• Sonic orgasms from Wooden Shjips Wednesday 4-6-2014

    6 Jun 2014, 15:28

    Wed 4 Jun – Wooden Shjips, The Cult of Dom Keller
    Annoyed to have missed them last time they were in Brum. Still, well worth the wait, but I have to admit I remain perplexed as to why they are only playing tiny venues when they are so fucking great. Whilst some artists are continually striving to reinvent themselves, with lesser & greater levels of success, the Wooden Shjips just make a small palette go an amazingly long way. And their new album Back To Land simply continues to extend their repertoire. Without wishing to sound corny they are just a trip without drugs. That said, a guy we were talking to after the show said that, at one time, his brain was being stirred by two wooden spoons and his fists were wasps punching him in the face. Either way this band really rock by tightly building minimalist grooves around the bass and drums and layering dense psychedelic keyboards and guitars over the top that are over the top. Gloriously over the top. The intensity of their performance is what makes them so good. When a song like Motorbike hits the groove this music is transcendent. Yes I know I sound like an old hippy, but do yourself a favour and see this band live. You won't regret it.
  • Toumani blessings - too few bums on seats. Toumani & Sidiki Diabaté Mon 1-6-2014

    2 Jun 2014, 11:42

    Sun 1 Jun – Toumani Diabaté, Sidiki Diabaté
    To hear a direct lineage in musicianship & oral history older than many countries is a privilege & a pleasure. When Toumani introduced his son as a 72nd generation griot kora player this was not idle posturing but a statement borne of deep love & respect for his art & his culture. There is also a clear bond of love & devotion between father & son. After all Sidiki is a rap star in his own right back in Mali & doesn't necessarily need to follow in his father's footsteps. That he has is to his & our benefit.
    Sidiki opened the proceedings solo & showed himself to be a performer of no little skill. But when Toumani took to the stage and the pair slowly began to weave a beautiful tapestry of sound the evening became enchanted. The only word necessary is ...mesmerising! I've seen Toumani with his electric four piece backing & Ballake Sissoko with a more traditional acoustic setup, but to hear two kora players creating aural sculptures of such breathtaking beauty is to witness time stand still & language become irrelevant.
    A two-thirds full theatre for such outstanding musicianship seems a mighty injustice, but then prophets aren't motivated by the need for fame. I would recommend anyone with ears to listen take the opportunity to see Toumani Diabaté. It is a trip worth taking. I asked his manager after the concert if the Symmetric Orchestra would be coming to England. He said it's possible in the next couple of years but it is an expensive undertaking for a large ensemble. Still they play regularly in Bamako and, you know what, I'm genuinely considering going. That is the highest compliment I can think to pay him.
  • My name is Jon and I'm a Halfaholic - Half Man Half Biscuit Bristol O2 Academy…

    22 Ene 2014, 20:02

    Sat 18 Jan – Half Man Half Biscuit
    Okay, it's finally time to admit it. Having now been to see them seven times in the past three years and travelled as far afield as Bristol and Stockton-On-Tees I now know I'm addicted to Half Man Half Biscuit. I've always had a varied taste and that is reflected in my live experiences. There are very few artists that I would want to see repeatedly but even the few I would are well short of the all-encompassing passion that this is becoming. I used to think people that followed a group maniacally were a bit sad and actually I still do to a degree. But Half Man Half Biscuit are different. It's more akin to following a football team except that they never lose. You turn up knowing what to expect, you critique the performance and compare it with previous, you find yourself starting to recognise people and you make friends.
    Bristol could possibly be my favourite performance yet. Like all their gigs the venue is a modest size (about 500 punters) and contains a mixture of obsessive fans, the musically curious who know their reputation and assorted tagalongs . We'd gone with two mates we'd made at Stockton and found ourselves mixing with other people in the crowd before and during the gig. I think most of this was down to my wife proudly wearing a Dukla Prague away kit (I think that quite possibly makes her unique) but this process had been going on gradually over the past few outings.
    Smack dab in the middle of the crowd stands a giant Sideshow Bob lookalike (who it turns out is a Bristol gigging celebrity called Big Jeff) whose presence and enthusiasm seem to help galvanise the rest of us (not that we need it) and before you can say "Fuckin' 'ell It's Fred Titmus" we're into another set of the funniest and most exhilarating music out there. No gimmicks, no pretence, just pure unadulterated joy. The banter is better than most comedians could muster and once they're into their stride they rock long and hard.
    I won't bore you with a breakdown of the set, but I just want to make one point. With an average setlist of 25 songs how many bands do you know who would only repeat 20% of them at every gig and still send a crowd home happy every time? They have so many good songs that it doesn't matter what order they perform them in and though their fanbase is obviously now primarily middle aged men they can still attract music lovers of all ages who appreciate great live performance and genuine wit.

    Setlist:

    Fuckin' 'ell It's Fred Titmus
    Bad Losers On Yahoo Chess
    A Lilac Harry Quinn
    Totnes Bickering Fair
    Joy In Leeuwarden (We Are Ready)
    Left Lyrics In The Practice Room
    Floreat Inertia
    The Light At The End Of The Tunnel (Is The Light Of An Oncoming Train)
    Dead Men Don’t Need Season Tickets
    When The Evening Sun Goes Down
    Restless Legs
    For What Is Chatteris...
    You're So Beige (new song)
    Turned Up Clocked On Laid Off
    Fix It So She Dreams Of Me
    Uffington Wassail
    Surging Out Of Convalescence
    All I Want For Christmas Is A Dukla Prague Away Kit
    Vatican Broadside
    Everything’s A.O.R.
    National Shite Day
    The Trumpton Riots

    River Deep, Mountain High
    99% of Gargoyles Look LIke Bob Todd
    Joy Division Oven Gloves
  • 'king poetry - John Cooper Clarke at Birmingham Town Hall 11-10-12

    13 Oct 2012, 17:30

    Thu 11 Oct – John Cooper Clarke, Luke Wright, Mike Garry, Al Hutchins
    I've long been a fan of John Cooper Clarke but have only ever seen him supporting The Fall before this so I was looking forward to him on his own terms. I wasn't disappointed, either by him or his support acts.
    The night began with Mike Garry, a sort of mancunian Benjamin Zephaniah. A proper poet whose showcased material leaned heavily on his background and found it to be firm enough to support him. His delivery was polished and contained beautiful rhythm, rhyme and pathos and managed to maintain depth without becoming smug and self-satisfied. He was followed by Al Hutchins, who as a local boy played to the crowd with a baser, more slapstick approach. The final support slot went to Essex boy Luke Wright whose poetry again played to his roots. His material was simpler in style theme than Garry's but also funnier. Funny enough to carry his own show quite comfortably.
    As for the maestro, John Cooper Clarke is just absolutely superb. HIs approach has that sort of rambling shambolic Tommy Cooper quality that makes you love him all the more. In many ways he comes across as a standup comedian who uses poetry as a prop, much as his semi-namesake used to do with magic tricks, but that would be doing him a gross injustice. That layer of chaos hides the real craft involved in what he does. He cuts through all the crap like a laser surgeon of the sewers whilst his machine gun delivery makes him the only contender for the Ramones of the spoken word. And the real beauty is that you don't notice the work because you're too busy laughing. Some of his jokes are as old as he is but they still make you smile. His observational humour is inciteful and amusing. His short pieces can be hilarious but it is his full length poems, both old and new, that are the true stars of the show.
    Amongst his old classics are 36 hours and his most celebrated and personal favourite piece Evidently Chickentown with which he chooses to close his set. But it is the double header of Beasely Street and it's updated companion Beasely Boulevard, analysing the gentrification of Manchester, which prove that class is permanent. The audience hang on his every word. Towards the end of the set, before Chickentown, he asks for requests and Twat and Majorca are the most popular suggestions. Unfortunately he performs neither.
    For an encore he unveils another newer poem, the gentler and fitting "I'm In Love With My Wife" and everyone leaves happy. I would recommend John Cooper Clarke to anyone who can see the ironies in the detritus of life and treat them in the appropriate manner. The world needs visionary critics and ones that can make you laugh are invaluable. John Cooper Clarke - priceless!
  • The DJ Format diet- eat what you want and dance like a nut all night. 16-3-12

    6 Abr 2012, 18:28

    DJ FORMAT & THE SIMONSOUND - LIVE AUDIO/VISUAL SET

    I suppose I've always considered myself to be an unlucky person. The fates always seem to conspire to spoil my best laid plans. I don't get to go to the parties and events I really want to. Always wrong place, wrong time, too ill, no cash and, most often, double booked. On this occasion I felt totally lousy with a throat infection and could so easily have dropped out. It was only a tenner after all.
    But now I have seen the light. It beams from the windows of The Hare and Hounds in Kings Heath. Since being bought and revamped a few years ago it has hosted a wide variety of musical acts that really make it a little diamond. And it's my local. My only previous quibble with the place had been the acoustics. It’s obviously difficult to mix for a complex live band performance in there. But then came DJ Format and The Simonsound performing their latest project “Statement Of Intent”. They laid down a set of the highest quality hip hop with a perfectly integrated audiovisual show that was totally unforgettable. They didn’t miss a beat all night. And this was followed by a couple of hours of djing that left me exhausted but ecstatic.
    The main set began with a jog through his first two albums starting at the beginning with Ill Culinary Behaviour. As the set got into full flow the new album and material from The Simonsound album “Reverse Engineering” took over. It was woven together so impeccably that it felt like a studio produced mix album. The beat never wavered just increased in intensity. Rap Machine brought the show to an abrupt and perfect end. I hesitate to use the term old skool because it seems to taint everything it touches. This music pays huge dues to the past but revels in the now. If it is fresh it’s because it is so vibrant.
    Once the main set was finished Format just announced that he was going to carry on and spin some discs which he did for a good couple of hours. And the stuff he pulled out was marvellous. Most of it I’d never heard before (except as the original version of a cover), but all of it had me dancing. The mates I was with on the night were far more into their hip hop than me and I could see how much they were loving it. We all loved it. If clubs had played this sort of music where and when I grew up I would have been a lot happier and a few stone lighter. I couldn’t help but dance. Even the hippest performers can only be innovative and new for a while. What marks DJ Format out is that he looks for quality in what he does and doesn’t give a floppy for fashion. He loves what he does and it comes through in every beat.
  • Home Made Battenburg?! Can't Be Arsed! Biccies Back at Bilston 26-1-12

    31 Ene 2012, 11:27

    Thu 26 Jan – Half Man Half Biscuit

    Never knowingly underheard I'm back at Bilston for another in my now regular pilgrimages to the shrine of Nigel Blackwell's genius. The fact that this band aren't widely acknowledged as legends of modern music just goes to prove how stupid most people are. Still they remain all the better for being a cult rather than a stadium religion. There's not much point in me cataloguing the full set. So I'll just report a few highlights.

    The set starts with my personal favourite from 90 Bisodol (Crimond) Joy In Leewarden. Noone else could write a song about Korfball and make it remotely interesting (like I said - genius). We rattle through the songs with regular impromptus from Nigel. "Home Made Battenburg?! Can't Be Arsed!" is apparently attributed to guitarist Ken Hancock just before showtime. A lengthy dissection of the presenters of The Football League Show revels in the look that Steve Claridge gives to camera while Manish is on the balcony (and Mark Bright sneaks one out).
    And how can you not love a band whose adaptation of 24 Hour Garage People now includes a £2.96 tube of Pringles (Sour Cream and Onion) and a copy of Razzle magazine "but only if it's got pictures of Pam Ferris in it". As usual old and new songs brush up against each other with no injury incurred. And what a joy to hear 1966 And All That sounding so good. Irk The Purists is made for live performance and it pleases me to hear I Love You Because (You Look LIke Jim Reeves) amongst the encores.
    Nigel attempts the old ATV (pre-Crossroads) signature theme and fails slightly at one point but all this does is reinforce why Half Man Half BIscuit should be so treasured. My only real disappoint on the night is when Nigel plays the opening bars of Reflections In A Flat and then stops and admits that they can't play it because they haven't rehearsed it. I love that song more than most. But the disappointment is fleeting. Still want to hear Thy Damnation Slumbereth Not live though so it looks like I'm going to have to keep on going to see them until I do. Such a chore!!
    The sacred and profane, profound and funny all in each and every song. God I love this band.

    Setlist:

    Joy in Leeuwarden
    Bottleneck at Capel Curig
    When the evening sun goes down
    Turned up, clocked on, laid off
    Left lyrics in the practice room
    A Lilac Harry Quinn
    Excavating Rita
    Lock up your mountain bikes
    Improv workshop mimeshow gobshite
    Dukla Prague away kit
    L’Enfer c’est les autres
    National shite day
    Best things in life
    We built this village On A Trad Arr. Tune
    1966 and all that
    Irk the purists
    Floreat Inertia
    Vatican broadside
    Rock and roll is full of bad wools
    24 hour garage people
    Tommy Walsh’s Eco-house
    Light at the end of the tunnel...
    Joy Division oven gloves
    For what is Chatteris

    Encore:
    Petty sessions
    I love you because (You Look LIke Jim Reeves)
    Fix it so she dreams of me
    99% of gargoyles (Look Like Bob Todd)
  • Jack Jones for the Crack Drones 8-12-11

    11 Dic 2011, 14:05

    Thu 8 Dec – Death In Vegas, Von Haze
    Being a fan of Death In Vegas is a lot like being a member of a cult. Most can’t see what you see, a few might see something worth a nod but only the true acolyte really understands. For it is only in the live worship of Richard Fearless’ musical majesty that the fan is raised above the ordinary and into the realms of obliteration. It’s like stepping into a gospel church, though an entirely different energy. A black, dark energy.
    The night didn’t start well. My mate couldn’t make because of illness and I couldn’t find anywhere to park so by the time I got in, without shedding a spare ticket, I had missed all but three songs of Von Haze’s set. I heard enough to form a positive impression though. They sounded like a downbeat Sisters if you can imagine anything that downbeat.
    Death In Vegas come on to Your Loft My Acid. A solitary red spotlight elliptically circles the venue like the Devil’s watch tower searching for a feast of souls. Slowly the number of lights and the swirl of the music increases. The sound takes a while to really gel in these early numbers. The loops of film are long gone and we are treated to moody hues and dry ice so rich I never see the drummer all night. One light effect, a kind of pulsing anti-light, really worked and I wished they would have gone with it a bit longer, but maybe it induces epilepsy or insanity if not carefully controlled. I also think Medication had to be aborted due to technical difficulties, but I could be wrong.
    Dirge was next up and was a little underwhelming stripped of its guitar guts, but still appreciated. Scissors and COUM from the new album kept the mood building nicely before Blood Yawning took it up a notch. The night really began though with a powerful Death Threat. It was one of the few older songs to retain its original structure and strength and remains a sonic banquet. Conversely, all that was recognisable of Aisha was Iggy Pop’s original chilling vocal. The music had been quite radically reworked to create a more synthesized drama which still worked. Savage Love, my personal favourite from Trans-Love Energies, was an appropriate conclusion to the initial set.
    So on to the encore. Three songs produce three climbing, soaring levels of intensity. Moe Tucker, their clearest homage to their roots warms things up again. Hands Around My Throat takes us into the stratosphere. And finally Rekkit.
    Rekkit is one of the greatest live experiences I have ever had. Every time I hear it it seems to have increased in intensity. Every time it feels as fresh as the first time. Each new interpretation makes it an event. It’s almost the ultimate anti-song. I would pay the ticket price just to listen to Rekkit.
    Obviously as a long term worshipper I would have liked to have heard Rocco and Dirt again. City Rub has long been a personal favourite (fat chance). And having recently returned to Satan’s Circus I realise I was probably a bit harsh on it before and a track from it’s mogadon depths might have been nice. What we got though was more than enough to prove that Death In Vegas still punch mightily above their weight. Come worship at the Church Of Death In Vegas. It sure beats scientology!!

    Setlist:
    Your Loft My Acid
    Dirge
    Scissors
    COUM
    Blood Yawning
    Death Threat
    Aisha
    Savage Love
    Encore:
    Moe Tucker
    Hands Around My Throat
    Rekkit
  • Staving off commercialism - hopefully 28-11-11

    29 Nov 2011, 9:07

    Mon 28 Nov – The Staves, Paul Thomas Saunders, Katy Rose & The Cavalry Parade
    Six pounds doesn't get you much these days, unless you're lucky. I was lucky to stumble across The Staves as part of the Moseley Folk Festival and was keen to see them in a more intimate environment. And for my six pounds I got three artists that gave me an evening of simple pleasure.
    Katy Rose & The Cavalry Parade started proceedings. She sang pleasant songs delivered with humour and a simple clean vocal style. Paul Thomas Saunders was much more surprising. With his rock star hairdo I was expecting much more style than content. However, as soon as he started to sing it was obvious that he has real talent. His songs were well crafted with soaring vocals effortlessly flying over sonic landscapes that put me in mind of Portishead and the guy came across as painfully shy.
    And with The Staves I got exactly what I expected to hear. Their achingly beautiful vocal harmonies are what raise them above the also-rans. They look and sound like the natural successors to The Corrs but hopefully they won't end up in the same bland mainstream territory. At the moment you get three part vocal harmonies backed predominantly by acoustic guitar and/or ukelele. They did get some minimalist backing by a drummer and bass player during some tracks. What attracted me to the Staves is the simple purity of their music. It is unashamedly romantic and in it's unadulterated setting sounds exquisite. Extra instrumentation seems to destroy the delicacy that gives it its ephemeral beauty. Doubtless they will progress and their sound will develop and I wouldn't be at all surprised if they go on to great things. But I'm glad I got to see them now, because at the moment they are the aural equivalent of watching a butterfly flit around a meadow on a sunny day.
  • Falling for The Fall at The Junction 15-11-11

    18 Nov 2011, 10:10

    Tue 15 Nov – The Fall
    The first time I saw The Fall was in 2004 and having been a casual listener for many years I had little idea what to expect. I remember thoroughly enjoying John Cooper Clarke and thinking that they had been pretty entertaining but not the epiphany I always hope for with live music. My abiding memory was someone shouting "get up you lazy bastard" to which Mr Smith replied in his best drawl from his seat at the back of the stage "I am a cripple!"
    Move forward seven years and my casual acquaintance has become a growing obsession shared with my best friend since purchasing The Complete Peel Sessions and being blown away. My hopes for the night though, are still of a low order. A new album I'm not familiar with, an ageing frontman playing in a posh southern city , previous live experience and a lengthy delay in waiting for the band to take the stage leads to a slight sense of inevitable disappointment. Isn't that always the way before....

    The Fall were fantastic. The current incarnation are so tight it's impossible not to be impressed by their musical intensity. Mark E Smith makes for a bizarrely incongruous figure in front of this powerhouse band. He stumbles around the stage looking like the drunken uncle at a wedding but still manages to command a fabulous perfomance from the others. At one point he falls into Dave Spurr nearly sending him and his bass stack flying. The three mikes and their stands that start the set so neatly arranged at the front litter the stage and provide a Health & Safety officer's wet dream. A 54 year old drunk with a dodgy hip careering all over an electrical spaghetti junction- Oh Calamity!! Elena (Mrs Smith) looks on nervously from behind her keyboard ready to spring to his aid at a moments notice which she does more than once. Directly in front of me the small but energetic moshpit persistently trample my toes while Mark seems to stare directly at me for a large portion of the set in that "pisshead about to offer me out" sort of way.
    It all makes for a tense chaotic charge that proves Mark E Smith is worth every accolade he has ever received. The quality of his material and exuberance of its delivery belie a 35 year history which would leave almost every artist devoid of ideas and bereft of impact. I had heard the new material once on the way to the gig, but is was enough to suggest it would sound good live and it definitely did. Mix a smattering of old songs from the enormous back catalogue and we're a happy bunch. And we know we've been at a great gig because the band are definitely enjoying themselves. Mark is smiling during the encore. Reformation is not a particular favourite but it sounds amazing tonight. And the best is saved for last. He tells the band to play Sparta and the way they tear through it is totally exhilarating.
    I now know that the musical inventiveness of The Fall on record can translate into a thrilling spontaneity live. I also know that I don't know what to expect the next time I see them. And that's the best thing of all.

    Setlist:

    Nate Will Not Return
    Taking Off
    Psykick Dance Hall
    Strychnine
    Laptop Dog
    Cowboy George
    Cosmos 7
    Duped
    Latch Key Kid
    Greenway
    Monocard
    White Lightning
    Reformation
    Theme From Sparta FC
  • Soulfood at the Town Hall 4-11-11

    5 Nov 2011, 10:13

    Fri 4 Nov – Toumani Diabaté, Revere
    I've been a fan of Toumani Diabaté's music for some time now so I knew what to expect from tonight's show but I was genuinely not prepared for the impact his music would have on me live. It was utterly mesmerising.
    I love the sound of the kora which lies somewhere between a lute and a harp and Toumani is widely acknowledged as one of it's greatest ever exponents. He limped onto the stage supported by a crutch to warm applause from a 3/4 full hall and sat down behind his instrument ready to play. He played the first number alone and the angels began to dance through his fingers. When his backing band of electric bass, guitar and drums came on stage though I was slightly worried that it might drown the delicacy of the kora, and during the first few brief exchanges it seemed that this might be the case. But the thing about the kora is it is a remarkably versatile instrument, providing it's own bass rhythm, melody and improvisatory flourish all from the application of two fingers and two thumbs to 21 strings. Toumani did acknowledge the skill of the mixing desk team in creating the right blend of electric and acoustic but most of the work was done by the excellent band. The subtle interplay of the instruments was a wonderful experience. Songs melded rivers of aching beauty to oceans of rhythmic joy.
    After their first ensemble number they played a reworked version of Debe from In The Heart Of he Moon which is where the band really took off. I have no idea how long any of the songs were because time seemed to have stopped. I do know that he played for about an hour and a half from checking clocks afterwards but during the concert I was truly in the moment.
    Towards the end, Toumani gave us a guided tour, in very good broken English, of the kora. He then proceeded to demonstrate his lesson by using Jarabi which is the only other song I knew by name. Then after one final rousing song they were gone. The applause and cries for encore were amongst the most heartfelt I have ever experienced. Toumani came back onstage to rapturous applause and played a new composition as an encore. Before playing he talked of the need for the world to slow down and find it's spirituality again in the light of global economic and political crisis and though his language skills struggled to explain his feelings, his eloquence shone through. His encore was spellbinding in it's beauty and simplicity.
    If he had wanted to play all night long I would have stayed all night long. I will go and see Toumani Diabaté again because his music feeds my soul.