Tracks Monkeys With Lasers

The National @ Electric Ballroom – 05/05
May 10, 2010, 9:10 pm
Filed under: gigs, music | Tags: , ,

It’s fair to say that I have not been a long time fan of The National; in fact I only got into them a few months ago after a friend had been going on about how much he was looking forward to the new album ‘High Violet’. And just a few days before the gig, the same friend offered me a ticket to go see them, insisting that I do so. So off to the Electric Ballroom I went!

It had been a little while since my last visit to see Metric play the Ballroom, with only the Shred Yr Face tour before that, and I have to say, it’s a venue I quite like. Tickets are normally quite reasonable, the sound system is good and the lighting is normally quite good without being too elaborate.

We arrived at the Electric Ballroom a little after the doors had opened and got ourselves down the front of the venue while the support act Buke And Gass were playing. Sadly, I thought they were a bit rubbish. It’s not very often a band bores me but they got very samey, very quickly. Their general sound consisted of an acoustic guitar which you couldn’t hear, an electric guitar playing the same chord over and over or playing a riff that sounded like a 13 year old had written it and this was all accompanied by the vocals which were okay to be fair. I just found that the songs lacked any variety between them and went on a bit too long.

Thankfully, they were the only support and so The National themselves were next on and they started the set with a haunting rendition of ‘Anyones Ghost’ from the new album which came across beautifully. In fact the majority of their first five or six songs came from the new album with ‘Afraid Of Everyone’ and ‘Bloodbuzz Ohio’ both getting an airing; only the fantastic rendition of ‘Secret Meeting’ broke up the run of new material. For such new songs, they sounded like they’d been playing them for years and the crowd appreciated every second of it.

After that, a good run of classics were played with the crowd getting more and more into it. The band themselves seemed to be loving every minute of it as well and they sounded great. Matt’s vocals really were something special and really do seem to mesmerise you at times. He seemed so at ease on stage when singing and when casually wandering around between his parts while the rest of the band just got on with it. As I mentioned in the intro, the lighting at the Electric Ballroom is normally pretty good and this was the case again with subtle changes of lighting being enough to enhance the experience but without distracting too much from their performance.

As good as the bulk of the set itself was, the best was most definitely saved for the encore which started with a beautiful version of ‘Runaway’ but didn’t really get going until ‘Mr November’ kicked in, sending the crowd into an absolute frenzy. Matt himself seemed to sense the change in energy from the crowd and obviously thought that the crowd was the place to be so ran into the crowd still singing. And respect to the guy for managing to make it the entire length of the venue and carry on singing (that’s one hell of a mic cable if nothing else!). And that’s where he stayed for the final song of the night with ‘Terrible Love’ rounding the night off.

Overall, it was an amazing set and a hell of a long one at just under two hours. At no point of that did my interest ever wane, which goes to prove just how great they were. The new tracks more than held their own against the old material and to anyone who had never heard of them, it would be difficult to figure out which were the new tracks. It was also impressive how easily they could flit between a real slow, melancholy tune to an all out indie-rock track.

A great night and great to see such an established act so comfortable in themselves on stage.

The National – Secret Meeting (live)

And So I Watch You From Afar @ Borderline – 08/04
May 10, 2010, 9:08 pm
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This was a gig I’d almost forgotten I’d gone to actually as I’ve seen these guys so many times. As I can’t find a setlist to jog my memory, it may well be a brief review but it’s still something!

As I have already said, this is one of many ASIWYFA gigs I’ve been to over the last 18 months or so but was at another venue that I had never visited in the Borderline. Having been a busy boy that day at uni, I arrived a little bit later but turned up just in time for the set from LaFaro.

I caught LaFaro live before when they supported ASIWYFA on a previous tour at the Bull & Gate. I enjoyed their set back then and they were a band I meant to keep an eye on. I did no such thing in the end and their set at the Borderline reminded me why I held them in high regard at the time. With their debut album finally imminent, they played a great set. Playing a high energy, punk rock sound, they get the whole crowd going with some strong songs and they looked even more confident and comfortable on stage now. Definitely a band to catch if you can!

After that, it was time for And So I Watch You From Afar to take to the stage. As always, their set was made up of pure energy, volume and brilliance. Despite the number of shows I’ve seen, they always seem to impress me.

This tour was alongside the release of the Letters EP so most of the tracks from this got a live outing, with ‘D Is For Django The Bastard’ sounding great with it’s huge drum fills. The standard live tracks were all there, such as ‘If It Ain’t Broke, Break It’ and the unstoppable ‘Set Guitars To Kill’ got the crowd whipped up into a frenzy during the encore while the longer, more melodic tracks including ‘TheseRIOTSareJUSTtheBEGINNING’ and the album closer ‘Eat The City, Eat It Whole’ also sounded as good as ever.

The one thing that sets these guys apart from most bands I have seen is their on stage presence and this gig was no exception. The normal moves of jumping around stage, duelling guitars and runs into the crowd were all there again. The one that sticks out the most though was when Tony went into the crowd and gave his guitar to a stunned member of the audience to play which was a very cool touch.

This may not have been the best show I’ve seen from these boys; that title still goes to the show with Maybeshewill at the Good Ship. However, it’s always great to see them live and they always offer something a little different each time.

I’m just glad I finally remembered to take my earplugs this time..

And So I Watch You From Afar – D Is For Django The Bastard (live)

Chris T-T @ The Slaughtered Lamb – 29/03
May 10, 2010, 9:07 pm
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Surprisingly, this was actually the fourth time that I had seen Chris play in little over a year having seen him play a band show with the Hoodrats at Lexapalooza, play a solo acoustic set at Lex Lite and then a piano solo set at the Frank Turner Christmas Show at the Union Chapel so this show was the first one I had made it to specifically to see Chris play and it  was a show I’d been looking forward to as it was to promote his new album “Love Is Not Rescue”.

Sadly, I arrived a little late and caught up with a few friends for a drink beforehand so missed the support in Tom Williams which was a bit of a disappointment. But no matter, I was here for the main act so descended from the bar to the venue. And it’s quite an odd little venue at the Slaughtered Lamb as it’s one of the first I’ve been to that is decked out with sofas and armchaird. As we got there a little late though, we had to stand at the back but this was no real problem as it’s quite an intimate little venue so we weren’t exactly detached from the show.

The show itself consisted of an entire playthrough of Love Is Rescue, which is a type of show I really enjoy. At the time, I hadn’t heard the album itself but had already heard some songs from online demos and from some of the previous shows but it made a nice change to go and see a show completely new to the songs.

The set/album opener is the first single off the album in ‘Nintendo’ and I think has some of Chris’ best vocals to date on it as they work so well against the gentle sound of the piano and other tracks like ‘Tall Woman’ further demonstrate this sound.  ‘Stop Listening’ is more standard Chris T-T fare but still holds it’s own against all the other new material while the other ‘classic’ track ‘Elephant In The Room’ is possibly my favourite song off the album and already had a few fans in the room on the night.

‘Market Square’, the song based on the same poem by A.A. Milne, was a song I first heard at Lex Lite and instantly became a track I fell in love with then and sounded just as good on this occasion (after Chris had moaned at A.A. Milne’s lack of reply to any emails he ever sent him).

After all ten tracks off the album, Chris played a ‘greatest hits’ mini set, taking a few requests from the audience. Among the tracks he played were the obligatory version of ‘The Huntsman Comes A-Marchin’ and a great rendition of ‘Hedgehog Song’ before finishing the night with the 9 Red Songs album closer ‘Preaching To The Converted’.

I really enjoyed the entire set on the night and it was great to see Chris in a small, cosy atmosphere like the Slaughtered Lamb provided. It was also good to hear the new album in full as it may well be Chris’ best piece of work yet and I hope he gets all the success he deserves from such a cracking little album.

Chris T-T – Elephant In The Room (live)

Frank Turner @ Roundhouse – 25/03
May 10, 2010, 4:05 pm
Filed under: gigs, music | Tags: , , ,

A long time since the gig this one so it’ll be nice and brief but with a few more pics than normal!

It was yet another Frank gig for me but one of the biggest, with only the Shepherd’s Bush show coming near it for crowd size. The Roundhouse was a place I’d never visited before so was excited to finally see the place and it was a weird one as it’s quite a large venue but doesn’t seem overly spacious for the amount of people it can hold (and it definitely felt like that later on).

The whole night was one I’d been looking forward to though with both support bands being artists I’d really like which is a normal ocurrence with Frank’s shows and one reason why I never tire of going to see him.

The openers on the night were fellow Xtra Mile artists Crazy Arm whose album I had been listening to a lot prior to the show (and one which had definitely made my top 10 albums of 2009 had I bought it in time). The Plymouth foursome are one of my favourite British punk rock bands of the moment who also have a bit of a folk influence which makes for a great sound. On the night they didn’t disappoint with renditions of my favourite tracks on the album ‘Still To Keep’ and ‘Blind Summit’ sounding great.

Other album tracks also worked really well and live the vocals and guitar riffs from lead man darren Johns came across strongly. The only disappointment was that they ended on the track ‘International Front’ which is possibly my least favourite off the album but that’s not something I would hold against them.

After that came the somewhat legendary Chuck Ragan and his entourage of musicians. I had only recently got into Chuck’s solo stuff but pretty much fell in love with it straight away with his distinct, punky voice overlying the superb folky guitars. Live, his voice was even more amazing and I did wonder at times whether he’d need a microphone as his voice filled the venue so well. His setlist was a nice mix of material off his two albums with my favourite songs ‘The Boat’ and ‘For Broken Ears’ sounding as good as I could have hoped for live.

The former of these two tracks (I think) saw Frank join him on stage to sing alongside him and this seemed to perk the crowd up a bit who were seemingly rather indifferent to his set. Other band members on stage also helped make it a cracking set with some beautiful female backing vocals and some energetic fiddle playing by the rather distinct figure of Jon Gaunt. These guys came together really well and made the whole set one I really enjoyed with Chuck having the ability to go from big, almost rock songs like ‘The Boat’ to slow ballads like ‘Geraldine’ so easily. A great choice of artist to go alongside Frank.

And with that, it was onto Frank Turner himself (well, and the band too). By now, the venue had completely filled out and was starting to get a bit cosy to say the least. However, with this increase in crowd size comes the increase in muppets in the crowd, as I wrote previously in the SBE show. And as always, I seemed to be stood next to the biggest idiots so spent the 20 minutes before Frank started stood by a group of 5 or 6 guys who just insisted on trying to shove their way through the crowd the whole time.

When Frank did take to the stage though, the entire crowd went mental and this madness continued through the first three tracks of ‘Photosynthesis’, ‘Try This At Home’ and ‘Once We Were Anarchists’, the latter being a track I don’t think I’d ever heard live. ‘Richard Divine’ gave the crowd a chance to catch their breath long enough to be able to scream the lyrics back at Frank and was another track that I’d not seen live before.

The one thing that made this show so different to previous ones I’d seen was that this was the first that felt like a ‘rock show’. Having seen Frank play shows where he just turns up and plays songs on his own with someone elses guitar, to see him onstage with such an impressive lightshow going on at the same time, it was difficult to imagine it was the same guy. The spectacle of ‘Long Live The Queen’ with the drummer, Nigel, being projected as a giant silhouette onto a screen behind the rest of the band is one such effect that sticks in my mind.

The rest of the set was a great mix of new and old material and a few tracks I’d not heard in a while. Particular highlights were ‘Dan’s Song’, with the actual Dan joining Frank on stage for the harmonica solo, the solo version of Jet Lag (the first time I’ve heard it in full as the only other time Frank played it, he forgot the words) and an old tune in ‘Back In The Day’.

The main set itself finished strongly with ‘Prufrock’ and ‘Reasons Not To Be An Idiot’. As always, it was straight onto an encore which saw all the other artists from the night come back on stage to perform ‘Revival Song’; a tune penned by Chuck Ragan during the Revival Tour that he and Frank had undertaken together in the States. The rest of the encore then consisted of  ‘St Christopher’s Coming Home’, a standard part of the setlist at big shows, and then finished with his biggest hit in ‘The Road’.

However, the London crowd were then treated to a second encore with a shirtless Frank coming back on stage by himself to perform ‘The Ballad Of Me And My Friends’ which, unsurprisingly, went down extremely well with the boisterous crowd.

Altogether, it was definitely one of his best shows I’ve seen. I’m not sure whether it bettered the SBE gig but does it really matter? As mentioned previously, it was most impressive by being one of his most ‘complete’ shows with the lighting adding another dimension to his live acts. It’s just a shame that the bigger crowd is bringing out the bigger idiots but this is a small price to pay to see one of my favourite acts push forward with his much deserved success.

Chuck Ragan – For Broken Ears (live)

Frank Turner – Jet Lag (live)

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