.

Third track in is a heavy thumping track, with riff from Thiyal accompanied by Cornell’s stunning vocals. Another from their latest outing ‘By Crooked Steps.’ The affable Cornell: “Thank you… been a long time since we’ve been here… we have some friends from Birmingham – Kim said write a song about Birmingham so we did…” and as we roll into first single from ‘King Animal’ ‘Been Away Too Long.’ (I do speculate they say this about every place they play in…)

Old track ‘Get on the Snake’ has an anecdote about when they started out and dragging themselves around the world in a van. Cameron, like I need to say this, is a mesmerizing drummer.

This is a well rounded setlist from the guys, something old, something new, something classic, something out the norm… the new single from ‘King Animal’ ‘Pretty Noose’ followed up with that jingly guitar riff as Cornell’s implores… “Follow me into the desert as thirsty as you are…”  – this be ‘Burden In My Hand’ – one of the stand out tracks of tonight from their pre-split last album. The crowd accompanies Cornell as he sings.

Then the classic and iconic dark ‘Black Hole Sun’, albeit delivered a tad lacklustre. Next a song that was the first they played when they come back together and surprisingly one they never played live in their previous life. You can see why they did; ‘Blind Dogs’ is a powerful track. And then back to ‘Superunknown’ and a track that was written in the ‘dreary’ Seattle – ‘ a place where there is seven different types of mould’ – its ‘Fell on Black Days.’ Big cheers followed by ‘Blow Up the Outside World’ a track that rolls and rolls, Cornell backlit as he swings his arms while playing his guitar. Set competes with ‘Rusty Cage’- Shepherd is not happy, giving his bass away and disappearing off stage.

For the encore we get two tracks, starting of with off with the controversial (at the time) ‘Jesus Christ Pose.’

Soundgarden 2013 is indeed an older incarnation. The band gave fans tonight a real mix of the Soundgarden musical journey. If they hadn’t split after ‘Down on the Upside’ it would have been interesting to see where their creative journey had taken them – 2013‘s ‘King Animal’ skipped a beat as they all took different journeys.  As a band, they may be not as energetic as they once were – letting the music do the talking. After nearly 30 years since they formed, the talent of Cornell and his truly incredible voice and Cameron the thunder-god, are clearly the standout members of the foursome. A good night, though I’ve seen Cornell with Soundgarden, Audioslave and with and without band in tow, and Cameron and his mates in Pearl Jam, give far better live performances – tonight the band seemed muted – Cornell seemed less keen to front the band – more aware of being part of them.

Tickets were a tad on the pricey side tonight at £40 + for one of their shorter sets at twenty songs and an hour and fifty. Nearer fans than I spotted technical difficulties – was this the reason for the shortened set? Will Soundgarden return once again? It feels like Soundgarden has become the band member’s side-project – Shepherd’s just released a new album, Cameron will soon be off thumping the skins with his ‘other’ band Pearl Jam, as they promote their new outing, Cornell has just released a huge tour of North American as part of his acoustic ‘Songbook’ tour. Cornell, interviewed in January, said there was no reason the band shouldn’t make more music in the future. So their paths may cross again and they may well once again visit our shores.

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Set List:

  1. Let Me Down
  2. Spoonman
  3. By Crooked Steps
  4. Been Away Too Long
  5. Worse Dreams
  6. My Wave
  7. Get on the Snake
  8. Non-State Actor
  9. Pretty Noose
  10. Burden in my Hand
  11. Blood on the Valley
  12. Black Hole Sun
  13. Blind Dogs
  14. Taree
  15. Eyelid’s Mouth
  16. Fell on Black Days
  17. Blow Up the Outside World
  18. Rusty Cage

Encore:

  1. Jesus Christ Pose
  2. Slaves and Bulldozers

 

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Reviewed for Birmingham Live! Pictures: John Mason

 

Steve Earle and The Dukes + The Mastersons @ Symphony Hall, Birmingham 20 May 2013

Oh to the cozy and refined Symphony Hall, and for me, something completely different -this time for the godfather of alternative country music – Steve Earle and The Dukes with support from The Mastersons.

The Mastersons are Chris Masterson and “…. his far better half…” wife Eleanor Whitmore, both from Texas, USA, ‘singing and playing together.’  After playing in numerous bands separately, they came together as a unit, recording their debut album ‘Birds Fly South.’ Good enough to make Steve Earle swoon and bring them with him on tour – so much so that he not only introduces their set, they are part of his band.  The Masterson’s are not just a duo – they sing all lyrics together, perfectly harmonised. And they’re a musically talented pair – Whitmore plays guitar, violin, mandolin and most anything else with strings and her husband is equally gifted.  Think Fleetwood Mac does country with a bit of rock n’ roll. They go down well, polite applause from the half filled Symphony Hall. After the show they’ll be “…hanging out with Steve….” in the merchandising area. They are an interesting sound, check out their website: www.themastersonsmusic.com

Steve Earle is indeed, quite a character and a talented one at that. A singer-songwriter, record producer, an author and actor (most notably in ‘The Wire’). Starting off life in the classic country music location of Nashville, Tennessee, he released his first EP in ’82 with he breakthrough album ‘Guitar Town’ in ’86. Grammy award winning, and probably best well known to those outside this genre for ‘Copperhead Road’ (’86) his songs have been recorded by Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Emmylou Harris, Waylon Jennings, Travis Tritt, The Pretenders, Joan Baez and countless others. He’s had quite a life; he’s is a recovering addict (from decades past), been married seven times (twice to the same woman), supports countless causes and his songs draw on the personal, as well as politics and social matters. The new album is here – ‘The Low Highway’ by Steve Earle with the Dukes (and the Duchesses) and according to The Guardian his songs remain ‘as fresh as they are powerful’. And if you fancy a read – check out his novel ‘Never Get Out of this World Alive’ from 2011 with accompanying album of the same name.

Tonight this date is part of a comprehensive European tour before he returns to more gigs in the good old US of A. As he commented in the intro to The Mastersons, he’s been coming over here for the past 26 years “…best to start an English tour in England, London is okay… but this is better….” Birmingham is indeed the first date of this leg of his tour, a comment he makes several times to explain the ‘rustiness’ as the band tune and change instruments between songs.

He arrives on stage at 8.30. The set is simple, using Symphony Hall’s lighting with no touring rig, a black sheet as backdrop and a stage filled with amps and musical instruments. He’s here tonight with Will and Kelly, long standing members of The Dukes and both of The Mastersons providing additional band contributions, musically and vocally (hence The Duchesses).

Set starts off with ‘The Low Highway’ – acoustic morphs as the band joins in. It’s a rolling classic country track with additional Irish folk blues, which receives a big cheer from the crowd. ‘21st Century Blues’ shows that he’s still got the passion and the ire; ‘Calico Country’ is reminiscent of Elvis Costello’s ‘Crank It Up.’

‘Taneytown’ is a folk tale to music; ‘I Thought you Should Know’ a mesmerizing country ballad. Earle: “See I couldn’t leave that one out…. so for ‘The Low Highway’ [new album] I realised I had best band out and therefore it needed to be recorded. It’s tough times for people…” He discusses New Orleans, a location where he spent time filming and recording the Grammy Nominated soundtrack for ‘Treme’, a US TV series about residents of the city who are rebuilding their lives after Hurricane Katrina (now into its fifth season). New Orleans is still rebuilding and it’s stalled due to lack of funds…  “You can’t take over the world and raise taxes – it just doesn’t work….” As he goes into an Old Orleans blues inspired track ‘That All You Got?’ “For the second season [I haven’t seen the series – I take it he was only in the first!] My guitar case and mandolin were in the show far longer than I was…. as was an unfinished piece of music…” We get the completed rendition – ‘Love’s Gonna Blow My Way.’

Earle and The Dukes make the set seem effortless, they’re jamming and enjoying playing together – Earle is chatty and engaging and has a wry sense of humour – making the crowd chortle. As he moves to the keyboards at the side of the set “This is an odd move for me I know. I used to drink. I drank a lot and badly, and I really badly would believe, with all my heart I could speak Spanish. Spanish to Mexicans… well it would end in tears. So…. this is piano… and I think I can play it [he badly believes he can]…. it was too heavy to carry around when I left home…”  This is the 13th time he’s ever played piano in front of people and he manages it more than capably; “Pocket Full of Rain has a Dylanesque quality and is quite beautiful.

Then we get another ballad, a tall tale within the song; ‘Ben McCulloch’ featuring Earle on the mandolin, culminating in a big cheer from the audience. Next up – the one he’s most known for in this country and a crackin’ rendition ‘Copperhead Road’. Earle: “So I’ve fucked the setlist up – but I think we’re back in track.…” as they have clearly gone out of track order – not that you would have known that.

After the set, he confirms, “we’ll all out of the merch stuff after – ‘cos diesel is expensive…” and a joke: “Why are there no banjo’s on Star Trek? Cos it’s the future!” He tells us of a free and non-commercial festival in San Francisco (Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival - a long list of names gonna be there if you fancy it) and a guy called Warren (who’s now passed away) who not only founded the festival in 2001, he gave his money to the San Francisco Pension Scheme (after it very nearly collapsed after the financial meltdown on Wall Street) so that every cop, fireman and nurse can get their pension. A song dedicated to him: ‘Warren Hellman’s Banjo.

Earle is full of anecdotes – another about a local Catholic church, built in 1830. He was walking by with Tim Robbins and he mentioned that now they had a soup kitchen for the poor. Robbins responded that there had always been soup kitchen in the basement of the church. It was now more visible because the queues were longer. Earle: “We choose what we gonna see…” and he’s into track ‘Invisible.’

Steve Earle maybe, in this country, doesn’t command the same legendary status as say someone like Neil Young – but he is well worth checking out. He is indeed the alternative country gentleman. Earle tells tales with his music and tells tales between his songs. For something that maybe outside your particular genre (as it was mine), take a sneak peak and check him out (he’ll be one of the many performers at the Strictly Bluegrass Festival in San Francisco in October if you fancy a trip to the States). If not, him and his Dukes (and Duchesses) will, no doubt, will return next year for his eclectic and entertaining alternative country music….

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Reviewed for Birmingham Live!

James + Echo and the Bunnymen @ O2 Academy, Birmingham, 25th April 2013,

When I first heard of this line-up I thought it was a tad odd. Bands from two different eras and two different generations of fans – the mighty Echo and the Bunnymen – once princes of the indie alternative scene of the early and mid 80s. And then, James, the kings of 90’s indie dance anthems. Both had highs of success, under the radar and commercially. So this’ll be an interesting Spring gig at the O2 Academy.

So with this kinda double headliner, first act Echo and the Bunnymen, it’s an early start. As we arrive at 7pm, the punters are already arriving – the venue is filling nicely. Photo passes for photographers tonight initially had a ‘questionable’ ‘sign your life away agreement’ for James though this appeared to dissipate. McCulloch and his Bunnymen are fussier (I guess whether you think that he is entitled to be so or just plain arrogant). Photographers are only allowed to shoot from the side of the pit at the front of the stage and only for one song. If that wasn’t enough before they arrive on set, the stage is draped in a dry ice thick smog, and once the band appear, the lighting is minimal (atmospheric you know) and “in your dreams” are words that come to mind with any success of getting a near decent shot.

If you ask me to choose between James and the Bunnymen as to whom I’d listen to it would have to be the Bunnymen. I grew up with these guys, I saw them in their hey-day – at The Odeon – they were class. I know their likely set tonight, for any Bunnymen fan, is should be a delight. Though short, 45 minutes, you get the best from very early, classic indie hits, and then the later commercial sound.

First up with ‘Lips Like Sugar’ the band warm up halfway through the song. Then a treat – a duo of early tracks ‘Rescue’ and ‘Do It Clean.’ I’m in a time warp – taken back to the hours spent in darkened, stick floored goth indie clubs, meandering in the maze of the indie sound. McCulloch, as usual, with floppy mess of hair, is dressed in long dark coat and trademark blackened sunglasses. Like you’d change your image after all this time. “Alight?” he addresses the audience, to a positive response. “Me too…” he replies in his best Liverpudlian drawl.

Next up it’s the later commercial side, less angsty, including ‘Seven Seas’ and ‘Bring on the Dancing Horses’. The band are on form, the spiraling darkened class riffs are there  – I would love to say the set just gets better and better. But it starts to decline. The Bunnymen are visually the same throughout, they don’t do anything ‘exciting’ on stage – they are a band where it is the music that carries them – a ‘close your eyes’ and dance away type of band. But McCulloch is struggling vocally. While he has a unique voice, he’s off the mark. ‘Never Stop’ still remains the indie classic that it is, but he struggles to deliver. “This is the best song ever written” as McCulloch’s modesty prevails and we crawl into a somewhat painful rendition of ‘Killing Moon’. I worry; I know what the final track is – a track that, for me, would probably make my top twenty ever.  McCulloch introduces it as “…. the second greatest song ever written…” As the track starts it is indeed the classic ‘The Cutter’. McCulloch swigs from a tinny, obviously with some success, for this track, his vocals return. I had hoped, but for me, the Bunnymen of today are a shadow of their former selves.

Then we get a half an hour interlude. The O2 is sold out tonight, so we’re packed in like sardines. Booth and his ‘band that is not a person’ have a truly loyal fan-base, not in the manic screamy sense – but that of a close-nit community. Surprisingly, James were formed way back in ’82. This means they’ve been around over 30 years. After struggling for success and at times being totally skint, success finally came with the release of ‘Gold Mother’ in ‘90, with a subsequent series of hits. The most successful ‘Sit Down’, re-worked from its original ’88 version, made #2 in the charts in ’91.

Lead singer Tim Booth left in 2001 and returned in 2007 to tour and record new albums; including 2008‘s ‘Hey Ma’. In 2010, they released two mini EPs: ‘The Morning After.’ and ‘The Night Before’. And they’re still recording; new album may appear soon. There are indeed, new tracks tonight. In the busy O2 people are talking, the backing track before the band is on is indistinguishable, but has a tap and bass rhythm that starts to reverberate through the room. You can feel the atmosphere beginning to build. 10 minutes later than billed they appear to a very low key ‘Loose Control’ which starts with a guitar and trumpet before morphing into a jazz rendition. Chillin’ man. The crowd join in and welcome the band with a huge cheer – Booth claps the audience in acknowledgment – “Where is the love? Look’s like it’s here in Birmingham! One.Two… One. Two. Three. Four…” and we’re into ‘Waltzing Along’ as the crowd sing VERY loudly.

By track three – Booth can’t resist – he’s off stage in the pit and now on the railings – now standing on the railings, he delivers ‘How Was It For You’ – embarking at one stage into the audience. The megaphone is out for next song ‘Sound’ and he’ll be snake dancing.  Couple of tracks later, including a newbie, we get another “One.Two… One. Two. Three. Four…” and nobody it doing what the song title tells us to: ‘Sit Down’. (Fortunately there’s no sight of Peter Kaye plus red sofa). The crowd rolls and sings – we’re back in a sun-soaked festival field. The crowd take over: “Oh sit down, oh sit down, sit down next to me…” the band have stopped playing, the crowd are in charge as Booth conducts them. He’s a charismatic, articulate, yet serious and entertaining front man and this must be a pretty awesome feeling for any band. The crowd doesn’t just sing this – they OWN this – this is THEIR anthem. At the end, the crowd clap and cheer, both at Booth and the guys and themselves. For me, the standout moment of the night.

When you see James you can expect them to do a rolling set of songs. No single night is ever repeated. Last tour they had a rolling setlist of 54 songs and tonight is no different. On top of that members of the band are free to deliver tracks as they wish – so each song is always different. Do not expect the ‘single’ release edition to be performed, as Booth explains: “I’m proud to be in a band which changes the set every night – we don’t know what each other will do – we’re given the freedom to explore – maybe that’s why we’ve been going so long…” as he thanks the crowd for listening. One song may be laid back, another a dervish dance track – accompanied by Booth’s manic dancing. As the set goes on, the songs individually get longer, and longer, each one taking the slow build to riotous crescendo. ‘Born of Frustration’ – yet another that gets the crowd singing (and one that McCulloch, or a very good clone, pops out from backstage to watch). ‘Come Home’ – we’re raving. “You all gonna come to Manchester tomorrow night?” as we get invited to the next gig.

A regular downside at the O2 is the sound. It is not unknown to be dire. And while ‘Sometimes’ delivers and then some – the sound system ruins it – where we are it is just a dirge.  A quick break and back onto a dance version of ‘Sometimes’ followed by ‘Johnny Yen’ which includes acknowledgements to those “who died to entertain” – Winehouse and Cobain amongst them. I don’t know what Booth is on – but I want some – he’s still dancing frenetically. ‘Getting Away With It (All Messed Up)’ starts off acoustic and gathers pace into dance rave, followed by the classic ‘Laid’, in not so classic ‘freeform’, and again the crowd are louder than the band.

And then it’s over. A standing ovation from the balconies and full on adulation from the floor- the punters have clearly had one hell of a blast.

So thought’s on the night? Whilst some James fans probably wondered who this strange band was – McCulloch and his Bunnymen are currently out and about on the scene – they headlined Moseley Folk last year. They are, given tonight’s performance, in my opinion, a shadow of their former selves. I’m sure fans will go for it, but be warned; they don’t appear to be the band they used to be. Booth and James (is not a person) are a full on indie party band, Booth a charismatic and totally engaging front man, and they all love their unique relationship with the audience. If you have 45 nicker going spare – go take a look, make sure you have your dancing boots on. Be prepared to spiral dance on, and on, and on, and on and on, and on, and on….

………..

Echo Setlist:

1. Lips Like Sugar

2. Rescue

3. Do It Clean

4. Seven Seas

5. Bring on the Dancing Horses

6. Bedbugs and Ballyhoo

7. (All My Colours) Zimbo

8. Never Stop

9. Nothing Lasts Forever

10. Killing Moon

11. The Cutter

 

James Setlist:

  1. Loose Control
  2. Waltzing Along
  3. How Was It for You
  4. Sound
  5. Interrogation
  6. Five-0
  7. Say Something
  8. Sit Down
  9. Top of the World
  10. Beefcake
  11. Star (Full Up Version)
  12. Moving On
  13. We’re Going to Miss You
  14. Born of Frustration
  15. Come Home
  16. Sometimes

 

Encore:

  1. Johnny Yen
  2. Getting Away With It (All Messed Up)
  3. Laid

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Listening:

James

Fresh as a Daisy – The Singles [2007]

Gold Mother [1990]

 

Echo and the Bunnymen

Porcupine [1983]

Ocean Rain [1984]

Songs to Learn and Sing (Greatest Hits) [1985][2006]

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Review for Gig Junkies and Birmingham Live!

Photographer for Gig Junkies – Ken Harrison and for Birmingham Live! Ian Dunn.

Simple Minds @ 02 Academy Birmingham, 24th February 2012

Take yourself back in time, to the late seventies early 80’s, with Kraftwerk inspired dance electronica, with a hint of alternative post punk art rock, new romantic and big arena sound. Think dodgy haircuts, Bowie trousers and men in black eyeliner. Playing a set entirely devoted to tracks from their first five vinyl (remember that?) albums, Simple Minds are in town.

Formed way back in ’78, Simple Minds took an eclectic journey up to ‘82, from the dance classic cult  ‘I Travel’ right through the big sound of the ‘New Gold Dream (81-82-83-84)’ album, with splashing of arena-filling 80’s hits. Success became stratospheric – by the mid/late eighties Simple Minds were huge, playing not just arenas, but stadia, almost comparable to the success achieved by U2. But for Simple Minds their commercial success diminished, not that has stopped them; they’ve continued to this day, both recording and playing live, and tonight here, in an intimate venue to celebrate with their loyal fans, they’re playing songs from first five albums as part of their 5x5Live tour.

The Simple Minds of today are made up of original members Jim Kerr (vocals) and Charlie Burchill (guitar/keyboards), Mel Gaynor (drummer – who’s been in the line up pretty much since ’82), Andy Gillespie (keyboards – ditto since 2002) and Ged Grimes (bass – newbie and formerly a founding member of Danny Wilson).  It being a Friday night at the 02 so it’s an early end (10pm curfew) so on at precisely 7.31pm – here we go….

The set is drenched in dry ice, blue beams of light shine throughout the venue and we start of with that cult dance floor track that is ‘I Travel’ in all it’s glory, to a rapturous applause from the audience. “Thank you Birmingham – thanks for coming along to see us.” It’s an early start for most the punters but within half an hour the Academy is pretty full.

Kerr still has his voice – he hits all the vocals, dancing in that staccato manner that has become his trademark. Tonight’s set is for die-hard fans – Kerr is a man of few words – tonight it’s about the nostalgia, a time warp, the music – dry ice and beams of lights effects cloud the stage throughout the night.

‘Love Song’ gets everyone singing, Kerr enthusiastically gets them clapping and there a huge cheer after the song. “That’s wonderful – thank you.” The following track is ‘Pleasantly Disturbed’, somewhat different for Simple Minds – take a listen and see if you think it was the inspiration behind the Reznor/ Manson ‘Sweet Dreams’ and clearly inspired at the time by The Velvet Underground.  One more track ‘Room’ and we have a 10-minute ‘interlude’ while we all catch our breath and catch-up with a few people – heya Adam!

Then they’re back on and we’re into ‘The American’ – Kerr: “We’re having a ball thank you – for the past thirty five years we’ve had a ball.” A few more tracks then into “Promised You a Miracle” – the crowd go “oooooooooooooooooooooooo” at the appropriate time; a few ‘bad 80’s dancing’. Then we have “Someone Somewhere in Summertime” – a 12” inch extended version (in old money so to speak.) The crowd is thoroughly enjoying themselves, the loyal fans loving it.

Time for another break and back on at 9.30 to instrumental dance track “Theme for Great Cities.” Then a couple of tracks and we get the start of what became rise to the big heights – masses of dry ice, bright yellow beam lights and we’re into “Glittering Prize’ followed up by “New Gold Dream (81-82-83-84)” a tubstomping rendition – the crowd all sing, Kerr slots into the vocals “In this room… I want to kiss you all….”, a drumming crescendo – one of the stand out tracks of the night.  The crowd bay for more – but it’s 9.55pm and curfew time – the house lights come on and all we walk out to Roxy Music’s ‘Let’s Stick Together…’

Simple Minds were huge in their hey day. Think like bands like Coldplay today – that’s the status that Simple Minds operated at. Maybe through the later decades they didn’t maintain quite that level – and the major hits were certainly mostly during the 80’s. But they’ve continued to play on, play live and record – tonight was a celebration of a long time ago – and gave the band opportunity to play tracks they must had mostly forgotten. This being the Academy, unfortunately the sound, once again, wasn’t brilliant – depending where you stood as to whether you got the full balanced sound, or where I was, an overriding blast of synth. But for true fans certainly an opportunity to see them close up and personal, performing songs they hadn’t done for years. And all certainly enjoyed it.

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Setlist:

  1. I Travel
  2. Thirty Frames in a Second
  3. Today I Died Again
  4. Celebrate
  5. This Fear of Gods
  6. Life in A Day
  7. Hunter and the Hunted
  8. Premonition
  9. Wasteland
  10. Love Song
  11. Pleasantly Disturbed
  12. Room

[Break]

  1. The American
  2. In Trance As A Mission
  3. 70 Cities as Love Brings the Fall
  4. Calling Your Name
  5. Changeling
  6. Factory
  7. Scar
  8. Promised You A Miracle
  9. Someone Somewhere in Summertime

[Encore]

  1. Theme for Great Cities
  2. Someone
  3. Chelsea Girl
  4. Glitter Prize
  5. New Gold Dream (81-82-83-83)

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Listening:

Life in a Day [1978]

Real to Real Cacophony [1979]

Empires and Dance [1980]

Sons and Fascination / Sister Feelings Call [1981]

New Gold Dream (81-82-83-84) [1982]

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Reviewed for Birmingham Live!

Kaiser Chiefs + Zulu Winter + This Many Boyfriends @ Wolverhampton Civic, 22 February 2013

Spring has disappeared, it’s gone all cold again and the weather is desperate to snow, but tonight we’ll be snuggy in the delectable Wolves Civic in the presence of the Kaiser Chiefs, almost exactly a year since they played in Birmingham and still touring to celebrate their greatest hits.

Early support tonight comes from This Many Boyfriends, a rag taggle bobtail group clearly inspired by early 80s indie – boppy with a smattering on Mary Chain and Wedding Present. Sound-wise a bit of a timewarp as it takes me back to student days. The venue starts to fill up – tonight’s gig is sold out!

And while we wait for second servings we get Slade and Stuffies and Plant’s ‘Big Log.’ Clearly intended to get the local crowd going.

“Good evening Wolverhampton – are you well, we’re very happy to be here tonight.” The polite introduction from Zulu Winter, the next support. Another indie band, with a new romantic vibe going on – pretty infective. Lead singer Will Daunt has a wide-ranging hi- pitched voice. Acknowledged quite widely on Radio 1’s indie shows Zulu Winter live are a tad like Mansun with atmospheric, rolling and rising storytelling tracks and Mick Karn inspired bass. In the right place and at the right time they have the potential to go far.

Formed way back in ‘96, The Kaiser Chiefs released their classic debut album ‘Employment’ in ‘05 featuring indie pop hits ‘I Predict a Riot’, ‘Every Day I Love You Less and Less’, ‘Oh My God’ and ‘Modern Way.’ Hugely successful, it was one of the best selling albums of ‘06, and was followed by ‘Yours Truly, Angry Mob’, which yielded No.1 hit ‘Ruby.’  The Kaiser consist of Ricky Wilson (vocals), Andrew ‘Whitey” White (guitar), Simon Rix (bass) and Nick ‘Peanut’ Baines (keyboards) and new drummer Vijay Mistry (of Club Smith who supported them last year) after Nick Hodgson recently moved on to pastures new.

So bang on 9.15pm, here they come, onto a blacked draped, white-spotlighted set. Just one of the many reasons Wolves Civic wins out with so many touring bands the height of the venue and luxury to get a decent set on stage.

“1. 2. 3. 4” and we’re into ‘Thank You Very Much.’ The crowd is pleased. Wilson: “Are you ready? I wanna see you all f****n enjoying yourselves!” and the band continue with ‘Kinda Girl You Are’, followed by ‘Everything Is Average Nowdays.’ The crowd responds on the “oooo” bits. Wilson is as always, hugely energetic, and leaps across the pit, over the plethora of photographers to stand on the barrier, held back by a roadie, who grabs the rear of his jeans.   Back on stage and the first trio of songs over Wilson apologises for the possible expletives during his chatting. “Isn’t it about time the photographers went? Go on – off you go! That’s it! I can take my clothes off now….” The photographers duly oblige.

Wilson has great stagecraft and the ability to ramp the audience up – it is the big hits that get the crowd going. ‘Every Time I Love You Less and Less’ – “I want to hear you scream your f****n hearts out!” And the crowd oblige too. “Let me see you hands” the lights beam on the audience as he insists the entire audience puts their hands in the air, even the ones sitting.

“In this room, in Wolverhampton, is when we found out we’d got to number 1 [in the charts] with ‘Ruby’ – we really ought to start writing more number 1s!” And so we get the only new track of the night ‘Living Underground’ – which doesn’t depart from the Kaiser’s formula, but is faster and punchier and rockier.

Now we’re into a rolling set of songs everyone will know… “Cos it’s cool, to know nothing” ‘Never Miss A Beat.’ Wilson is a-wandering, he’s climbed onto the balcony, sitting there chatting to the audience, ramping it up more and more… “When you turn it up a little, we turn it up a little…”

Back on stage the black backdrop falls to reveal a spray painted stick of rock that is the cover on their greatest hits album ‘Souvenir.’ Wilson’s back on stage, bounce, bounce, bounce go the crowd, as we all sing along to “Ruby, Ruby, Ruby.” He carries on singing the chorus and the crowd goes “ooooo.” Now we’re ‘Predicting Riots’, albeit one of the politest riots you’ll ever see!

And as we’re rioting, we’ll be an ‘Angry Mob’. We clap, clap, clap and chant en masse over and over “We are the angry mob, we read the papers every day, we like who we like, we hate who we hate. But we’re also easily swayed.” Cracking end to main set.

Quick break and we get Wilson and piano ‘Saying Goodbye’ followed by a brave cover of The Strangler’s ‘No More Heroes’, Wilson sounds similar to original Strangler singer Hugh Cornwell, this version is faster version and a tad chaotic – a good attempt.

Bit of musical dabbling and we’re into final song of the night  ‘Oh My God’ which rolls and rolls. “And even if you don’t have any strength left in your body – I know, Wolverhampton, you have it in you for another chorus or 15….” And the crowd start chanting… “Oh my god I can’t believe it, never been this far away from home….” The band rolls the track into dance remix before jamming it down! “Thanks we’ll see you next time!”

You can’t fault the energy and commitment that the Kaisers put into their sets. And they’re jolly friendly, jolly nice, down to earth chaps. The thing that the Kaiser’s did was to write effective ‘football’ chant songs that sold, that many peoples know and that are a huge win with the crowd at live shows. It really must be quite amazing to have written those songs with the lyrics that everyone knows and listen to the crowd sing them back to you. What a buzz. Regardless of future success, the Kaiser Chiefs already have a back catalogue most bands would be jealous of; I’ve seen nostalgia bands with fewer hits re-appearing after twenty years absence. Expect the Kaiser Chiefs to be rocking your town for many years to come. Go and see. You will have a blast!

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And now a quick mention about the Pilgrim Bandits. Not a band but a charity, which the Kaiser Chiefs are taking around the country on their entire tour. Formed in 2007 by a small group of Special Forces veterans, this group have the sole aim of using their unique experience to help and inspire wounded soldiers to live life to the full, through pushing boundaries, working with youth and funding research into areas such as prosthetic limbs.  Pilgrim Bandits raise monies, but don’t ask for charity, they ask for your support. Check them out and see what you can do to support them at: www.pilgrimbandits.org

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Setlist

Intro: Money for Nothing [Dire Straits]

1. Thankyou very much

2. Kinda Girl You Are

3. Everything is Average Nowdays

4. Little Shocks

5. Like It Too Much

6. Good Days Bad Days

7. Every Day I Love You Less and Less

8. Born to be a Dancer

9. Modern Way

10. Living Underground

11. Heat Lies Down

12. Loves Not A Competition (But I’m Winning)

13. Dead or Serious Trouble

14. Never Miss A Beat

15. Ruby

16. I Predict A Riot

17. Angry Mob

Encore:

18. Saying Goodbye

19. No More Heroes

20. Oh My God

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Listening:

Employment (2005)

Yours Truly, Angry Mob (2007)

Off With Their Heads (2008)

The Future Is Medieval (2011)

Souvenir -The Singles 2004-2012 (2012)

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Review for Gig Junkies Pictures – Ken Harrison and Birmingham Live! Pictures – John Bentley.

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