Filed under: gigs, music | Tags: 65daysofstatic, dive dive, frank turner, rural alberta advantage, tallest man on earth, titus andronicus
These shows have been of a monkey on my back over the last couple of months as I’ve had every intention to sit down and write them up properly but life has somewhat conspired against this and as time has gone on, I’ve felt like I couldn’t review them as well as I’d like so have kept putting it off.
Now, I feel I need to start this year with a clean slate but also round of 2010 so here’s a runthrough of all but one (which will get a slightly longer writeup) of the gigs I made it to in the twilight of the year..
The Tallest Man On Earth @ Electric Ballroom – 24/11
It’s not that long ago that the Swede was coming over to the UK for his first ever show, a show I was privileged to attend. In fact, it still remains one of my favourite gigs ever as Matsson played to a silent audience in awe of such amazing guitarwork and vocals and gripped by the intensity of his performance.
Fast forward little over a year and a few UK performances, The Tallest Man On Earth is back to play to a sold out Camden crowd. It amazes me to see the sudden explosion in his popularity but this isn’t by accident as he is a truly stunning artist and one that deserves to play to such crowds. I don’t know how word has spread so quickly about him but the praise is always justified.
However, the Ballroom just doesn’t suit this type of performance. Arriving later after meeting friends, we were stuck near to the back. Not being so tall myself, the slopeless Ballroom doesn’t fare well for myself and so half the gig is spent ducking and weaving through people so I can see something of him on stage and not just the back of someone’s head (and their straw/ironic Peruvian hat).
As ever, Matsson himself plays a blinder. Even to such a crowd, the feeling he gives out for each track shines through (but by the inverse square law, it’s greatly diminished by the time it gets to me). Running through tracks from both albums and the new EP, he plays a mix of live favourites and songs I’d need heard in this setting before.
There were plenty of other firsts to this performance as well though. Appropriately enough, given the venue, this was the first time he had gone fully electric and the change in sound for some of the tracks made them sound nicely different to what I had heard previously.
More noticeable than that, however, was the introduction of the organ/piano to the set adding a whole new dimension to his set. The most noticeable of these, and the definite highlight for myself, was the reworked version of Like The Wheel which was nothing short of beautiful. And an encore finishing with Kids On The Run rounded the evening off brilliantly.
I do love seeing The Tallest Man On Earth live as he is such a passionate and intense performer (and the only artist I know who can turn tuning his guitar into a whole song on it’s own!). It’s just a shame that the Ballroom is such a terrible venue for an artist like him and he’s got to the stage of attracting “fans” along now, such as the guy stood near me who just seemed intent on singing all the songs at his girlfriend in an apparent attempt to prove that he knew all the words.
I am gutted that I can’t make the next show that’s been announced at Shepherd’s Bush Empire due to my exams as that could suit him better. However, I still think he performs best to small audiences but those days are definitely gone now, in London at least, and I can only be thankful that I got to see him play such shows.
Titus Andronicus @ Scala – 25/11
This had been a show I’d been looking forward to for a while with The Monitor being one of my favourite albums of the year and with TA’s reputation as a great live band. Arriving early, I caught the set of the second support act TV Personalities who were an influential punk band from the 70s (and beyond) and who TA seemed to admire. Despite this reputation, they were pretty crap. It wasn’t until afterwards I found out that they were held in seemingly high regard as they were boring, repetitive and flat.
As such, it meant that I was even more geared up for Titus themselves as I was determined to have a good time. Luckily, they didn’t disappoint.
Launching straight off with A More Perfect Union, the crowd were instantly on the band’s side and loving every minute of it which is not a surprise as it is a brilliant album opener. The rest of the set was a mix of tracks from the new album as well as the previous record with Fear And Loathing.., and the amazing Titus Andronicus itself from the first album being highlights but then again new tracks sounded just as good.
Titus know how to whip the crowd into a frenzy though, especially with singalong lines life “you’ll always be a loser” and screams of FUCK YOU! at certain points. All this meant it was one of the most knackering gigs I’ve ever been to with the unrelenting pace of the show hardly letting up with the breaks between songs being a welcome break for the band and the crowd. Even slower tracks like To Old Friends And New had such an intensity about them that it still sapped the energy from everyone present.
The venue itself added to the atmosphere with Scala being much smaller than I had imagined so everyone was packed in. The security staff also didn’t seem too fussed about crowd surfers so it made it feel like an old school rock concert. However, Dan Tracey from TV Personalities seemingly thought he was back in the 70s and insisted on taking over the stage and getting the band to play with him. One track wasn’t enough though and he grabbed a guitar and played a song with a very bemused Titus playing along and an even more bemused audience not knowing whether to laugh or feel sorry for Dan who clearly thought he was THE MAN with the amount of booze/illicit substances he was on.
After normal service had resumed, Titus continued their race to the end of the show making for a great show and it was nice to see a band live that sounded as good and energetic and frantic live as they did on record. They also seemed to be a nice group of people too and couldn’t stop saying how happy they were to be playing their biggest non-US show so it was a pleasure to be part of that as well.
One of the gigs of the year for me.
65daysofstatic @ CAMP – 26/11
A mere 6 months after seeing them at Koko, 65dos were back in town for a much smaller show at a place I’d never even heard of.
The City and Arts Music Project is just off Old Street and must be a relatively new venue as I used to work in the area and didn’t recognise the place at all. We got there before doors opened as a friend had managed to get me a reserved ticket (despite it being a sellout) but we had to get there early to grab it. But early here had a different meaning as the doors weren’t even due to open until 10pm with 65dos not on until around midnight.
On arriving, the bar on the ground floor level of the venue looked quite nice from outside and we got a decent look at it as we were left standing outside in temperatures below zero as they kept refusing to open the doors. 30 minutes or so later, and with hypothermia only just staved off, we finally made it inside the venue.
Going down stairs, the venue really was a tiny place and quite a dingy place but in a way that made me quite excited as the smallest venue I had ever seen the band in was at the Dingwalls and this was probably even smaller.
After taking up our spots around the middle of the venue we settled down for the evening and welcomed the support band Kong onto the stage, ready for them to set the scene for the evening.
Sadly, they were a bit crap. The costumes they wore just looked tacky and their “noise rock” sound just came over as noise. There were moments where I felt like I was starting to get into their music but it quickly descended back into something I ended up tolerating instead, which is not a good way to describe any music.
After that disappointment, it was up to 65dos to save the day. Rumour had it that the band hate playing London because of the hipsters that end up going to the shows who aren’t actually fans of theirs and had even thought about not playing London. But with such a small venue, I was hoping that the place was going to be ripped up.
Sadly, this just didn’t happen. 65dos themselves were fantastic as always and still remain one of the best live acts out there. But the crowd just didn’t seem to be up for it at all, standing around looking more like they were queuing for a bus. There were a handful of people trying to go for it but these were definitely in the minority.
As for 65dos, the set leaned quite heavily towards their newest album, which was no problem for me as We Were Exploding Anyway is, for me, their finest piece of work to date with much more synth on it that their previous records which adds much more to their sound. From the set opener and all out assault that is Go Complex to the almost rave-esque Weak4, this material is just made to be played live. There were a host of old tracks in there too though, including Retreat! Retreat! which always gives me shivers when I hear it live.
Closing the main part of the set with the eerie Debutante, many people headed for the doors to my bemusement as it was clear 65dos would be coming back out and it was definitely worth hanging round for with the brilliant Radio Protector and Tiger Girl before a second encore of older tracks to round the night off.
I really enjoyed the set and it was great to see them back in a small venue. But after the atmosphere of the previous evening, it felt like such a let down to have such a rubbish audience in a venue that was made for this kind of show (but not helped by the average sound and over zealous security staff). And with a crowd of people that the band hate London for, I only hope they do come back. Or that I’m out of here before their next show.
Sorry for the lack of pics but the lighting in the venue and my camera just didn’t get along.
The Rural Alberta Advantage @ The Luminaire – 09/12
Another day, another amazing gig.
It’s no secret on this blog that I utterly love the RAA ever since a friend sent me a download link (I have no qualms about this as this was the pre-Saddle Creek days when you could only buy the album straight from them). On last.fm, it is my most listened to album with over 1,000 plays and when I heard about their first gig in the UK, I almost let out a little sex wee. That show didn’t disappoint (apart from the annoying hippy guy who clapped out of time through the whole gig) and so when they announced their return, I snapped up a ticket.
This was the first gig I’d ever been to at the Luminaire (amazingly) and would ultimately be my only visit with it facing imminent closure. It was a beautiful little venue and a bit smaller than I had imagined. With the first support band having just finished, I made my way quite happily to the stage and settled down in time for Let’s Buy Happiness. I quite enjoyed their set with their indie pop sound and interesting vocals from the female vocalist and they are a band I have meant to investigate more since I saw them.
But it was the RAA who I was obviously here to see and wondered just how they would be able to top their previous gig. After the inevitable waiting around, they bounded on stage to a warm round of applause and yet again managed to capture my heart.
They manage to blend several sounds into their songs, and subequently into their set, so well and without ever sounding as though they’re not comfortable doing so; from the distorted and frantic Drain The Blood to the haunting Frank, AB every song sounds great. The mix of keyboards, straight acoustic and distorted acoustic guitars taking the lead on different tracks also gives the set a nice mix of sounds and this is all backed up with Niles’ unique, strained vocals, Amy’s beautiful backing vocals and then Paul’s all out assault on the drums which somehow fits in with the soft and tender music seamlessly.
As well as the old favourites, which have been around for a good few years now, the band also played a number of new songs which all fit in with the sound of the tracks from Hometowns but offer something slightly different. Barnesyard is one that is recognisable straight away to me as it has been on their Daytrotter session from quite a while ago but the ones that I didn’t know still had an air of familiarity about them which makes me very excited for the new album (which is out very soon and up for pre-order on Saddle Creek’s website now).
Like their previous show, the finale for the night was the new albums closing track Goodnight which was performed completely unplugged and played on a raised section of the venue at the back of the crowd. Save for a few people who jst can’t help but talk, everyone else present listened in silence to a great finish to the night.
I loved their set again this time round but it didn’t quite reach the heights of the previous show. This was nothing to do with how they played but that last time round was the first time seeing them live so the anticipation of that made it so much more amazing but I won’t complain if they decide to come back to these shores any time in the near future.
Frank Turner @ Brixton Academy – 12/12
March 2009 – Puregroove Records instore to 50 people
December 2010 – Sellout show at Brixton Academy to 5000 people
These number show just how far Frank Turner has gone in such a short amount of time. But no matter what the size of the crowd, Frank seems equally comfortable but equally humble at the same time. Having been at both of these shows (the former being the smallest crowd I can remember seeing him play to and the latter being his biggest headline show to date) and a fair few in between, it’s been fascinating to see this change to take place.
This was the end of a UK tour as well as the year’s Christmas show and a slightly different one from the magical night at the Union Chapel 12 months previously. I got to the venue nice and early to catch the full lineup for the evening which kicked off with Dive Dive. As Frank fans will know, three quarters of the band are the same guys that make up Frank’s band with leadman Jamie being the only difference in the lineups. Having recently signed to Xtra Mile themselves, they were ready to release their first album in a few years and showcased it brilliantly on the night.
With a very different sound to their work with Frank, they launched through their set with it’s tight indie sound which was a great start to the night and I’m sure it was a set won them plenty of new fans on the night. The new material, which I’d managed to hear beforehand on Spotify, sounded great and made the album one to go on the pre-order list when I got home.
After that came Ed Harcourt which was a name I recognised but not one I could put a song to. His set was an interesting mix of sounds with him flitting between piano and guitar. For just one man on such a big stage with such a huge audience, he did very well and it was a set that I found quite interesting and not one I would have expected from someone supporting Mr Turner.
As for Frank’s set itself, there’s very little I can say that I haven’t said several times in the past. As always, a mixture of material off all three albums and the new EP were present and correct as well as several new tracks, most of which will presumably feature on the, as yet untitled, fourth studio album that will be out in Summer 2011.
The standout moment for me of his set was the crowd’s participation and excitement for his most recent single I Still Believe. It is definitely one of his catchiest/mainstream (in a nice way) songs but I never expected such a reaction to such a new song and it makes you think that a lot of the crowd have only just jumped on the Frank-wagon (especially as the show had only sold out a week or two before having been on sale since February).
Many of the standard live tracks such as Prufrock, LI&S, Father’s Day etc all sounded great as is always the case. The less commonly played Nashville Tennessee and Springsteen’s Thunder Road also got their chances to be heard while the pick of the new tracks in the a capella English Curse had the crowd hanging on every word.
Frank’s interaction with the crowd was there as per usual too with plenty of chatting between songs and thanking the crowd repeatedly for making it his biggest show to date. This was also coupled with personal tales such as about his grandmother feeding him whiskey at a young age.
The set closer of The Road had the crowd, and my companion Mr Ben Marwood, very excited and whipped up for cheers and screams for the inevitable encore which bought the night to an end with the singalong of Ballad of Me and My Friends and then Photosynthesis with Ed Harcourt coming back out on stage to join in.
Frank is someone I will never tire of seeing live, as you may have already guessed, as you know you’ll get a great show but with such a library of tracks to play as well as the constant stream of new material, it’s different every time as well. Yet again, another great show and a fantastic way to end the year for gigs again.
Filed under: gigs, music | Tags: chuck ragan, crazy arm, frank turner, roundhouse
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)
Filed under: gigs | Tags: adam killip, ben marwood, chris t-t, Emily Barker, frank turner, union chapel
Now, this is why you shouldn’t do ‘best gig of the year’ type blog posts before you’ve attended all your gigs for the year..
The day didn’t get off to the best start with news that Frank was stranded in France with Calais and the Tunnel both closed and all flights out of the country pretty much fully booked. So with uncertainty as to whether the headline act would turn up, it was time to leave for church.
The Union Chapel was (yet another) venue I had never graced and was surprised to find out that it is still used as a fully functioning church as well as a music venue. After a quick drink with fellow fans over the road and a quick queue, it was time to find the best pew and view I could.
It was a bizarre experience to enter the venue as, on the one hand, it was such a grand place with the stained glass windows, pews and enormously high ceilings but at the same time the main seating area didn’t seem that big. Luckily the place hadn’t filled out too much and we got a seat near to the front and just off centre. The atmosphere was made more odd by the fact that alcohol was only permitted in the bar so people were sat around with cups of tea; not your normal scene at a gig!
It wasn’t long before the first act of the night took to the stage and this was the only artist on the night that I hadn’t seen before in Adam Killip (of the band The Tailors) who played a set with a very ‘music to watch the rain by’ sound in the fact it was very chilled out and quite down tempo but with the acoustics of the venue it sounded rather haunting and was a good start to the evening.
The full band version of ‘Crocodiles’, which he played on the night, can be heard on the band’s facebook page.
With almost no time between sets, it was time for Ben Marwood to take his place on stage. I’ve ‘reviewed’ Ben a few times from the previous Lexapalooza shows and have always enjoyed the big singalong shows that he puts on. However, the Union Chapel atmosphere created a very different show with just the sound of Ben’s voice and guitar filling the venue and I really enjoyed this difference. His set consisted almost entirely of his ‘hits’ with ‘Question Marks’, ‘Friendly Fires’ and the normally irrepresible ‘Oh My Days’ all sounding fantastic in the surroundings of the venue.
At times it seemed even he found the surroundings slightly eerie and that he looked a little lost for words, although this still didn’t stop his normal chat between songs! The penultimate song of his short set was the cover of the Postal Service’s ‘The District Sleeps Alone Tonight’ which also sounded fantastic, before he completed his time on stage with an a capella song which filled the hall amazingly. Overall, another top performance and one that was an interesting contrast to his normal shows.
Third on stage on the night was Emily Barker & The Red Clay Halos, who I had seen at Lexapalooza Lite a few months previously. Back then, I didn’t write a lot about their performance as I didn’t listen to it too closely as, I felt, it didn’t suit the day. However, the quartet on guitar, harmonica, fiddle, accordian, flute and cello (at various times obviously) sounded so much better in this setting and their vocal harmonies carried through the hall to really send shivers down your spine every now and again.
The slower tempo, folky sound was quite mesmerising on the night and really blew me away and, like Ben’s set, the contrast between this set and the last time I saw them was amazing.
The next act was yet another I had seen at the Lex shows in Chris T-T. The first time I saw him, he played a full band set with The Hoodrats, while last time he played a solo acoustic set. This time was to be different yet again with him playing a solo piano set. I’d been unable to make his tour dates for his solo piano set so was lucky and pleased to catch him play like this.
He kicked off with a beautiful instrumental song which seemed to have the crowd hooked. From there in, he played a few old songs, such as the amazing rendition of ‘Ankles’, and some of his newer material with ‘Nintendo’ being a highlight for me. In amongst the set he even found time for a quick blowjob joke and his own a capella song in ‘M1 Song’ which went down really well with the crowd.
After a bit of a wait, and with a bit of nervous tension from the crowd and his fellow band members, Frank Turner came bounding on to the stage having just turned up after flying in from France. Bottle of wine in hand, he apologised for his tardiness but promised to make for it which he most certainly did.
Launching into the normal opener of ‘Prufrock’, the crowd were suddenly up for it but as with the previous artists, the singalong element of a normal FT gig was absent. Frank and the band knew that the setting they were in wouldn’t predispose to such a gig though and treated us to a fabulous evening of songs rarely played live and reworkings of some of the more famous songs.
For me, this was perfect as it meant I saw a number of songs I’d never seen before such as ‘Isabel’, ‘A Decent Cup of Tea’ and one of my favourite tracks in ‘Hold Your Tongue’. Some tracks that I had seen before sounded as good as ever with some of the other artists from the night joining Frank and the band on stage; Emily Barker joining in on vocals on ‘Worse Things Happen At Sea’ and Chris T-T playing piano on a reworked version of ‘Fathers Day’ which saw Frank take up vocal duties only. The latter tracks was also one ofonly a few songs on the night where singing along was encouraged.
One of my highlights, however, was one of the new tracks in ‘Journey of the Magi’ which really did make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up; maybe it was the draft from outside or maybe it was the religious connotations of the song mixed with the setting, I don’t know.
The ‘encore’ (not a true one as they skipped the stage leaving part) consisted of the rocked up version of ‘Long Live The Queen’ before all the artists from the night joined the band on stage for a cover of the Wham classic ‘Last Christmas’. After that, the stage was cleared apart from Frank who played ‘The Ballad of Me and My Friends’ with the entire crowd on their feet, clapping and singing and damning themselves by proclaiming “..and we’re definitely going to hell!”
Altogether, it was a simply stunning evening with the venue itself playing as much of a part in this as any of the artists. From all the artists I had seen before, it was great to see such different shows from all of them and to see marterial I hadn’t seen live before; especially from Frank.
Afterwards it was up to the bar to celebrate the end of a great year/decade for music and gigs with some old and new friends.. including Ben Marwood’s mum!
I can’t think of a better way to have ended this year for gigs and can only hope next year is half as good.
Ben Marwood – The District Sleeps Alone Tonight (live)
Christ T-T – Ankles (live)
Frank Turner – Hold Your Tongue (live)
Frank Turner w/ Ben Marwood, Chris T-T and Emily Barker – Last Christmas (live)
Filed under: gigs | Tags: 2009, 65daysofstatic, and so i watch you from afar, animal collective, frank turner, gig of the year, graham coxon, maybeshewill, metric, The Antlers, tv on the radio, we were promised jetpacks
As we approach the end of the year it’s time, as any blog should, to look back on the year as a whole. With the main purpose of this blog being about live music, it seems apt to kick things off with my top 10 gigs from the year.
First things first, I’ve excluded the all day events I’ve been to this year, in Lexapalooza and Lexapalooza Lite, as they would have run away with the titles due to the overall awesomeness of both events. So in order to give the other shows a chance, they’ve been cut. And so, bring on the list!
10. We Were Promised Jetpacks @ The Lexington – 18/06
I’d been listening to this three pieces debut album, These Four Walls, for a few months before I got chance to see them at this great little venue. They had a couple of good support bands playing with them but their own set was short but sweet. ‘Keeping Warm’ was a great set opener with it’s uber long intro and kicked the night of well. Other songs off the album, such as ‘It’s Thunder And It’s Lightning’ and ‘Conductor’ sounded fantastic too but the highlight was most definitely ‘Quiet Little Voices’ which is one of my favourite songs this year (a list I won’t be compiling).
They seemed to have a great time on stage and I definitely had one off it.
9. Animal Collective @ Brixton Academy – 20/08
I went along to this gig a bit indifferent to this band but since then have got more into them thanks to this show. The sound levels and the sound quality may not have been as good as they could have been, the one buzzing monitor being a particular nuisance, but this didn’t stop it from being a damn good show. It was a shame I didn’t know more of their material as a number of the songs I didn’t know at the time sounded great live, especially ‘Fireworks’, and both ‘Guys Eyes’ and ‘Brother Sport’ of the new album sounded fantastic too.
It was a shame the crowd were a bit flat but this gig was an amazing experience as much as anything.
8. TV On The Radio @ Brixton Academy – 13/07
After thoroughly enoying last year’s album ‘Dear Science’, I had really been looking forward to this show. The set they played was heavily weighted in favour of this album and the big tracks off the album, such as ‘Halfway Home’ and ‘Dancing Choose’ coming across brilliantly but it was some of the more understated tracks on the album, particularly ‘Love Dog’ which really blew me away. The older material also sounded fantastic and the double act of the percussion heavy ‘Method’ and the sublime ‘Staring At The Sun’ rounded the night off for the encore.
Very glad I managed to catch such a top band on the only date they played in the UK.
7. The Antlers @ Pure Groove Record Store – 04/09
One of Pure Groove’s in store sessions (that I really should go along to more often) this was on at the slightly bizarre time of 1.30 in the afternoon on a Friday but I am very glad I managed to make the trip across London for their set. With just a handful of people present, they played a large majority of their album ‘Hopsice’ with most songs having a slightly different twist live to on the record. The reworked version of ‘Sylvia’ was especially good but others such as the beautiful ‘Kettering’ and ‘Two’ came across just as well.
A wonderful intimate little gig and I even managed to have a chat with the band and get my copy of the album signed.
6. Metric @ The Electric Ballroom – 19/05
For such a big band, I was amazed that this gig was so cheap so booked tickets in a shot when they came out and I’m very glad I did. Fantasies was the only album of theirs I had prior to getting the ticket so was most familair with the material off that. Luckily, for me at least, the set was pretty much dominated by these songs which I much prefer to their older albums. Emily Haines is a fantastic singer and focal point for the band and she was simply brilliant on the night. The lighting and sound were spot on so tracks like ‘Gimme Sympathy’ and ‘Help I’m Alive’ came across as well as they could have. The acoustic rendition of ‘Live It Out’ was a perfect ending to the night.
A fantastic live band and a great show.
5. 65daysofstatic @ Dingwalls – 26/04
A band that I love and had never caught live before. Fantastic support on the night from Tubelord (and some not so fantastic support from Amusement Parks On Fire) as well. These guys’ records just don’t them justice as they are so so much better live than on any album of theirs. Their performance on this night was simply mind blowing and the whole venue went absolutely mental for them. I only wish we’d been down in amongst the madness rather than where we were. And a rather fitting end to the night with a complete power cut during a brand new song cutting their set short.
Absolutely cracking show and can’t wait to see them again.
4. Graham Coxon @ The Lexington – 13/05
A gig I heard about through a friend, I was lucky to grab one of only a few tickets for this fairly intimate gig at The Lexington. The gig was to showcase his new album ‘The Spinning Top’ which he played through in it’s enitrety. I’m not a huge fan of the album but it was absolutely fascinating to watch such an accomplished guitarist playing such technically amazing songs. The change between the pure acoustic songs and the distorted ones were welcome and it was interesting to see a gig that just consisted of one album in order.
A great gig and very fortunate to be so close to such an accomplished musician.
3. Frank Turner @ Shepherds Bush Empire -29/10
He had to make an appearance at some point didn’t he? I may have seen Frank play a handful of gigs this year but this was easily the pick of them. The whole night was great as he had some excellent support from Beans On Toast and Fake Problems and his own set was one of the best I’ve seen at any of his shows. As I’ve said numerous times in reviews of his gigs, it’s a whole different experience seeing him with the band than solo and it was the energy of the performance from this show with the band and the sheer scale of the gig and crowd that made this such a great show. The stalwarts of his live shows, such as ‘Photosynthesis’ and ‘Prufrock’ were as good as ever but the inclusion of older material like ‘Nashville Tennessee’ and the fantastic cover of ‘Smiling At Strangers’ were epic.
All this on top of the new material sounding just as good made for a special night.
2. And So I Watch You From Afar/Maybeshewill @ The Good Ship – 20/05
ASIWYFA are only second to Frank Turner in the artist I’ve seen most live and this was their finest moment this year. This was very much helped by the fact that on the same bill was another of my favourite post rock bands in Maybeshewill. The rest of the crowd may not have known them as well as I did, having seen them play the same venue previously, but that didn’t bother me and they were as good as the last time I saw them. But if I thought they were good, ASIWYFA were on another level completely. The setup of the Good Ship set it up for a mind blowing show as the 50 or so of us in the ‘pit’ were pretty much on the stage with the band.
The energy from both the band and the crowd made this one hell of a gig and left me feeling shell shocked afterwards.
1. The Tallest Man On Earth @ Barden’s Boudoir – 09/09
And so the number one spot goes to the marvellous Tallest Man On Earth and his show at the bizarre little venue of Barden’s Boudoir back in September. The venue was an odd little place but in hindsight maybe the perfect sort of stage for Kristian to play on as it allowed the fans to surround the stage and this allowed him to sing to each and every person in the crowd. As I wrote in the original review, he had a slightly unnerving style of playing live as he would pick out people in the crowd and sing almost just to them and when it was you he ‘picked’ on, it seemed like an eternity that he was singing for you. Up until this gig, I’d enjoyed his album but this has nothing on how he was live and it was almost an honour to see him play such amazing songs and sing in his unique style.
The only word I can use to describe this show is mesmerising and I’ve already got my ticket booked for the next time he’s back in London.
The Gardener – live at Barden’s Boudoir
Agree/disagree with what I’ve got down? What was your favourite gig of the year? Leave a comment and let me know!
Coming soon(ish): my top 20 albums of 2009 with accompanying podcasts.
Filed under: gigs | Tags: Beans On Toast, fake problems, frank turner, poetry of the deed, shepherds bush empire
It’s easy to forget just how Frank Turner has come in such a short amount of time. That line doesn’t quite capture the truth as he’s been writing, touring and recording for a few years now but if you were to chart his ‘popularity’ as a graph, the last 6 months or so would see the line go through the roof.
I’ve not followed Frank from the beginning of his solo career, only hearing of him after the release of ‘Love, Ire & Song’ but I seemed to have got involved just as this wave of (well deserved) popularity began to surge. As such, in the last year I’ve gone from seeing him play small in-store shows and free gigs at the music Mecca of the Flowerpot to this; his biggest solo headline show to date, in front of a sell out audience of 2,000 fans at the Shepherds Bush Empire.
Heading down to the venue and teaming up with some familiar faces from other Frank shows, Lexapalooza events and the like, we made our way into the venue to grab a good spot and catch the support acts. The first of these was a guy I’d seen only weeks before in Beans On Toast.
As he came out, the crowd was only just starting to build, which was a bit of a shame as he deserved a few more people to be there for his set. With a newly released album with 50 tracks, he had a lot of material to draw from and played a good all round set of tunes I’d heard before and ones I hadn’t. The stage here suited him much better than the one at the Flowerpot from Lex Lite and he seemed much more comfortable than when I’d seen him there. Perhaps he’d finally found his groove (as such) with this being the last date of the UK tour which he’d been on with Frank but he definitely seemed more confident up there with some good chat between him and the audience too.
This meant that his acoustic tracks all came along a lot better with the crowd all getting involved (and in one case, even stopping clapping as he told them to) and the atmosphere was great. The only thing missing was the backing vocals his girlfriend had provided at the Lex Lite show which gave some of the songs an extra layer which worked really well.
But one thing that did make a reappearance from that show was the raps that he’d just started performing and these definitely worked better on the bigger stage. This was also helped out by the fact his accordian player could make it on this occasion and, as I alluded to in the last review, with everything going right, these were probably better than the guitar tracks. A very solid opening to the night.
After Beans came a band I’d seen support Frank when I saw him play the New Slang night at McClusky’s in Kingston a few months ago in Fake Problems. Now, I’ve heard a lot of people say that they didn’t really do anything for them on the night and I’m quite surprised at this as I thought that they were quite good overall. Maybe it was because I knew their material that I enjoyed their set but I also enjoyed them at the previous show when I’d never heard of them before.
Anyway, I enjoyed them a lot more this time round as I was now familiar with the album ‘It’s Great To Be Alive’ and thing that there are a few great tracks off the album. The strong songs like ‘The Dream Team’ and ‘Don’t Worry Baby’ all got a play and sounded great with the vocals as ‘snarly’ as before. As I mentioned in the previous review of them, I think the frontman of the band is pretty good and that the band all work really well together on stage. A decent enough performance from them to get me ready for the main event.
With both support acts been and gone, it was again time for Frank to make to the stage with the band. They did so to great applause and then launched straight into what’s becoming the traditional set opener for the band with ‘Live Fast, Die Old’ which always sounds amazing live and always gets the crowd going (with this gig being no exception).
From there on, the first half of the set consisted of a lot of material from the new album with ‘The Road’, ‘Poetry Of The Deed’ and ‘Dan’s Song’ all being played, the latter with the guest appearance on harmonica as has been the case through the tour, but there was also a smattering of older material including ‘The Real Damage’ and ‘Substitute’.
The most striking of the older songs during this part of the set, however, was the ‘punked up’ version of ‘Long Live The Queen’ which is completely different from the version of LI&S and sounded great. It’s a strange song to hear reworked like that because of the story behind it but it did sound fantastic, the crowd loved it and the band all seemed really happy with it too.
After these tracks came a song I’d never heard before and it was something of a surprise to heat with ‘Nashville Tennessee’ being played and, again, this sounded great with the full band.
Soon after that came two polar opposites for songs when it comes to Frank’s career. The first of these was the reworked cover of ‘Smiling At Strangers On Trains’ which was originally performed by Million Dead (Frank’s old band) and is a fantastic song in it’s own right. The reworked version was, unsurprisingly, a lot more like the acoustic version off ‘The First Three Years’ but was one of the highlights of the night with myself and the little group I was with singing along at the top of our voices. The mini-talk beforehand about his days in MD and how it got him to where he was today was also quite poignant but said without being egotistical as it may have come across. After that came the fantastic ‘Sons Of Liberty’ with Frank playing the fiddle section as a guitar solo which worked really well.
Soon after came one of the most surprising songs of the night with the band clearing the stage leaving Frank on his own. He took this time to talk about folk musics and some of it’s roots before singing a beautiful a capella version of an old English folk song ‘Barbara Allen‘ which was simply mesmerising. Thankfully, the section of crowd I was with all felt the same way and stood listening in silence but it’s a shame not everyone could be the same.
After the raptuous applause following the song, Frank went on to ‘Love, Ire & Song’ which is one I always enjoy live. It also works really well as it allows the band to come back on and join him and join in as the song progresses. From there on, we were treated to a few more tracks including the always-brilliant-live ‘Father’s Day’ (which has a completely meaning following Frank’s interview in the Evening Standard), the best performance of ‘Prufrock’ I’ve ever seen and then, to finish ‘Journey Of The Magi’ which is fast becoming one of my favourite tracks off the album.
A brief break and he was back out on stage for the encore, kicking off with ‘The Ballad Of Me And My Friends’ which surprised me as I’d only ever seen this played as the set closer. This led straight into ‘Reasons Not To Be An Idiot’ (literally leading into it as it seamlessly went from one song to the next) before finishing with an uber-long edition of ‘Photosynthesis’ with everyone who’d played on stage that night making an appearance as well as a few others including Charlie from Xtra Miles (Frank’s UK label) who performed a rather epic stage dive after losing a bet with Frank.
Altogether, it was a truly awesome night. It was almost spoilt for me by some of the almost inevitable idiots you get in the crowd at such a gig (including one group smoking, another who was so drunk he could barely stand but eventually got thrown out for pissing into a water bottle right in front of a bouncer and another 7ft guy who kept trying to bulldoze his way through) and also for the fact that the sound levels weren’t quite right for the first few tracks. Once this was sorted though, the crowd seemed to come alive and the atmosphere was somewhat special. It was also crazy to turn round at times and see the four tiers of the crowd all jumping and singing along (although I was jumping as much and singing as loud as anyone else there!) The band (Dive Dive) are always brilliant at these shows as well and it wouldn’t be the same without them and I wish them luck with the release of their new album immenent as well.
As I said at the beginning of this ramble, it still amazes me to see this sort of crowd having seen him play at much smaller shows only a few months ago but Frank does deserve all the success he gets with his amazing live performances and the fact he puts on more shows in a year than there are days in which to do so.
Only a month and a bit til the next show at the Union Chapel!
Fake Problems – The Dream Team (live)
Frank Turner – Sons of Liberty (live)
Filed under: gigs | Tags: Anna Madeleine, B-Sydes, Beans On Toast, ben marwood, chris t-t, Dave McPherson, Eliot Morris, Emily Barker, frank turner, Get Cape Wear Cape Fly, lexapalooza, Mark McCabe, oxygen thief, Sam Duckworth, Sanjuro, The Leano
Following the Lexapalooza all-dayer I had attended earlier in the year at The Gaff, I was a wee bit excited to hear about the prospect of a second one in the same year; the first time this had happened. On top of this, it was to be a ‘Lexapalooza Lite’ purely for acoustic artists (on the whole at least). Add to this the fact that it was at what is fast becoming one of my favourite London hang-outs, let alone venues, in the Flowerpot in Camden and you had what could be nothing other than a great time. And, as always, it was all for the breast cancer research as well giving me an even better excuse to go along and spend money.
The probability of it being a great day was only further enhanced by the fact that it would be running from midday to almost midnight which is, quite frankly, a lot of drinking time. Especially when you arrive with a stomach lining of just Weetabix or whatever the Tesco generic cheap version is anyway.
The poor soul lumbered with the task of opening the shindig was B-Sydes. I arrived just after his set had started but didn’t catch a lot of it as I said my hellos to some familiar faces. What I did hear wasn’t too bad but it did show that this was, supposedly, one of the first shows he had done. The music wasn’t anything particularly unique but was pretty solid.
After that set and a quick foray into the beer garden, I made my way back inside to catch the set by Mark McCabe and he was one of the surprise acts of the day/night for me. A slightly sombre fellow from deepest, darkest Aberdeen, he played a rather political set but it was backed up by some great vocals and some sound guitar playing with a little bit of poetry thrown in for good measure. The politics never overpowered his songs too much, as can be the case, and he had a good dose of humour in his tunes to counter this too; a surprisingly good artist for only the second act.
The next act was the only all girl act of the event, fronted by Emily Barker. They had a nice genteel sound with the acoustic guitar backed by the harmonica, cello, violin and accordion as well as some lovely harmonies from the four of them. The music was a bit of a drop in tempo from the first two acts but it still fitted in with the day and was a nice chillout backing for everyone to enjoy a drink on a Saturday morning.
Going back to the solo acoustic artists, Elliot Morris was the next to take to the Lex stage and was another of the surprise packages for me. I probably the use the term “technically very good” a lot when I’m describing artists but that phrase doesn’t do this guy justice really as he used the guitar as a percussion instrument as much as he did for it’s normal use and on top of this, he showed off some very impressive finger tapping (and as sod law dictates, the one song I recorded probably demonstrated these skill the least). His also vocals stood up to his guitar skills and made very a really good set which included his own songs and a few covers, including a Reuben one and even a Basshunter one; the former, unsurprisingly, going down rather well.
“L Plates” (live) – Elliot Morris
Next on stage was a TMWL favourite Oxygen Thief who I had seen for the first time at the previous Lex event. He’s an artist I like for being a bit different to your standard acoustic singer/songwriter by almost playing like he’s in a metal band rather than on his own with an acoustic and has some good tunes to back this up with. For this set, he bought the mic so he was practically in amongst the crowd which is a touch I always like. The set had a good mix of his stuff and even had a couple of songs I didn’t know. The ones I did know were all played really well with Too Many Trees and its clappy section going down well. The cover of Spandau Ballet’s “Gold” went down well, as always, with plenty of the crowd singing when they were supposed to. Compared to some of the other artists his set felt a little short though which was the only disappointment for me but otherwise it was a good, fun set like before.
“Gold” (live) – Oxygen Thief (originally by Spandau Ballet)
Anna Madeleine was one of the only artists I didn’t see a lot of as I was more than ready for a breather and a sit down after three and a bit hours. I only caught the start of her first song but found it a little bit odd to be honest and just got the giggles when she started some slightly weird spoken vocals as it only reminded me of an episode of the Mighty Boosh my housemate had been watching the previous night (the only thing she was missing was a shiny silver jumpsuit). Other people have said that her set was actually quite good but the sit down was long overdue for me.
After regaining my composure, it was back inside for Sanjuro who had a sound comprising French folk and indie ska with a singer, drummer, guitarist and fiddle and accordion players making up the band. Their sound reminded me of the band Klezma Villanova who had played at the Flowerpot after Frank Turner’s videoshoot for The Road a few months beforehand. Sanjuro themselves though were a really good fun band and provided the only opportunity for a dance so myself, Ravi, Phil and Mr Dancing shoes himself, Ben Marwood all had a bit of a skank down the front (just like we had for The Popes Of Chillitown at the previous Lex). With the songs bouncing along really nicely, we all had a great time and they looked like they were having one up onstage too and they were the perfect antithesis to the previous artist.
The next artist was a familiar face to regular visitors to the Flowerpot as Beans On Toast took to the stage. I’d never actually seen him live before so had been quite looking forward to his set and quite enjoyed it in the end. His acoustic songs aren’t the most complex you’ll ever hear but are always good fun and lyrically good fun. For a couple of songs he was also joined on stage by his girlfriend and her vocals provided a nice contrast to his. But as well as his acoustic songs, he also performed a couple of his newer rap tracks. Sadly, these didn’t work out too well thanks to an accordion player who was MIA, the backing beats cocking up once or twice and a couple of forgotten lyrics but if they came out right, they could potentially be better than his guitar tunes.
“The Price Of Rice” (live) – Beans On Toast
After that set, it was time for myself and my friends to run and grab our only sustenance of the night as we were all starving and wanted to make sure we could get back into the venue. As such, we missed a fair bit of Dave McPherson but got back to catch some of the second half of his set. From what I heard, I thought he was really solid with some excellent vocals and guitar playing but didn’t see enough to say too much more sadly. The final song of the set was a reworking of the Fresh Prince’s classic “Boom Shake The Room” which was a great ending.
By now, the venue had pretty much filled out just in time for The Leano to start their set. I’d heard a bit about these guys beforehand but hadn’t heard any of their stuff and I was intrigued to say the least. Their music is possibly best described as hippy-hop (that term ©TMWL, Oct 2009) with the “rapped” vocals backed up by guitars and, for some songs, bongos. This sounds like quite an unusual mix and, to be honest, it was but it somehow worked. The first track off theirs was all about smiling and why you should smile and it was actually hard to do anything but that throughout their set. The highlight had to be the improvised number where they asked the crowd for three things to work into the song and anyone who can rap about pandas, helicopters and cake deserves some level of respect. A really enjoyable band and ones that are worth trying to catch live as I can’t imagine their recorded stuff can capture the fun factor that they had on stage.
As we entered the home straight, it was all solo singer/songwriters from here on in. The first of this quartet was Ben Marwood who was another I first encountered at the earlier Lex show and had been highly impressed with him then. He has a real knack for writing songs that you just can’t help but like and, quite often, sing along to and the crowd always seem to like him. His songs aren’t complicated or over technical but good, honest songs that you can normally relate to and it’s from this that he gets his popularity.
The set he played this time round had a nice mix of songs I’d heard him play before and had heard on some of his records, such as “Claire” and “Friendly Fire”, but also some ones I hadn’t heard but could still (sort of) sing along to, including the one I recorded (but accidentally cut out too early as I was clapping). I was just a bit disturbed by the random girl stood next to me at the front who kept trying to get pictures of random people with Ben and kept asking me whether I wanted a photo with him at the end. Weird. A great finish though with the cover of “The District Sleeps Alone Tonight” which rounded off the set brilliantly.
“Oh My Days” (live) – Ben Marwood
Ben was followed by another familiar face to Lexapalooza events in Chris T-T who was on at a more appropriate time of the night than the last event where he opened due to other commitments that day. For some reason, I don’t own any of his records but liked him when he performed live before and whenever I’ve heard any of his songs. This set was further proof of how good he is with some really strong songs, including his most famous track “When The Huntsman Comes A Marching” which got everyone singing along.
The majority of his set I wasn’t overly familiar with but still enjoyed, including a really well worked piece based on the A.A. Milne poem “Market Square”. He also threw in a new track which was well written but lacked enough pace to stand out. The final song of the set was “Giraffe #1” which prompted Frank to jump up on stage and sing along with him. Chris will be back at the Flowerpot later in the month for a piano set.. but he doesn’t want you to go.
“When The Huntsman Comes A Marching” (live) – Chris T-T
Next up was the penultimate act, Sam Duckworth better known as Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly. When I heard that he was playing on the night, I was rather excited as I had got his debut album on the day of release back in 2006(?) and had played it to death and even learnt to play a few songs of it on guitar myself. For some reason, I’d never got his second album though. No matter, I enjoyed his set immensely as this was the first time I had ever seen him in the flesh. He played a couple of my favourite songs from his first album, like “Call Me Ishmael” (see below), and they all sounded really good live.
I’ve always been a fan of the finger picking style of guitar playing and Sam uses the style really well; maybe not as well as someone like Graham Coxon when I saw him but he still does it really well, especially when mixing it in with strumming and his quite distinct vocals. Some of the songs I didn’t know passed me by a little bit but the set finished with what is easily one of my favourite song in “The Chronicles Of A Bohemian Teenager (Part 1)” which was yet another one for the crowd to join in with.
“Call Me Ishmael” (live) – Sam Duckworth (AKA Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly.)
And so, after almost ten hours, the headline act and one of the main figures of Lexapalooza, Frank Turner, had his time in the proverbial spotlight on stage kicking off with the standard set opener of “Prufrock”. Anyone who follows this blog (is there anyone?) will know I’ve seen him a few times recently so there plenty of songs I’d heard before but Frank had opened his set up to requests in exchange for a small charitable donation. This meant that there were a few songs I’d not heard before and this went down with variable degrees of success depending on whether he could remember them, such as “Ladies Of London Town” off his first album.
A couple of other unusual songs, including one in French, as did one of my favourite live tracks “Worse Things Happen At Sea” and the universally loved “To Take You Home” also got an airing and made the set a bit different to others of his I’d heard. The crowd down the front were all singing along loudly but supposedly were a bit flaccid elsewhere. They can be forgiven for lagging a bit by this point of the evening but it’s still a bit of a disappointment to hear that.
After the requests were over, the end of the set consisted of the ever popular “Photosynthesis” and a quite poignant rendition of “Long Live The Queen” before ending with the traditional set closer of “The Ballad Of Me And My Friends” which culminated with a stage invasion led by myself and Oxygen Thief for the final section of the song (not the first time I’ve been involved in one of these at this venue bizarrely) which was a very fitting end to the night.
“Try This At Home” (live) – Frank Turner
After the night was all done and the drunken shenanigans that went on in the artists area afterwards, myself, Oxygen Thief and Ben Marwood eventually managed to get back to mine and crash (drunk housemates and random girls not withstanding) and all definitely felt the effects of twelve hours of music and mayhem (especially Oxygen Thief) but I don’t think anyone would deny that they had a terrific time. The lineup was really strong and nicely varied and I couldn’t believe how quickly the event went. I really hope that it managed to hit the target it had for money for charity and I really look forward to the next one, whenever it is. Massive congratulations and thanks to everyone involved in organising and running the event; you know who you are!