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.

Live Music Review – Radiohead, Glastonbury Festival, 23rd June 2017

Setlist:
Daydreaming
Lucky
Ful Stop
Airbag
15 Step
Myxomatosis
Exit Music (for a Film)
Pyramid Song
Everything in Its Right Place
Let Down
Bloom
Weird Fishes/Arpeggi
Idioteque
You and Whose Army?
There There
Bodysnatchers
Street Spirit (Fade Out)

Encore:1:
No Surprises
Nude
2 + 2 = 5
Paranoid Android
Fake Plastic Trees

Encore 2:
Lotus Flower
Creep
Karma Police

“Bring down the government, they don’t speak for us.” As the lyrics to one of Radiohead’s most commercially famous songs – ‘No Surprises’ – the crowd let out a ginormous cheer. Any doubt that one of Britain’s most critically-celebrated bands had failed to engage the audience were quashed at that moment. It seemed to inflate lead singer Thom Yorke’s confidence. At the end of the song he said, simply, “See you later, Theresa. Just shut the door on your way out.”

A huge laugh from the immeasurably-sized crowd was followed by a louder cheer. Yorke clearly knew his audience and knew a left-wing statement was a safe bet.

But the setlist was anything but a safe bet. 

Confidently appearing on stage to the piano theme from ‘Daydreaming’, they launched into a set made primarily of OK Computer album tracks and singles lifted from their more recent releases. 

It was reassuring to see how many people were able to sing along to the likes of ‘Bloom’, ‘Weird Fishes’ and ‘You and Whose Army?”. 
It was only when they launched into ‘Street Spirit (Fade Out)’ did they start to mine what would be considered their more mainstream songs, and the patient crowd were rewarded an eight-song, two-part encore that featured a handful of crowd-pleasers. Or, the most crowd-pleasing Radiohead have ever done. ‘Fake Plastic Trees’, a blasting ‘Paranoid Android’ and an extra crunchy ‘Creep’ ensured the set would live on in memory as one that walked the line between the awkwardly obscure and pleasingly familiar.

It was a great snapshot of one of the greatest bands to grace our planet, and the set is up there with the best, for this crowd member at least.

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.

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.

James Bay live at the Pyramid Stage, Glastonbury Festival, 26th June 2015

Setlist:

Collide
Craving
When We Were On Fire
If You Ever Want to Be in Love
Need The Sun To Break
Let It Go
Scars
Move Together
Best Fake Smile
Get Out While You Can
If I Ain’t Got You
Hold Back the River

On 28th June 2013 I went to see Jake Bugg perform a set on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury Festival. As the hot new acoustic folk kid on the block, there was a lot of anticipation around his performance. He walked out boldly, with just himself and a guitar, and launched into the romantic “Fire”. As the set progressed, it became increasingly obvious that he wasn’t going to interact with the audience. Indeed, his body language just didn’t have any command to it. Whilst he had the tunes, he didn’t have the charisma to fill such a big stage.

Two years on, 2015’s JB found himself in a similar situation. He has been something of a revelation this year – he has been playlisted frequently on both BBC Radio 1 and 2 and his last few singles have all troubled the Top 40 in the UK.

As he performed album track “Collide”, however, I couldn’t help but feel concerned that he might be swallowed up as well. Then the crowd erupted, he shot out a smile and all was well. It was a fantastic moment.

From start to finish he blew away a rammed Pyramid Stage with some breathtaking vocals and subtly restrained guitars. He’s clearly very popular and it’s easy to see why, especially when around 60,000 people are singing every word back to him on “Take Back The River” and “Let It Go”. For someone who was largely unknown a year ago he clearly has what it takes to command the largest of audiences. [1]

Well done sir, you were fantastic.

[1] Ironically Bay’s biggest hit “Hold Back The River”, which hit number 2 earlier this year, was co-written with Bugg’s regular collaborator Iain Archer, along with half of his debut album. Small world, eh?