Category Archives: Live review

Conan, The Black Heart – Camden, 5th October 2013

A damn good show this despite Slabdragger’s untimely cancellation. If Conan were a footballer they would undoubtedly be “top, top”.

Check out the review over at Echoes and Dust.

 

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The Who, Odyssey Arena – Belfast, 10th June 2013

The once ‘Oorible ‘Oo might now be the bromantic twosome of Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend, both of whom are now pushing 70, rather than the brash, in-fighting four piece of their 1960s and 70s prime but no-one told the crowd given the volume and number of fights that occur and the veterans’ experience comes through in the end, like a late goal from Ryan Giggs, underlining how much arena rock has become an old man’s game.

Visiting Belfast for the first time in 46 years (with my Uncle attendant both then in the Ulster Hall for a matinee show and tonight at the Odyssey) the Who stage a multi-media run through of 1973 existentialist rock opera and arguably last artistic triumph, Quadrophenia, supplemented with a hits laden finale.

The Who have resurrected Quadrophenia before but Roger Daltrey has taken the musical director’s helm on this tour and rounded out the already expanded ten man band with a brass section avoiding the tape based sounds of yore and embellishes the album with a collection of cold war new clips, newsreel of riots, youth culture iconography and 21st century disharmony which gives the old tale of teenage paranoia, isolation and social change a chance to stay relevant beyond the baby boomers that constitute the majority of tonight’s audience.

Both fallen members of the band make appearances in that strange way that old rockers have been reappearing (see Freddie Mercury at the Olympics ceremony) via video. Moon takes his gap-toothed vocal on Bellboy while current drummer, Zak Starkey jams with the Ox in an extended solo break as the climax to 5:15. Somehow it works, avoiding the cringing crassness of that Tupac hologram as the crowd ladle the videos with affection.

As for Quadrophenia itself the 90 minute record stretches to 110 minutes tonight with Townshend stretching out on Drowned – the only real moment of self-indulgence in an otherwise typically energetic show. The horn section of J. Greg Miller and Reggie Grisham really adds punch and Simon Townshend’s lead playing allows Pete (his elder brother) to let loose on the windmilling and pick flinging theatrics. Highlights include the aforementioned 5:15, one of the few standalone tracks from the record and The Real Me, I’m One and the Punk and the Godfather. Vocally, where Pete croaks in some sort of ill-advised Shepherd’s Bush bluesman style, Roger roars delivering Love Reign O’er Me with the gusto of a much younger man.

As the night wears on Roger’s shirt buttons magically come undone ‘til we end the hits section facing a tanned, open shirted old boy – give that man a fringed suede jacket, someone – delivering the unimpeachable classics of Who Are You, Behind Blue Eyes, Pinball Wizard and Won’t Get Fooled Again.

The show comes to a conclusion not without riotous feedback and whitened knuckles but with the heart warming ode to the Two’s modern friendship; Tea and Theatre, the quiet acoustic strum from 2006’s Endless Wire. That ending reminds you that you’re in 2013; however, the sheer amount of drink taken by the aging Mods of Belfast would have you believe otherwise as they roar back their approval like they never aged a day. 1963 to 2013 is one a hell of a wait but The Who prove that they are worth it even 46 years on.

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Endless Boogie + Xaviers, Corsica Studios, 22nd April 2013

Poster for Endless Boogie live

So it was gnarled blues rockers Endless Boogie most recently for the excellent ech(((o)))es and dust people. Read what went down over on their website here.

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Oneida, Corsica Studios, 15th March 2013

ONEIDA gig poster

First live review for the good people at ech(((o)))es and dust – an incident packed event of bonhomie from US veterans Oneida in Elephant and Castle. Have a read here.

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Led Zeppelin “Celebration Day” Review

As promised…

After devouring Barney Hoskyns’ recent Zeppelin tome ‘Trampled Underfoot: The Power and Excess of Led Zeppelin’ with its from the horses mouth telling of the egos, paranoia and addictions that overwhelmed the band’s collective musical and spiritual being it was a relief to see them in such vital musical form in Celebration Day.

After all the hoopla and press appreciation it was finally over to the fans last night. Those who had seen the band in their formative years in the clubs and theatres, the massive run at Earl’s Court, the outdoor [first] farewell at Knebworth or the lucky so and so’s who were at this momentous comeback and those of us unable to see them in the flesh by dint of birth, geography or ballot system – Zeppelin fans; both the grey and the green, the great and the good, we were all at the cinema to smile together and see the three surviving members of the band – augmented by the late John Bonham’s son Jason – cap the band’s legacy with two intense hours of celebratory performance that finally threw off the yoke of past debacles such as Live Aid and Atlantic Records’ 40th Birthday

Boy, did they deliver on that night nearly five years ago. After that Tampa news item describes how Zeppelin had beaten the Beatles’ attendance record it was straight into the most awe inspiring drum pattern Bonham ever committed to tape: Good Times, Bad Times with Jason playing the drums not the occasion, to coin a phrase. Page tears into the solo but doesn’t hang around long – everything is done with such gusto while the numerous cameras capture the smiles and signals for all to see. Next, the never performed in it’s entirety, Ramble On by-passes any worries one might have about Plant circumventing those old hippie, by way of Tolkien, lyrics. At this point at our screening the staff finally twigged that it was a concert film and altered the volume accordingly. It got LOUD.

Black Dog is imperious and Page sheds his coat and shades for the crackling In My Time Of Dying which has rarely, if ever, sounded better. As a measure of how seriously they took this show playing a track they’ve never performed before and that is never included on compilations is a pretty good one. For Your Life is thunderous with that descending riff and Plant’s refrain of “don’t you want c-c-co-cocaine?” all present and correct. You begin to realise how hungry they are, like a band starting out rather than one where the members are close to drawing their pension.  At this point Jonesy gets behind the keyboards for a funky Trampled Underfoot. Introduced by Plant with reference to its inspiration in Terraplane Blues the song sees the first hint of extended arrangements and improvisation between the instrumentalists but it’s brief and succinct; not the 15 minutes of the mid-seventies and the better for it. The same goes for the dry ice augmented No Quarter, still a wonderfully spooky and atmospheric song. In between, Nobody’s Fault But Mine is flawless with Jimmy’s guitar sounding absolutely God-sized.

Since I’ve Been Loving is short and a little lacking in the guitar and vocal pyrotechnics of old – Plant’s voice feeling somewhat exposed. Page comes a cropper on the solo to Stairway, the song everyone wondered whether Plant would do but he did faithfully. “There are some songs we have to play when we get together and this is one of ’em: Dazed and Confused.” Jimmy’s old solo spot is still long but again, is pared down to the essentials. Of course, in this instance that still means the violin bow shooting shards of carnal electricity through the air whilst Page is enveloped in a pyramid of lasers. It’s immense.

Throughout the film the sound and visuals are immaculate much, much better than my other boots showing you were the time went mixing the recordings. In a nod to 2003’s DVD there are cuts to grainy ‘fan’ footage mimicking the Super-8 shots from Madison Square Garden 1973 – a nice touch. Generally though the film focuses tightly on the stage – we’re spared clapping celebs and hangers-on and by this stage feet are stomping in the cinema and every song is applauded as if it was happening live.

The best was yet to come though after a sprightly Song Remains The Same the dusty edifice of Kashmir emerged sounding to all like the intoxicating juggernaut it is. Page assaults his guitar drenched in sweat from the effort while Bonham holds the whole thing down admirably. The end of the song marks the end of the main gig before the encores. Whole Lotta Love sees Jimmy back on the theremin and nailing the solo in what must be the most concise and hard-hitting version they’ve ever mustered before a valedictory run through Rock and Roll where Jason poignantly takes the final spotlight and the final say on the reunion in the name of his departed dad.

With that, the monkey is once and for all off their collective back. No-one could have asked for more (other than actually being there!) and no-one can be surprised if that is in fact, it for Page, Plant and Jones together as Led Zeppelin. What a finale to a gripping career. You did it, gents!

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Led Zeppelin “Celebration Day” at the cinema

Celebration Day Film Poster

Off to the cinema tonight to catch this film. Can’t wait. Hugely subjective report to follow…

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Four Irishmen, Two Years Gone… Metallica, Belfast May 2010

Metallica played Belfast for the first time since the eighties this month and I wasn’t going to miss that despite having to fork out £55 and fly home from London. They are the one band that pretty much unites my friends. The metal community may be critical of them at times and how they’ve aged but no-one can deny they know how to put on a show.

I went with my old buddies who I grew up with and it seemed all the metalheads in Norn Iron were there too. The beers flowed, setlists and past gigs were discussed. We managed to miss High On Fire (boo!) and Volbeat (meh) but got decent places to stand stage right. I, obviously, bumped into friends past and everyone was equally pumped to see the Four Horseman in Belfast. No trip to England or down south this time they were actually in our back yard and I felt 16 again. But fuck nostalgia this was all about tonight and as soon The Ecstasy of Gold was cued we got lost in it all.

Soon the intro faded and was replaced with a heartbeat and That Was Just Your Life blew the doors in with lasers peircing the air and circling the Odyssey from the coffin shaped rigging. The End of the Line followed and was equally tight and then a familiar bell rang out and Trujillo fired out the haunting bass to For Whom The Bell Tolls. In quick succession Metallica gave me my pre-gig wish – Fade to Black and Creeping Death back-to-back. There’s nothing like the singalong chorus of ‘Die! Die! Die!’ being rattled out by 14,000 of my Irish brethren.

Broken, Beaten and Scarred may feature some banal self help lyrics but the riffs are pit friendly even when the band are playing in the round. Two cuts off the Black Album follow including the almighty riff that is Sad But True. Amazing. Welcome Home (Sanitarium) is, and always will be immense and by this stage this gig is fast rising up my mental best gig list. Kirk nails the solo and when Hetfield shouts “Reach for me Belfast” I can’t help but grin like a moron. One complaint would be that the sound isn’t that loud – usually I have to wear plugs (the result of a drunken rendez-vous with a PA stack at a Tool gig in 2006) but had to take them out to really get the volume.

The pyro for One is a brilliant spectacle and there’s nothing like the sudden warmth you feel on your your face as it goes off and Lars Ulrich is running round whipping up the crowd. A mass singalong of riffs and lyrics ensues as Metallica show you why they are still the biggest metal band in the world: Master – Blackened – Nothing Else Matters – Sandman. Beat that.

They piss off for a quick breather before a three song encore which rounds off the best set I could ask for. Tonight’s cover is Budgie’s Breadfan (see above) followed by the song that started thrash, Whiplash. The lights come up for Seek & Destroy and we are rained on by black Metallica beachballs which the band helpfully boot into the crowd. I’ve lost my voice by the end and the boys are all smiles. Definitely time for another pint. Hetfield promises they’ll be back sooner rather later but they’ll have a hell of a challenge beating tonight’s effort. We’ll be there if and when they do.

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Gojira, Islington Academy, 27th June 2012

Gojira Group Photo

French group Gojira are currently one of the leading lights in heavy metal; their sophisticated and expansive palette includes death metal muscularity and Meshuggah-esque precision, coupled with thoughtful lyrics on a range of topics not usually tackled by metal bands most notably environmentalism, marking them out from the chasing pack. With their new record L’Enfant Sauvage they’ve grown even stronger with a set of frighteningly good songs and tonight they hit the capital on the third and final date of an all too brief UK tour.

Dashes of electronics, rock guitar tones and, dare I say it, Joe Duplantier’s at times, Jonathon Davis alike anguished vocal style are all part of their hard-hitting, technical mix of sounds. Mario Duplantier’s metronomic delivery anchors the band in metal but also gives the band the chance to stretch out beyond the clinical, dry sounds of their studio releases.

They trumpet those death metal credentials from the stage and back catalogue bashers Backbreaker and Vacuity are celebrated by the braying but polite mops of hair (both male and female) up front with whole-hearted hair-whipping fervour and torrents of beer from the balcony. Fierce precision propels Gojira through the first third of their set like a razor covered brick through a shop window. It’s effective but not always affecting.

The band’s evolution can be heard on record, especially on their newest L’Enfant Sauvage but given the lack of preparation for this tour and the semi-improvised set the band lean heavily on the heaviness tonight promising a better show before Xmas which is of little consolation if you’ve paid for a ticket tonight. Nevertheless, the band are tight and in good spirits on back of a positive reception for the new album and tonight’s reception; they even take a request from the front row. L’Enfant Sauvage’s opener Explosia is introduced by Joe saying it, “doesn’t mean anything but it means everything” and jolly good it is too. The new stuff played tonight (Explosia and the album’s title track) are on a different plain with new textures and an added songwriting maturity demonstrating that the four year gap in releases has been put to good use.

Before leaving the stage at 22:15 Gojira ramp up the pain with crowd pleasers from The Way Of All Flesh – Toxic Garbage Island and Vacuity. The lyrics to latter proving especially apt as Joe roars, “the only way to find the power is to look into yourself” as the pit explodes. The band return to encore with Oroborus and leave the Islington Academy to obvious affection from their fans and Mario grabs a Gojira emblazoned Union flag from the audience for the band to say their farewells.

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Rich Robinson, Islington Academy, 16th February 2012

I come to this concert with few expectations beyond a good night out because of the two, infamously combustible, Robinson brothers Rich has always seemed the more reticent, undemonstrative of the two – the least likely to tell you what was on his mind, the least likely to share any emotions. So given the recent events that have befallen him and the imminent cathartic sounding solo record “Through a Crooked Sun” this gig had the potential to fill in a few gaps, maybe even change my perception of the man.

When Robinson takes to the small stage, bearded and doe eyed, at the Islington Academy around 9 o’clock the organ swells and he teases out mid-seventies Clapton guitar lines with the minimum of pomp and ceremony. The ensuing set is one where it would be more appropriate to be stood on a sawdust covered floor in a one horse town. He sings the tale of a sad man who doesn’t know how he became old and throws in the odd crowd pleasing cover song beginning with the Fleetwood Mac number Station Man, taking in Pink Floyd’s Fearless and encoring with Neil Young’s Cinnamon Girl. In between, the gig is one of country-rock and guitar heavy muso instrumentation.

Rich’s performance is predictably low-key; his body barely moving as he switches between his multitude of guitars and his band are flawlessly professional. The atmosphere is good, one of brotherly love and undemanding good times -it’s not often that I spot two bald men cavorting together in such a tender way. Bless ‘em. Robinson and his band serve up blues, boogie and rock n’ roll and over time he opens up: taking to the mic between songs thanking the crowd for their support and having some banter with the well-oiled throng and his band. It’s all so easy going that it feels like I’ve stumbled into a local pub where the regulars have organised a night of music from their youth and everyone’s singing along.

The gig finishes after the electric run through Cinnamon Girl and an odd, out of the blue prog-tastic electronic wig out. A quick and unreliable survey of fellow punters (hello Lisa!) suggests it was a good gig. Tonight, all (well some) critical thought was easily shoved aside and my brain eased into a state of pure bonhomie. For a man seemingly with the weight of the world on his shoulders Rich Robinson made light work of this show losing himself in the comfortable embrace of rock history and demonstrating his viability as a solo artist away from the circus that surrounds the Black Crowes. Tonight has been a thoroughly enjoyable if not necessarily revelatory concert.

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