An Evening With Noel Fielding, Victoria Theatre, Halifax, 24th October

I promised to write this sooner but time has got away from me (and I’ve spent far too long messing around with the layout of this blog rather than actually write), so here is a brief review of what occurred last Friday, on a much needed trip out with the best friend…

Given the fact that I avoided Luxury Comedy as much as I possibly could as I let the reviews taint my view and a misguided dislike of it not involving Julian Barrett, I was completely unsure of what to expect when we turned up at the Victoria Theatre for what was imaginatively titled ‘An Evening With Noel Fielding’.

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Brought on stage by the ever-wonderful Moon, the show started out just like any other stand up, Noel delivering pieces to the audience and interacting with the front couple of rows (those poor, poor people), in fact the only indication that this was a Noel Fielding gig was that he came on stage in a magnificent cape. Understated as ever. Going on to explain the set up of the night involved various characters introduced on stage and some more neat animation tricks it really was an enjoyable first half, culminating in a nice little story time before a quick interval.

The second half was a similar treat, but making a slight detour from your traditional comedy gig (I’ll not spoil the surprise though). Yet more treats were in store, with an insane amount of audience participation, a few risky ebola jokes, one very risky Luther joke and learning the pitfalls of improvising with animation, Noel had the evening down to a fine art. The final quest of the night really was a tour de force and made a hero out of Steve (the show should come with an advisory moment if you sit anywhere near the front). The show was incredibly slick for the beginning of a tour and if the huge crowds gathered to meet Noel outside were anything to go by, the whole of Halifax were pretty damn impressed.

It was never going to be a Mighty Boosh show, but the sheer enthusiasm Noel has not only for his material but for the general excitement of the crowd as well has convinced me that I really do need to try Luxury Comedy out as it may help to fill the Boosh shaped hole in my heart. While Julian was missed, we left the place wanting to see it all over again, and with Noel extending the tour well into 2015 it looks like we’ll get that chance…

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The National, British Summer Time, Hyde Park, 12th July

Perfectionism is a difficult trait. As a self-confessed perfectionist it should be an idea that I struggle to affix to things knowing my own issues, yet The National always slip through that net. It’s their own fault honest, not the ridiculous amount of things that I emotionally attach to them, so tied to missed opportunities and well pretty much everything. But, what better way to let that shine than on stage at BST Hyde Park 9even if they were only supporting Neil Young). I mean just look how beautiful that stage is…

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A support set may have been a greatest hits set, but who could complain when listening to Matt Berninger’s emotional baritone and his somewhat unnerving screams on earlier songs  ‘Abel’ and ‘Mr November’ off “Alligator”, with the latter even including Matt’s customary foray into the crowd. Despite us being smack bang in front of him, he hurtfully went to the opposite side of the sizeable crowd gathered. I’m taking this as a personal affront (but one that shall be rectified come November at the O2!).

Tracks from the most recent album “Trouble Will Find Me” were similarly drenched in emotion, especially ‘I Should Live In Salt’. Even with the sun beating down on the crowd, there was still the sombre mood stereotypically attached to the band. Bringing out both ‘I Need My Girl’ and ‘This Is The Last Time’ was always going to be a winner in my eyes, because yes I do still affix them to that excellent Mindy Project appearance (I still can’t quite get my head around the fact that The National, well Matt, watches The Mindy Project!), but they retained that beautiful heart stealing quality that is so stunning on record. Yes I nearly fired, so what?!

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My own personal highlights included ‘Sea Of Love’, if just for the sheer amount that the song means to me in so many ways, and everything they played off “High Violet” because that album is perfect in my eyes. ‘Bloodbuzz Ohio won out over ‘England’ for the title of most beautiful moment of the set , even with the latter’s use of the screens in the background to create the rainy backdrop we so readily associate with this country! The twins dedicated ‘Bloodbuzz…’ to their father who had flown in to see them from said state, tearing at my heartstrings as the band only can, with a rendition that was so clean and perfect it made me want to fly over to visit the middle-of-no-where state (not my words, but those of my new plane friend Katie, who was amazed that a band came from Ohio!). I suppose it doesn’t help that this has pride of place on my running playlist at the minute either…

Ending on ‘Terrible Love’ was a masterstroke, an opportunity for yet more raw emotion from the entire band. Heart wrenching, gut wrenching and every other wrenching you could think of, my tear ducts almost betrayed me at this point and let the flood out, but that thankfully waited until I was safely on my way home, and I somehow managed to keep it together. The same probably cannot be said for seeing them at the O2 in November when they wheel out ‘Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks’ but I really shouldn’t be held responsible for my actions when it comes to that song.

But enough of that. For my first time seeing The National (a crime yes, to say how much I love them) it was more perfect than I could imagine. My love for the band has increased exponentially and I do kind of just want a mini Matt Berninger or Bryan Devendorf just to carry around with me, it would make my days at work a lot better! And don’t even get me started on Mistaken For Strangers, I think that needs a whole other post!

The brilliant thing is though, that this perfect weekend has taught me a lot more that I could have ever imagined too. It took the band until they were almost 40 to really break through, so why am i spending my life currently attempting to get somewhere I might not even supposed to be? I’m 23, I don’t need my shit together yet. So now I’m concentrating on the stuff I love rather than falling back into the pattern of busting my gut at work for nothing. It’s someone else’s turn now. Get ready for me writing more, reading more, doing more and just generally adventuring. The world is my oyster, or so the cliche says…

 

Dog Is Dead, Riverside, Newcastle, 27th February

Hello darling reader (you see how charming and lovely I’m being? Please don’t shout), I know I’ve been quiet but I promise this will be fixed soon, I currently more concerned about moving as far away from Sunderland as possible and flying to America on Monday. An extra treat there, as my Dad is taking me to see Bombay Bicycle Club whilst I’m out there. But back to what you actually want to read. Here’s a review I wrote as part of my degree (it scored a First y’know, we’ll not mention my terrible other results though) and even though it is donkey’s old I thought it was really rather good. Enjoy!

Every year, at least one critic lambasts the death of the guitar band. This is usually down to a decline in sales, a drop in popularity of the instrument and the rise of some incredibly named and hastily invented genre. But if tonight’s headliners having anything to say about it, guitar music is possibly entering its most exciting phase in recent years.

Openers Athletes In Paris took advantage of the scant crowd to delve straight into the middle with an a cappella version of latest single ‘Echoes Louder Than Voices’. It received the full electric treatment later, buoyed by samba sounds and dance moves from lead singer Matt Robson that would make Friendly Fires jealous. Intermeshing this poppier sound with their earlier, traditional indie with seemingly over-exaggerated North-Eastern accents a la The Futureheads, Athletes In Paris put a show on of inoffensive pop that its was hard to feel anything but indifferent about.

Fiction stepped up to the plate, using some fantastic guitar trickery to eek some ethereally wonderful sounds from their instruments. The array of vocal dexterity and layered sounds were let down bye the band mumbling their way through the obligatory banter with the crowd. In fact, I was almost inclined to start an incredibly load and boarish “Who Are Ya?” chant, not to be obnoxious and prove my worth as a closet football fan, but to address the fact that this simple piece of information that it is the band name managed to avoid leaving anyone’s mouth until the dying moments of the set.

Thankfully, Dog Is Dead were here to save the day. Practically playing their instruments to the point of torture, they produced a depth and lush array of sounds that were hard to believe existed. Playing to a room less than half full of painfully young and bandy legged indie stereotypes, the band clearly revelled in the intimate atmosphere, at one point even starting a dance off, which saw back flips and cartwheels bounding round the venue. Their lyrical scanning and phrasing is similar to that of their contempories The Maccabees and Bombay Bicycle Club, which is also reflected in the addition of some superb brass. The highlight of the set had to be new single Two Devils, which contained some disarming four piece harmonies combined with such beautiful intricate guitar work proving that the genre is far from dead. In fact, with Dog Is Dead, guitar music is more alive than ever.

Los Campesinos! – The Cockpit, Leeds – 11th November

Strange News From Another Star may not be the band you’d expect to play just before Los Campesinos! but somehow it worked. They were ridiculously heavier than the usual generic indie pop I listen to and yet I still managed to enjoy them, even if at one point I did suggest that perhaps stand up comedy might be a better arena for them. Singing songs about Stacey Solomon of X Factor fame, Iceland nothingness (their words, not mine) and burning down Tesco, the band did their job of getting the crowd well and truly into the spirit for Los Campesinos’ set. Introducing their most recent single as a song that got to number 2 in the Cardiff charts and almost dragging a punter onto the stage to play bass on their final song of the set (and pushing his limits), Strange News… were easily one of the more enjoyable support bands I’ve seen in a while.

Opening with the fantastic ‘By Your Hand’, Los Campesinos! really set about reminding the Leeds crowd why they loved them so much. And that they did. With the crowd hollering back every word to every song, you would not believe that most of these kids have had the album for barely a week (if you pre-ordered.) I may have slight bias, since my love for this band has led me to stand outside crap venues in Bradford begging people to sign up to their mailing list and travelling nearly 8 hours either way just to see them, but they are one of the most thrilling live prospects around.

Newies like ‘Songs About Your Girlfriend’ and ‘The Black Bird’, ‘The Dark Slope’ slotted perfectly alongside old favourites ‘Miserabilia’ and ‘Death To Los Campesinos!’ as well as documenting just how far this band have come from those early days. There was the obvious excitement to hear that song off that beer advert AKA. ‘You! Me! Dancing!’ but thankfully the crowd wasn’t just people who wanted to see that track. It did throw up some delightful dance moves from the Leeds punters though, including a pair in front of us who properly went for it, and of course my little group with out patented dance routine that has been carefully shaped through hours of hearing the track at work.

Highlights of the set included my own personal favourite ‘We Are Beautiful We Are Doomed’ followed by a spectacular version of ‘Straight In At 101′, and in the closing stages of the show, the enthusiasm of the crowd singing along with the brilliant ‘Hello Sadness’ and its easily sing-able refrain of “Its only hope that springs eternal, and that’s the reason why it’s dripping from my broken heart, it’s never running dry” and the obvious “Goodbye courage, hello sadness again.” To be honest, I had high expectations, and brilliantly I wasn’t let down (even if at times I had to stop myself from shouting at the couple in front of me, who, if not joined by the lips, were sounding off like foghorns). However, the ultimate moment of the night was the emotionally charged rendition of ‘The Sea Is A Good Place To Think Of The Future.’ It was quite a moment to hear the full to capacity crowd of the Cockpit singing “But you could never kiss a Tory boy without wanting to cut off your tongue again”, displaying as ever that Gareth is a fantastic frontman, not afraid to wear his heart on his sleeve to get an incredible moment. Returning onto the stage to play ‘Documented Minor Emotional Breakdown #1′ and ‘Sweet Dreams Sweet Cheeks’, team Campesinos! really did end the night (and the tour) on a high reassuring not only me but the entire crowd that the band really are a formidable live force, and that Hello Sadness is the start of something brilliant.

The Horrors – Digital, Newcastle, October 18th

I can give you exactly the date of the last time I saw The Horrors. June 8th 2009, it was a Sunday and I went with a guy. A lot has changed in that year and a half, I no longer talk to the guy and The Horrors have transformed into an incredible monster. Opening with the fantastic Changing The Rain off recent Top 5 album ‘Skying’ it was clear that the band were pulling all the stops out. Segueing into the fantastically fairground 60s influenced Who Can Say, by way of a muffled “I’m having throat problems” from lead singer Faris Badwan.

My only (at this point) disappointment of the night came before new single I Can See Through You, where Faris took it upon himself to have a little moan, imploring the crowd to follow the example of the section in the middle and “actually fucking move”. I’m all for moody frontmen, but at least be polite. I’m not even going to start on how the band rarely move to their own music, with the exception of guitarist Joshua Hayward, who was quite a hit with the ladies last night if the girl in front of me is anything to go by.

Rattling through a combination of tracks from ‘Skying’ and previous release ‘Primary Colours’, including an energetic rendition of Three Decades (I lost count of the number of times I got a wallop to the head, I wasn’t the happiest bunny after 4 hours at work previous) and ending brilliantly with an incredible version of Sea Within A Sea, yes all 8 minutes or so, and first tater track from ‘Skying’ Still Life. The crowd looked like they enjoyed it, even of the band didn’t *insert standard miserable goth joke here*.

A brief disappearance to play the will they won’t they encore guessing game that grinds my gears, the band returned to resounding cheers before diving straight into Mirrors’ Image and my personal favourite ‘Skying’ track Moving Further Away. Faris was long forgiven for his earlier moan, but I was left with the sore disappointment of a gig excluding tracks from debut ‘Strange House’ , the comedy Goth era that many (me excluded) wish they’d forget. I mean all I want is a little bit of Draw Japan, is that really too much to ask for?

Brief mention to the fantastic support band TOY, who fitted the bill perfectly for the night and were pretty darn good. Avid readers of this terrible blog may be shocked to hear I enjoyed a support band, since I almost universally hate them, but TOY proved a rather spectacular exception to the rule. Highlight of their set had to be their recent single, but currently trawling the internet I can find very little about them. (Am I a bad researcher for this? Or just incredibly lazy?) Anyway, part of me loves this, and the other part is currently enamored with bothThe Horrors and Toy.

And to end it, here’s an obligatory extremely terrible Blackberry photo of the aforementioned Joshua Hayward. I’m sure you’re used to my terrible photos by now.

Split Festival 2011

This is a very late piece for here, since it was 2 weeks ago now, but it’s been sat over on Faded Glamour since then, being read and all that. I genuinely loved the festival, it’s a real credit to the North East and it’s fantastic music scene, so here goes:

Now in its third year, it shames to me admit that this is my first year at Split. But forgiving me for that, the line-up for this year’s Split was possibly the best ever. Combining not only the best local talent with some brilliant artists from far and wide, they’ve also managed to think of everything including the best local food and activities for the kids too.

Managing to arrive in the nick of time to catch Spector, a band who give off the air of being an indie girls’ wet dream. Sounding like a combination between every good element of 80s music and The Killers, if ‘Never Fade Away’ doesn’t become a massive hit, and these boys are not the best thing since sliced bread by this time next year, I’ll eat my hat.

Taking to the stage next were the intriguing B>E>A>K. Catching them live was certainly an experience (whether I’ll repeat it is another thing altogether), and one that went down incredibly well with the Sunderland crowd if the number of fans in bird masks was anything to go by. The band revelled in the rapturous reaction of the crowd, playing up every element of their on stage antics.

After a brief dash around the site itself, stopping by the wonderful food tent, my arrival back at the main stage was greeted with the ever-excellent Dutch Uncles. The band triumphantly ran through their distinct brand in indie pop, with some natty dancing to match, despite having to compensate for the stage delays.
Little Comets, swiftly followed, and had what seemed to be the entirety of Sunderland’s teenage population bopping along to their jangly indie pop and fantastic percussion. The boys possibly had the best crowd reaction of the entire night, especially in the case of ‘One Night In October’, if the number of foot tramplings I received is anything to go by. A band that can only get better at every stage, and perhaps the most thrilling band of the weekend.

Lad rock renegades The Rifles are one of my favourite bands, with the new single ‘Tangled Up In Love’ being a particular highlight in the set. Sounding like Paul Weller’s bastard children, the band rattled through a mix of new and old material, with personal highlights being the delightfully warning ‘She’s Got Standards’ and the rabble rousing closer ‘Romeo And Julie’, giving Split’s crowd the chance to prove they were well and truly up for it.

Eel Pie Islanders Mystery Jets stuck to firm favourites from ‘Twenty One’ and ‘Serotonin’, only dropping one new song into their set – with the largest sing-along of the night for ‘Two Doors Down’. They were treated like the biggest band in the world, not least when effortlessly cool bassist Kai Fish managed to drop his Sunderland roots into conversation, and sent them into a sea of frenzy on his descent to the barrier, becoming almost invisible in the throngs of hands that reach out for him. The new album can’t come soon enough.

It’s difficult to see where The Drums west-coast sunshine pop fits in with Sunderland, especially on a cold night in September on a cricket pitch, but tonight worked. Supporting recent second album ‘Portamento (lit up in lights on the stage in case anyone forgot), the old favourites like ‘Best Friend’ and ‘Me And The Moon’ proved most popular. With a full live band the songs really came to life, but there’s only so long you can watch someone dance around on stage, soundtracked by inoffensive jangle pop.

That may be doing The Drums a disservice, as new tracks ‘Money’ and ‘Days’ went down really well with the crowd. Yet, be it due to running out of time, or moving away from the surf pop sound, but not playing possibly their most famous track ‘Let’s Go Surfing’ didn’t seem to go down well with the fans. In my eyes they made up for it with brilliant renditions of ‘Down By The Water’, ‘Book Of Stories’ and newbie ‘I Need A Doctor’, but you can’t please everyone it seems.

Sunday night was a whole different kettle of fish. A gruelling shift at work pre-Split may have made me miss a large proportion of the day’s musical delights, includingHyde & Beast and Dinosaur Pile-Up, in catching two of the bands I certainly didn’t miss all the drama.

Hometown heroes Frankie & The Heartstrings played a blinder of a set to the masses, although it was somewhat soured by the band having the plug pulled midway (supposedly a “temporary power cut”) through a phenomenal rendition of ‘Fragile’. This failed to overshadow the perfect mix of singles, new tracks (one never before played live) and album tracks, as the band were joined on vocals by the entire crowd. Give these boys a Pyramid Stage slot and they’ll own the world.

Watching The Charlatans headline taught me two things: firstly, I know far too little of the bands’ back catalogue and secondly, The Charlatans are probably one of the most exciting live bands around. While Saturday’s headliners The Drums may have been all posturing and dancing, Tim Burgess blows them put of the water, with more energy and appeal of a front man half his age.

While some (ironically) may only have known ‘The Only One I Know’, the majority of the crowd that appear to have arrived by way of the nineties were well and truly enjoying the every note that came from the stage. Particular highlights included ‘North Country Boy’, ‘One To Another’ and Tim Burgess’ massive grin. The Charlatans brought a delightful end to a fantastic Split Festival weekend, and the festivals’ largest year yet, here’s hoping it will continue to rise and became a staple of the fantastic North East music scene.
Find out more on Split Festival at splitfestival.com.

The Like – Wishing He Was Dead

(yet another old piece, I will be back to normal posting tomorrow, I promise! The benefit of these old pieces though is you can see how terrible I used to be at all this malarky!)

Soon to be released second album, Release Me, debuts a new mature side to American girl group The Like. New single ‘Wishing He Was Dead’ echoes back to 60s girl groups like The Shangri-Las and The Supremes, but still retaining that youthful essence of their debut, ‘Are You Thinking What I’m Thinking?’. In the five years since their last release, the girls have gone thorough numerous line up changes and shelved sessions, but have come out with a follow up of the year. Produced by Mark Ronson, with support throughout the album from The Dap Kings, first single ‘He’s Not A Boy’ heralded the girls return with a new look and a new sound but ‘Wishing He Was Dead’ cements the bands reputation as one of the forerunners in the girl group revival.

 

(sneaky little live review slipped in here from The Ruby Lounge in Manchester!)

Having experienced an exciting, energetic set from The Like at Leeds festival a few weeks ago, Friday’s set at The Ruby Lounge in Manchester had something lacking. While the new songs had a certain spark to them, and a definite improvement from the girls first album, the lack of crowd support & interaction let the performance down.

Choosing local bands The Bora, Golden Glow and The Sticks to support was a sure fire way to bring in the crowds but there are downsides to playing to a room full of family and friends of your supports. Because only about half of the crowd were there for The Like, the crowd were going at it the most for the support, and who can question why when The Sticks covered Bad Romance…

With the crowd primed and ready for the main act, they sorely disappointed. Although not the bands fault mind, in a small intimate venue, like The Ruby Lounge, the show doesn’t work as there no room for the audience to dance and interact with the songs, but in the right setting The Like are a truly fantastic live act, but unfortunately not this time.