Tag Archive: Erica Nockalls

Public Image Ltd + The Selector + Erica Nockalls @ 02 Academy Birmingham, 20th October 2013

Screen Shot 2013-10-21 at 15.56.32Tonight’s gig is most definitely something old, something new, nothing borrowed, something blue. The shiny and new is Erica Nockalls, something old (as in historic) are Coventry’s 2Toners The Selector and the entirely relevant and slightly blue legendary John Lydon and his band of brothers – aka Public Image Ltd.

We arrive pretty early, before 7pm, and there’s already a queue. Security come out, doors open. Then doors close and security go back in. Okay – what be going on here? 7.15 the queue is growing and we’re still waiting. A quick chat with a security guy who’s ventured out and we discover that sound checks are still ongoing. Five minutes later the doors finally open and we queue to go in. Bizarrely paying punters with tickets in hand appear to be outnumbered by those on the guestlist – Nockalls (and her other half Miles Hunt) have been offering up guestlist places like there’s no tomorrow and The Selector too have a group of people in tow.

As we enter the main 02 Academy at 7.25pm, Erica Nockalls is on stage, akin in leather and pink tutu. “Thanks for having us….” The venue is pretty sparse and usually absolutely freezing cold, as she sets off her rock-punk set. I saw her at the Hare and Hounds recently – she is different and pretty good. Nockalls graduated from Birmingham Conservatoire after which, she’s spent the last eight years being the fiddly with The Wonder Stuff. And she’s worked with The Proclaimers and recently toured with Fink.  “This is my own band – I’ve played on this stage a number of times… let’s see how much trouble I can get in on my own.” An appreciative Hunt is at the sound desk; his tousled head bopping up and down.  Her debut album ‘Imminent Room’ is out now. In her own words “I hadn’t been able to find any good new music to listen to, so I thought I’d invent some of my own”.  The sound check issues are showing, unfortunately the sound isn’t good, way too loud to get a true reflection of Nockalls’ ability.

The Academy is still pretty empty as on come the 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. A big cheer comes from the audience and they start to bounce along to the self- titled ‘The Selector.’ The band are energetic and enjoyable; “get on the ‘Train to Skaville’” ‘James Bond’ all skaed up with their Licence to Kill. ‘On My Radio’ we all sing and bounce and the set finishes with ‘Too Much Pressure.’ It’ll be 35 years since The Selector started out next year – you can catch them on tour in 2014 and back at here at the Academy on March 13th.

Even though we had the earlier delay, the bands on stage timings are now back on track, though bizarrely, and I really don’t understand why, the crowd is pretty sparse. If you take away the long list of people who collared a guestlist entrance I suspect this gig was lucky not to be downgraded to the Academy2 – there must be between 500-800 people here. I didn’t expect a sold out gig – but I expected far more than this.

Formed in 1978, Lydon remains the only sole consistent member of PiL. Their musical sound covers a diverse experimental range of sounds; from screaming chants and bile ridden attacks of ‘Public Image’ and ‘This is Not a Love Song’ through the ‘rise’ of their 1986 release – classically and simply marketed as ‘Album’, ‘Cassette’ and ‘Compact Disc’ – mixed with the trademark Lydon sneer and haunting, rising melodies. In ’92, PiL were officially in hiatus, Lydon occasionally appearing with the reformed Sex Pistols, and in a brilliant turn on “I’m a Celebrity…..” a total polar opposite of what one would expect, but no parody – maybe two fingers to the reality TV  genre, they clearly signed him because of his unpredictability. Far more astute than that, he walked, but we all knew he would have won, hands down. To quote a comment from the time on the PiL website “He also brings quality TV to the masses”. Too right.  Lydon’s ability to do the polar opposite of what people would expect of him, took him to ‘Country Life Butter’ adverts and gave him the financial ability to go back to his true love; to reform and tour PiL in late 2009. Since then they’ve gone from strength to strength, playing the US and European festivals. In 2011, PiL were awarded the ‘Outstanding Contribution to Music’ at the Mojo Honours list. On 28th May 2012, on their own self funded label, PiL Official Ltd, they released their first studio album in 20 years – ‘This is PiL’ to critical acclaim. Track ‘Under the House’ featured in the Olympic 2012 Opening Ceremony and earlier this week Lydon received the prestigious BMI Icon Award for songwriters – recognising his work with the Sex Pistols and PiL and impact he’s had on social culture:

“It couldn’t be more appropriate and timely, really, considering the body of work I’ve just had to go through and endure to get my Public Image back up again, form our own label and be completely free and independent of the large corporations. This is very, very timely for me. And I think, you know, what took you so long? [laughter]” – John Lydon, BMI Q&A

For Lydon PiL is serious. It’s about their music. Delivered immaculately. This is not about John Lydon misbehaving, spitting venom and winding the crowd up.  Bang on 9pm, the venue is darkened and a single light shines of the PiL logo fixed to netting at the back of the stage. Lydon greets us with ‘Good evening….’ and we’re off. ‘Deeper Water’ is off the new album – this is a song that rolls and licks with Lydon’s vocals as he yowls and purrs. No words between songs and we’re into ‘Albatross.’

“ ‘ello Brum. Are you ready?” The crowd heckle; it’s part of the crack at any PiL gig and we’re into ‘This is Not a Love Song’, still snarly and irreverent, but all funked up.  “Are you there? Are you ready?’” comes the snarl. The technical sound difficulties continue, the band still play on; Lydon “I can hear f**k all… just f**king disortion…” It’s not getting sorted. “Carry on playing…” and the band duly do. “I’m getting a real problem here…” To the crowd: “Now it’ not Johnny throwing a diva…. I aint got no tits….” and slowly, from his side the sound is rectified but not to the audience. The balance is out, Lydon sounds like he’s singing in an enormous tin can – it’s difficult to hear the rhythms within the songs.

“This is what you want…. This is what you get…. This is what you want… this is what you get….” Lydon chants leading into ‘The Body.’ To crowd applause and wolf whistles. “And the crowd went wild…” he quips. The mighty ‘Warrior’ rolls on next – many of the songs are longer editions they are not just three minute; at least 10 each.

A break between songs, as Lydon speaks to the drummer – the crowd start chanting “You fat bas***d…” A classic Lydon retort; “Where’s your f***ing manners? – Can’t you see we’re having a chat…” and we get ‘Death Disco’. The set is completed by new track ‘One Drop’ and Lydon plays to the crowd as they exit stage right.

Back on “You all be tired… you must have run the marathon. Who won? I was there in mind, spirit and complete f***ing drunken laziness…” And we get the in your face ‘Public Image’ which receives a huge cheer before the class act that is ‘Rise’. The sound by now is excruciatingly loud and distorted. “It’s good when they put the lights on you… my god you’re ugly… but not as ugly as me…” Then get down and dance as we get PiL doing the Lydon/Leftfield dance/ trance classic ‘Open Up…’

“Thank you Birmingham – for putting up with us…”  Lydon is totally and completely sincere in his comment.

I’ve seen PiL before. They are indeed a stunning and awesome sight. Unfortunately tonight, the venue that let them down, the sound balance was mostly terrible. A great show, but we didn’t hear PiL in their true glorious colours.

Lydon has been accused of becoming almost becoming a cartoon character of his punk and eccentric image. But what he is, is far more. More than just a national treasure, he provides a masterclass in longevity, charisma and that chameleon approach to being open to create and vocalise, logic and create music in a truly different and unique approach. Fiercely articulate and intelligent, he is far more than just the obnoxious lead singer of a punk band that may have changed the world thirty odd years ago – PiL over the years have created a series of foot stomping classics, utilizing rock, dance, folk, ballet, pop and dub.

Lydon was key to changing the world of music. He truly deserves all the accolades chucked at him and you know really, he’s rather chuffed, regardless of his irreverent demeanor.  He helped to give a multitude of musicians the opportunity to create music for the masses that just wouldn’t have been thought possible to achieve. PiL are entirely a class act – and for all who have been inspired by the opportunity to create alternative music, then surely the opportunity to see one of the most eclectic and revolutionary artists of recent times, on form, is a must.  PiL will be back – hopefully at a venue that will do them for better justice. Get the opportunity, a must go and see.

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PiL Setlist;

1. Deeper Water

2. Albatross

3. This is Not A Love Song

4. Pop Tones

5. Careering

[This is what you want]

6. The Body

[This is what you want]

7. Warrior

8. Reggae Song

9. Death Disco

10. Out of the Woods

11. One Drop

Encore:

12. Public Image

13. Rise

14. Open Up

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Listening [PiL]:

Lydon’s response to which of his recordings to listen to:

“I would recommend you see us live and hear what this is truly about, and from there on in you can make your own decisions. For me it’s always been about live performance. That’s the be-all and end-all of it really. That’s the ultimate release.” John Lydon, BMI Q&A

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Review for Gig Junkies; Photos: Ken Harrison.

Erica Nockalls + Miles Hunt + Laura Kidd @ Hare & Hounds, Birmingham 16 July 13

So for the first time in years the British summer has actually appeared and we’re all drooping in heat that would be great if you were on holibobs – maybe not so great if you have to work! Tonight we’re at the indie venue in Brum with a legendary status, the Hare & Hounds in Kings Heath, to see a ‘family affair’ – interlinking artistes – who do more than just play music.  Predicting the room would be hot and stuffy – we’re wrong! Tonight’s air con is hugely efficient; it’s cooler inside than out.

First up it’s Miles Hunt. Frontsman of local and original grebos The Wonder Stuff and one time half of the acoustic duo with (and squeeze of) headliner Erica Nockalls. An acoustic set, just him and his guitar with witty anecdotes between. “Evenin’ all…. Lovely to be ‘ere, last time I was up here I was blind drunk…” Tonight’s he’s playing an “unusual collection of songs – which you might fuckin’ hate….” many written when he was in “a dark place…” I used to drink in Stourbridge. I saw all these indie bands before and as they set off on their trail of indie-music greatness. We were a bunch of kids and life’s directions have all taken us on different journeys – some good and some not so good. Clearly Hunt has had, at times, a difficult journey too, regardless of the fact he’s lauded locally as a grebo rock god. ‘Give It To Me Whole’ and ‘At One’ clearly show the place Hunt was in when he wrote these. Another one, ‘Smoked’, written in the early hours of the morning after being slagged off by so called mates after “a fuckin’ awful night”. It’s a rocking, rolling song – he stops to say before the end… “Told you this wasn’t a cheery one – it’s even getting me down…” before continuing on his musical way.

Next up a new Stuffies track to “lighten the mood” – ‘Friendly Company’ with classic Stuffie sound. And to another “grim song” ‘Yes and No’ and then to a song from his band Vent 414 (formed after the Stuffies first split in the 90’s) ‘Fixer’ – “Good memories; fuckin’ depressing lyrics.” A comment made that his vocals may note quite hit the mark “I was 28 when I wrote this, I’m now nearly 50 for fuck sake…”

And for his last, we have a choice of a couple of covers or an option of a Stuffie song. An audience member shouts out and here it is – the uplifting ditty (from second Wonder Stuff album ‘Hup’) that is ‘Piece of Sky’. We all sing along….

Hunt is clear; he’s not the main act of tonight. That is very definitely Nockalls. “God bless ya! Enjoy Erica… I know you will…”. His lyrical inspiration may have been dark but he’s clearly in a better place now – tonight Hunt with his anecdotes, is witty and funny, his solo set is great.  You should do “more, more, more” of this spoken word set Miles….

Tonight’s audience is around 100; friends, family, those who’ve turned up to see Hunt, those who are intrigued by Nockalls. It’s nicely cozy in the room. Twenty-minute break and onto a dry iced, blue-lit stage, here’s the statuesque Erica Knockalls. “Good evening Birmingham – let’s do this!” Violin in hand and we’re into the punk inspired rolling track that is ‘Neon Crucifix’.

Nockalls graduated from Birmingham Conservatoire after which, she’s spent the last eight years being the fiddly with The Wonder Stuff. And she’s worked with The Proclaimers and recently toured with Fink.  Her debut album ‘Imminent Room’, which she’s promoting tonight, contains contributions from Wayne Hussey (The Mission), guitarist Mark Gemini (Pete Murphy, The Mission) and vocalist from Carcass, Jeff Walker. In her own words “I hadn’t been able to find any good new music to listen to, so I thought I’d invent some of my own”.  

Next track ‘Forest’ is indie dance – Nockalls is akin to an indie Gwen Stephani – sound-wise she’s rockier and heavier live than on the couple of singles I’ve listened to. And it all works really well. ‘Manikan’ is a clutter-buck of a song with a great bass beat. ‘I Am Me / This Is Now’ morphs into surprisingly heavy rock.

At the back of the stage, fixed to the walls are pieces of artwork. She’s more than a talented musician – this art is for sale. “You can buy, no price tags, make an offer through my website…” and is accompanied by a moody atmospheric track ‘It’s Killer, Darling’.

New single ‘Cut Them Out’ is followed by a track “…so new the paint’s still wet” – ‘Metrical Romance’ – a sultry Strawberry Switchblade (remember them?)-esque track which gets heavier and heavier…. “Thanks you’ve been awesome – I can’t believe it…. Let’s get drunk…”

Erica Nockalls was somewhat of a surprise. Check out her new album and even better, if you get a chance, go see her live.

Nockalls was officially the headliner, however tonight is not over, now we get Laura Kidd, bass player of Nockalls’ band (and also for Viv Albertine) and general all round artiste. She creates her music as she goes along, singing or playing and then recording and feeding it back into a multi-layered loop, which she then sings over. Kidd is indie in sound and style, with smatterings of PJ Harvey and Melissa Auf der Maur. ‘Olympian’ is a pretty track; ‘Delete’ “about the internet not suicide” are all built on the fly. She’s two albums on sale tonight, sang with Karina Round at this very venue (which is when she met Hunt and Nockalls and, slightly pissed, gained the courage to thrust a CD into their hands. They clearly liked what they heard.)

‘Slow Puncture’ gains a cheer from the audience – “three people – awesome!” encouraging the crowd to “sing along and I’ll feel awesome”. ‘In this boat’ Kidd teaches us the chorus to so we can sing along: “…you are an anchor, I am a wave…” The song is written about an ex (who’s not here tonight!) – the first line could be flexibly changed to “I am a wanker….” Periodically she walks off stage through the audience singing – with megaphone or uke. She goes down really well and clearly thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity. Video maker and all round creative talent you can find out lots more about Laura Kidd at www.shemakeswar.com

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Setlist:

  1. Neon Crucifix
  2. Forest
  3. Manikan
  4. I Am Me / This Is NOW
  5. Day One
  6. It’s Killer, Darling
  7. Cut Them Out
  8. Metrical Romance

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Review for Gig Junkies. Photographer: Ken Harrison.