Live music review – The Bluetones, Rescue Rooms, 14th November 2019

Setlist 1 – Science and Nature

Zorrro
The Last Of The Great Navigators
Tiger Lily
Mudslide
One Speed Gearbox
Blood Bubble
Autophilia (or How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love My Car)
Keep The Home Fires Burning
The Basement Song
Slack Jaw
Emily’s Pine

Setlist 2 – The Hits

After Hours
Bluetonic
Cut Some Rug
Freeze-Dried Pop (Dumb It Up)
Marblehead Johnson
Fast Boy
Never Going Nowhere
Slight Return
If…

Review

The Bluetones arrived in Nottingham in good spirits, as they reached the centre point of the UK leg of their latest tour. This time they were celebrating 20 years since the release of their third album, ‘Science & Nature’, along with a nod to their Singles album that came a few years later.

They took to the stage for their first set of the night dressed in white scientists’ lab coats, a nod to the album title, with the Rescue Rooms roaring in rapturous applause and cheers. They launched into an explosive rendition of ‘Science & Nature’ album opener ‘Zorrro’, the crowd singing along to every word. As frontman Mark Morriss belted the final “Seven levels below”, the first big cheer of the night rang out. Clearly it’s a night for the fans, as is so often the case with The Bluetones gigs.

The fact that Science & Nature wasn’t their most successful album wasn’t lost on Morriss, who was quick to poke fun at its popularity. Explaining the format of the night, the audience learned that they’ll be treated to the entire album in its original order. So, then, he challenges the audience to name the second track on the album. I have to admit I struggled, along with most of the rest of the room. It all came flooding back as they launched into a perfect rendition of ‘The Last Of The Great Navigators’ and then ‘Tiger Lily’.

The self-deprecating humour didn’t stop there. Introducing ‘Mud Slide’, Morriss lets the audience into a secret about the format of the release. It was chosen as the third single from the album, but both the band and the record label Mercury were concerned it might fail to chart due to poor sales. So the solution was to release it as a five-track EP, “thus disqualifying it from the charts altogether”. He claims it was a wise choice because they only sold 27 copies of it. I’m sure that was underplaying it slightly, but I certainly got hold of a copy by nagging Electron in Burnley to get a copy in stock, despite the owner initially denying that the EP existed.

‘One Speed Gearbox’ was next, closing side one of the record, another underappreciated gem from this album that came to life in a rare live outing. It’s a mellow ending to the first side of the record and served as the quiet before the three-and-a-half-minute storm that was awaiting us just around the corner.

This comes in the form of ‘Blood Bubble’, which was stunning. It’s a rare beast for The Bluetones, being a track that features no vocals, but the band just turn the volume up and let rip. Which, as it turns out, is exactly what the crowd do. It’s a song I’ll always strangely associate with the series Spaced (it was used in one of the trailers for the second series, which the band also starred in), so I had to check if I had any Jaffa Cakes in my coat pocket.

‘Autophilia (or How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love My Car)’, was next. It’s a song I never enjoyed when it was originally released and it hasn’t grown on me since. As I look around the room, I can see I’m in the minority.

Introducing the album’s lead single, ‘Keep The Home Fires Burning’, Morriss declared “This one’s about domestic violence”, before adding after a perfectly-timed delay “Its against it!” If there is one song from this album that could challenge for being their best ever song, it is surely this one. The title of the track is borrowed from an old British patriotic wartime song composed by Ivor Novello, with matching brass backing that sounds like they’re lifted from an advert for baked bread. It’s truly a thing of beauty and sounds as good tonight as it ever has.

The final trio were played out as perfect replicas of their studio-recorded originals. It was a privilege to see a song like ‘Slack Jaw’ live after listening to it for two decades.

After a short break, the band came back on stage to perform, as Morriss put it, “smash after smash after smash”. This set included two tracks from their singles collection: ‘After Hours’ and ‘Freeze Dried Pop’. Both were clearly commercially minded upon release, although the latter never saw the light of day thanks to a fall out with the record label that was explained in detail by Morriss. He joked that the band promised to tell everyone that it was their own decision, despite the fact this was far from the truth.

Their final two tracks – ‘Slight Return’ and ‘If…’ were met with the loudest singing of the night, each audience member desperate to enjoy every last drop of fun from the set. The Bluetones have a dedicated fan base and it didn’t feel like there were many speculative attendees on a night. This was an audience packed with die-hard fans of the band, and they’ll surely be back in full voice again next time the band come to town.

Live music review – Laura Marling, Glastonbury Festival, 25th June 2017

Setlist:
Soothing
Wild Fire
The Valley
Nothing, Not Nearly
Don’t Pass Me By
Sophia
Once
Salinas
Daisy
How Can I
I Speak Because I Can
Rambling Man

On a hazy afternoon at the Pyramid Stage, just before Barry Gibb kickstarted a night of partying for a crowd ready to go out in a blaze of glory, Laura Marling was providing a set equivalent of the quiet before the storm. It was a beautiful and understated performance that showed her abilities both as a songwriter and as a performer, with a subtle backing band providing a platform to allow her songs to soar.

The first and only time I had seen her previously was at the Hop Farm Festival in Kent in July 2008. Back then she’d just released her debut album ‘I Speak Because I Can‘, which was making waves at the time, and she wowed an audience who were there primarily there to watch Neil Young, Supergrass and My Morning Jacket. Not bad for an 18 year old.

Fast forward to 2017 and you can see a massive development in her as an artist. Her latest album, ‘Semper Femina‘, is a collection of songs exploring what it is to be a female. For me, music has to come from a position of passion and commitment to what is being said. For that very reason, Laura Marling absolutely one of the most authentic artists out there and the album rates in the top releases so far this year.

The new songs featured heavily in the setlist, making up five of the twelve tracks, including ‘Nothing, Not Nearly’ and set opener ‘Soothing’. But it was ‘Rambling Man’ from her debut album that stuck with me the most, with most of the crowd joining in for the famous refrain.

To those unaware of her work, she could be mistaken for being overly indebted to Joni Mitchell. This is wholly untrue and inaccurate. Marling is an artist in her own right and has been prolific and consistently excellent for a decade now.

Long may it continue.

[Note] When Marling introduced Daisy, she mentioned a friend of hers called Daisy May-Hudson who last year directed a film called ‘Halfway’, a film about homeless housing struggles. I had never heard of it but I’ve located a trailer for it online here and if I can locate it online I’ll make sure I watch it

Live music review – Goldfrapp, Glastonbury Festival, 25th June 2017

Setlist:
Anymore
Train
Slide In
Everything Is Never Enough
Become the One
Systemagic
Number 1
Ride a White Horse
Ooh La La
Strict Machine

They may have had some technical difficulties that delayed the start of their set, but once they finally arrived Goldfrapp absolutely blew away the John Peel Tent at Glastonbury Festival on Sunday afternoon.

Alison Goldfrapp may well be one of the most engrossing female performers in the industry. Her striking black costume, sumptuous vocals and commanding stage presence are a powerful concoction.

They led the set off with latest single ‘Anymore‘, taken from recent album ‘Silver Eye‘. It’s a dance floor filler and highly indicative of the first half of the album. As two dancers strutted across the stage, jolting sharply, it was clear this was going to be as much performance art as it was a live gig. [1]

Favourites ‘Train’ and ‘Slide In’ followed, continuing the dance vibe that the crowd were clearly enjoying.

A trio of songs from ‘Silver Eye’ followed, with the highlight being ‘Systemagic‘, which happens to be the next single taken from the album. It’s another powerful track with a mixture of heavy bass and industrial drums. Alison was in fine form, enjoying giving some new material a new audience.

As Alison said “You know this one I think…” before the electronic pounding of the intro to ‘Number 1’, she kicked off a familiar conclusion to the set. The final tracks rounded off the set nicely, with all four amongst the most popular (or perhaps most mainstream) of their material: ‘Number 1’, ‘Ride a White Horse’, ‘Ooh La La’ and ‘Strict Machine’. This is a sensible choice at a festival, even if the more dedicated fans would have loved to hear a song or two from ‘Seventh Tree‘ or ‘Felt Mountain‘.

I’ve seen Goldfrapp on many occasions and they seem to get better and better. Predictably, the crowd went wild for them, setting sail into the warm Glastonbury air for the final night of the festival having seen one the best sets of the weekend.

[1] Catch their latest music videos below. Systemagic gives a great idea of what their stage dancers look like.

Glastonbury 2017 Day Five: Ed Sheeran, Goldfrapp, Barry Gibb, Chic

The fifth and final day at the festival had been and gone. I am a beaten man, but it was worth it.

My first port of call for music for the day was to catch Jamie Cullum on the Pyramid Stage as he did the lunchtime slot. Nobody can deny he gives all his energy into his performances, and he has plenty of it. He’s an extremely talented man, and performed a mixture of covers and originals with his tightly-rehearsed group. Amongst the covers was a jazzed-up Ed Sheeran number.

I moved in close to the front the see Laura Marling, who captivated the audience with her unique country-folk hybrid styles. It’s hard to deny being reminded of Joni Mitchell as she pairs a voice that borders on yodelling with the most intricate of guitar work. Her final song ‘Rambling Man’ was simply beautiful.

Barry Gibb was next on the main stage, with the traditional Sunday afternoon legends slot. I definitely “got into” the set, and there is plenty of evidence of me singing along on the live broadcast. Fair play to him for donning the golf jacket for the end of the set.

The disco bar was raised another level when Chic took to the stage. From a hit-packed set my absolute highlight was ‘Let’s Dance’, which blew my mind. Singing that at full volume with 100,000 other fans is a truly special moment.

I had to swim against the tide to get to Goldfrapp at the John Peel Stage. Clearly some bad planning going on as the Chic-then-Goldfrapp option was appealing to many and at the same time Killers-then-Biffy was equally appealing. Cue pandemonium on the walkway between the two. Goldfrapp’ set was slightly delayed but once they kicked off they were as glorious as I expected them to be. Singer Alison Goldfrapp commands the stage like no other and there wasn’t a still waist in the tent. Their new album ‘Silver Eye’ had a good run out, with ‘Systematic’ being my particular favourite.

I caught the end of the Biffy Clyro set, with Matt Carole cover ‘When We Collide’ going down a treat [1].

The main headliner, Ed Sheeran, was an act I wasn’t particularly fussed about seeing when the day started. In lieu of there being no other appealing headliners we stuck with him and I can heartily say it was the biggest positive surprise of the weekend. This is a 26-year-old man and he has gone out on the main stage and powered through a set full of hits to an eager crowd. ‘Castle on the Hill’, ‘A Team’, ‘Shape of You’ and ‘Thinking Out Loud’ are undoubtedly songs of the highest quality and nobody can deny he has an extremely powerful voice. A talented man, full of confidence and charisma. Absolute quality.

A quick look around Cineramageddon as the 1970 Mick Jagger film Performance began to play and we saw a close to our festival. I can safely say that nobody had the exact experience I had – everyone’s pathway through the biggest party in the world is completely unique and wonderful. It’s exhausting, it’s exhilarating and it’s something I never want to end.

Thank you Michael and Emily. Until next time.

[1] I’M TROLLING YOU DON’T WORRY!

Glastonbury 2017 Day Four: Thundercat, Corbyn, Foo Fighters, The National

A cracking headline slot and a politically-empowering speech from Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn defined Saturday at Glastonbury Festival 2017.

The order of the day was love, which is apparently all you really need. The Bootleg Beatles opened the Pyramid with a Sgt. Peppers-era set that featured a the likes of ‘A Little Help From My Friends’, ‘Penny Lane’, ‘I Am The Walrus’ and ‘A Day in the Life’, though I was personally disappointed they didn’t add the extra twenty verses recently written by Peter Serafinowicz.

I was able to dash across the site to catch the entire Whitney set, which was an uplifting surprise despite the weather. The fresh-faced American band, led by drummer/vocalist Julien Ehrlich, wooed the crowd with their hazy Americana tunes and sarcastic banter. It’s rare for me to get so entranced by a band after just 45 minutes of listening but I’m keen to hear more now.

The Thundercat set on the West Holts Stage was a showcase of musicianship masterclasses, though it was married with a penchant for memorable and soulful delivery by frontman Stephen Bruner.

One defining moment of the day came from an empowering speech from Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. He spoke for around ten minutes to a packed crowd in the Pyramid and it felt like everyone in attendance took a step to the left, no matter where they started from. Admittedly, he was inevitably going to be popular here, but he’s quickly becoming the voice of a generation that seemed for so long to have nobody fighting their corner. The next five years will be the most interesting politically Britain has seen for decades.

From the stirring to the boring, The Kaiser Chiefs blandly went through he motions of their set to an indifferent crowd clearly waiting for Liam Gallagher to appear. This kind of band brings out the worst in middle-aged people clearly harbouring dormant lad culture personas inside their older bodies. Out come the Kangol hats, Oasis t-shirts and angry alter-egos and, some eight pints later, everyone can have a fight. Wonderful. Liam put in a solid performance, mind you, with a mixture of tracks from his upcoming ‘As You Were’ album and Oasis hits (up to and including 1997 but no later).

The National underlined the 10+ recommendations I’ve had from friends who clearly have better music taste than me. They were brilliant and had the crowds singing along. I’ve no idea how they’ve slipped through the net thus far but they’ll be unslipping very shortly.

The absolute hands-down 100% best set of the day came from Foo Fighters. They performed for well over two hours, providing hit after hit from their eight studio albums and their upcoming ninth album Concrete and Gold, due for release later this year. Starting with ‘Times Like These’, which was sweetly dedicated to Florence Welch, they blasted through a set that included ‘This Is A Call’, ‘All My Life’, new single ‘Run’, ‘My Hero’ and ended on fan favourite ‘Everlong’. The crowd didn’t want them to stop, so just carried on the chanting from ‘Best of You’ as they dispersed. Special mention to Taylor Hawkins and Dave Grohl for duetting on ‘Under Pressure’, doing their best impressions of David Bowie and Freddie Mercury. A classic moment.

If only I could get those songs out of my head I’d be able to sleep better!

Live music review – First Aid Kit, Glastonbury Festival, 23rd June 2017

Setlist:

Wolf
Master Pretender
Waitress Song
The Lion’s Roar
You Are the Problem Here
Ghost Town
King of the World
It’s a Shame
The Gambler
Stay Gold
Emmylou
My Silver Lining

Sandwiched between Northern indie rockers Blossoms and country legend Kris Kristofferson and with a rain cloud threatening above them, First Aid Kit managed to bridge the tonal gap whilst standing out as a powerful group well at home at a festival they were appearing at for the third time.

Kicking off with 2012 single ‘Wolf’, it was hard not to feel mesmerised by the band, fronted by sisters Klara Söderberg and Johanna Söderberg. These are not just great singers and musicians, but great performers too, exhibiting passion and anger at times to provide an edge to what many try to pigeonhole as either folk or country music. Or both.

Recent single ‘You Are The Problem Here‘ was a case in point, with Klara’s refrain “I hope you fucking suffer” causing plenty of mid-afternoon picnic blanket revellers to stand up and take up notice.

With songs like ‘Stay Gold’ and ‘My Silver Lining’, it’s truly difficult not to fall in love with them and their songs. They’re simply beautiful, heartfelt and honest pieces of music. It’s hard to think that anyone who was really paying attention wasn’t a fan by the end of their set.

A triumph.

Glastonbury announce Pilton Palais Cinema line-up!

Glastonbury has announced its line-up for the Pilton Palais Cinema at this year’s festival. The list is below or you can follow the link here for more info.

The area is always a highlight of every year at Glastonbury and is well worth checking out for a brief time, even if you only catch one film!

The whole thing is being curated by Tilda Swinton, returning for her second consecutive year. Her film Okja is lighting up Cannes right now and will no doubt be an interesting prospect for those in attendance.

My highlights are the two silent films: Metropolis and The Adventures of Prince Achmed. I’ve seen Metropolis several times on the big screen previously, but never with a live musical accompaniment. If you’ve never seen a silent film done this way then either of these are a must, though their favourable time slots will no doubt mean they will be popular choices.

Here are the full listings, in no particular order.

Wednesday
Sing
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Beside Bowie: The Mick Ronson Story
Donnie Darko
Enter the Dragon

Thursday
The Adventures of Prince Achmed (with live score by The Guildhall Electronic Music Studio)
Robocop
Alien
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Frozen Sing-a-long
Monty Python and the Holy Grail
The Big Lebowski

Friday
Doctor Strange
Bunch of Kunst: A Film About Sleaford Mods (featuring guest appearance by the band)
Okja (UK Premiere)
Ghostbusters (1984)
Lupita: Castle in the Sky

Saturday
Metropolis (with live score by The Old Police House Collective)
The Rocky Horror Picture Show
Don’t Look Now
What About Bob
Bag of Rice
Gimme Danger

Sunday
Advanced Screening (TBC)
Paterson
Your Name
Rushmore
Hedwig

Live music review – Elton John at Leicestershire County Cricket Club, 11th June 2016

Setlist:
Funeral for a Friend / Love Lies Bleeding
The Bitch Is Back
Bennie and the Jets
I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues
Daniel
Looking Up
A Good Heart
Philadelphia Freedom
Piano Improv
Rocket Man (I Think It’s Going to Be a Long, Long Time)
Tiny Dancer
Levon
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
Have Mercy on the Criminal
Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word
Your Song
Burn Down the Mission
Sad Songs (Say So Much)
Don’t Let the Sun Go Down On Me
All the Girls Love Alice
I’m Still Standing
Your Sister Can’t Twist (But She Can Rock ‘n Roll)
Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting

Encore:
Candle in the Wind
Crocodile Rock


Elton John returned to Leicester for the first time in 40 years to play to a packed crowd of eager middle-aged middle-class concert goers. The day was geared towards his fanbase – all tickets were seated and it the whole thing was wrapped up well before 10pm. The main flaw was a vast underestimation of how popular fish and chips would be with a crowd who arrived before 5pm.

Elton didn’t waste any time getting stuck into his biggest hits, blasting into an epic take on Funeral For A Friend / Love Lies Bleeding, before picking up the pace with The Bitch Is Back.

These concerts can always run the risk of such a well-established artist like Elton John just going through the motions. His touring band has been together for a while and have been playing these songs for decades, but it didn’t show. The important thing was that they all looked thrilled to be there, a sentiment that transferred directly to the audience. It wasn’t until he got into the slow-paced A Good Heart from his latest album Wonderful Crazy Night that the crowd died down and took a breather.

The mood was only soured when Elton launched a tirade towards some over-zealous security guards at the front of the stage, who appeared to be forcing the crowd to stay seated. Elton refused to continue until they sat down themselves, and this confrontation caused a slight break in the fun.

It must be difficult to stay in a bad mood, however, when your songs are being sung word-for-word by 1000s of adoring fans, and as the drinks flowed and the night drew in, the crowd fell in love with the superstar all over again. With songs this good, it’s easy to see why.

Live music review – Travis live at The Roadmender, Northampton, 25/01/2016

Setlist
Everything At Once
Writing To Reach You
Love Will Come Through
Driftwood
Paralysed
Side
Re-Offender
Animals
Where You Stand
Three Miles High
More Than Us
Closer
Turn
Flowers in the Window
Sing
Blue Flashing Light

Encore
Good Feeling
Why Does It Always Rain On Me?

Back in 1999, Travis were on top of the world. They’d enjoyed moderate success with their debut album ‘Good Feeling’, but with ‘The Man Who…’ they had become relentlessly popular. Songs such as ‘Writing To Reach You’, ‘Turn’, ‘Driftwood’ and ‘Why Does It Always Rain On Me?’ were hard to avoid that summer, and they cemented their success with a glorious headlining slot at Glastonbury in 2000.

They may not still be considered mainstream, but those that have stuck with them know their form has never really dropped. The intervening years have given us a plethora of excellent album releases, from the radio-friendly ‘The Invisible Band’ in 2001, through the politically-driven ’12 Memories’ in 2003 to ‘Where You Stand’ in 2013, which is arguably their strongest set to date. Indeed, only 2008’s ‘Ode to J. Smith’ failed to trouble the top five of the UK album charts, showing that the plentiful die-hard fans kept coming back for more.

With 2016 promising new album ‘Everything at Once’, and with a couple of well-received singles in the bag, Travis decided to go out on a mini-tour to road-test the new material for these fans. I was there for the first of these gigs, at the Roadmender in Northampton, to catch their return to the stage.

The 850-strong crowd were in fine voice as they smashed their way through the first handful of songs. Opening with new track ‘Everything At Once’ was a brave move that paid off and it has already clearly been well received. However, it wasn’t until ‘Writing To Reach You’ kicked in that the audience really got going. A couple more hits followed before the next new track ‘Paralysed’ was given its first airing. It sounded good but singer Fran Healy admitted it would take five or six listens before any new material would truly sink in.

With an audience such as this – most were members of the mailing list that had been tipped-off about a ticket pre-sale – the more obscure songs will always be appreciated. Both ‘More Than Us’ and ‘Good Feeling’ from their debut album received huge cheers, as did ‘Blue Flashing Light’ as it closed the main set. It was this set closer that proved to be perhaps the highlight of the night, clearly now a fan favourite despite being buried as a secret track on ‘The Man Who…’.

And so the night came to a close with their signature song ‘Why Does It Always Rain On Me?’, sung at full volume by everyone present. It was a night for Travis to get back into the swing of things in safe and welcoming surroundings, knowing they would receive a much-deserved warm response from their most dedicated fans. They are set to take their new album on the road this summer (an announcement is set to be made tomorrow morning at 7am). Whilst they might not win any new fans over, they certainly won’t disappoint those already converted.

Noel Gallagher live at BBC Radio Theatre, 07/12/2015

Setlist
1. It’s Good To Be Free
2. Talk Tonight
3. The Death Of You And Me
4. If I Had A Gun
5. Do You Wanna Be A Spaceman
6. Listen Up
7. Sad Song
8. The Importance of Being Idle
9. Cast No Shadow
10. Half The World Away
11. Slide Away
12. Wonderwall
13. AKA… What A Life
14. Don’t Look Back In Anger

Review
It’s not common to see an artist of Noel Gallagher’s stature in such a small venue. He may be seen at times to be divisive and opinionated, but whether you like him as a person or not, it’s hard to argue against his contribution to the music industry over the last two decades. His successes were never more apparent than tonight’s career-spanning setlist featuring new stripped-down twists on many familiar songs.

In terms of importance, doing a gig like this for BBC Radio 2 is about as big as it gets for most artists. Today Noel has performed a sound check during the Ken Bruce show in the morning (actually just a performance) and was then interviewee during the Simon Mayo drive-time show. The main event was an hour-long performance for Jo Whiley at 8pm, delivered in the intimate 400-capacity BBC Radio Theatre venue but beamed to millions around the world. So that’s three shows with very different demographics, plus the additional buzz for the last week or so on every show on the most popular radio station in Britain, plus coverage on the Red Button on any BBC TV channel.

Whilst Noel Gallagher doesn’t really need to do this now – he’s popular enough that his name will sell enough albums and tickets to turn a profit for everything he does – it’s impeccable timing with all those husbands’ and dads’ stockings to fill and a tour with a smattering of tickets left. It’s never a bad thing to remind everyone how good your tunes are. And that is exactly what he does.

The audience would have been forgiven for expecting stripped down versions of songs from his latest record. His second album Chasing Yesterday, released earlier this year, silenced anyone who was suggesting his debut was only good because he’s been saving songs from Oasis albums throughout their career. It was arguably better than that excellent debut album. However, Chasing Yesterday was conspicuous by its complete absence from the set tonight.

Indeed, prior to the gig my brother and I had joked about what songs he was going to play. Whatever we said, we didn’t honestly think we’d get six Oasis b-sides, two Oasis album tracks, three huge Oasis singles and just three High Flying Birds tracks (all from the first album). By the time Sad Song was being played, we genuinely wondered whether the suggestion that he’d play Little James as the encore seemed a little less unlikely.

With each track completely stripped down to suit the setting and played by a tightly rehearsed band, the songs have rarely sounded this good. This time 10000+ fans weren’t going to be singing every line back to him and with it being transmitted around the globe, precision was key.

So if the goal wasn’t to promote the new album but rather remind the world exactly just how good his back catalogue was, then this was the perfect night for Noel. Topped off with some great banter with the audience (Stoke and John Lewis were on the receiving end of some sharp quips) and a well-behaved crowd (sadly a rarity for Oasis-related gigs), it couldn’t have gone better. The audience left in disbelief that they’d seen so many songs they never thought they’d see live, all the more special when seen in such an intimate setting.

An excellent performance. Well done sir.