Archive for the 'Gig Reviews' Category

Gig Review: In The City, Manchester, Monday 6th October 2008

In The City 2008 - To The Bones @ Cellar VieThis year’s In The City is turning out to be really great. In previous years we haven’t been to nearly as much as we should have but this year we’re making the effort to get out every night. The event would be even better were it not for all the belaminated record industry delegates clogging up the venues. I’m not sure what they’ve been delegated to do but talking loudly while the bands are on while us mere mortals strive to hear over the top of them is my best bet. Then there’s the photographers who think that they have the right to get in everyone’s way for an entire gig because they have a big fuck-off camera. This happened on Sunday night at Cellar Vie during To The Bones where at one point there were four or five such planks making it impossible for anyone else to get a decent view. A couple of them were at it for the entire gig, which is just ridiculous; I mean, how many photos do you need to take? If the pics on Drowned In Sound today are the best from the 300 or so you took then you’re clearly in the wrong job.

In The City 2008 - Magic Arm @ Piccadilly RecordsTonight we began at Piccadilly Records where we missed the start of Colorama’s set but enjoyed what we did see; their cool, laid back mix of country rock, folk and blues making for almost as chilled-out a start as we had at the Bay Horse the day before. We were there to see Magic Arm, who I’ve seen in a supporting capacity at least three times in the last year, but never headlining, and never with a full band. He started off solo but with his superb manipulation of his looping pedal it sounded anything but. After his excellent rendition of Serge Gainsbourg’s “Ballad of Melody Nelson” and a few harmonica problems that brought songs to a grinding halt, the band – made up of members of My Side Of The Mountain – joined in and things got less intricate and more rugged, but no less enjoyable, even though Justhipper had to put up with a cameraman standing right in front of her for most of the latter part of the gig while chatting away and texting his friends. They closed with a terrific version of “Widths And Heights”, leaving the song’s undeniably catchy chorus rattling around my brain for the remainder of the evening.

In The City 2008 - The ABC Club @ Chicago Rock CafeThen it was off across town to the Chicago Rock Café on Peter Street where we managed to catch Radio Luxembourg’s final song – a rather excellent slice of anthemic Welsh pop – and were then enthralled by the old school indie of The ABC Club with their wonderful jangling guitars and the breathtakingly morose Morrissey-esque vocals of Zandra Klievens, who stood stock still and expressionless throughout, which is exactly how it should be. At least the jabbering delegates behind us picked up on the brilliance of Klievens’ voice and I hope that they don’t stay unsigned for too long because I can’t wait ’til they release an album. They were followed by the disappointing Dash Delete who, despite their earnest endeavour, brought nothing new to the indie landscape with their sub-Bloc Party bluster. We left after a few songs: another early night for us, but another enjoyable one, nonetheless.

Posted by The Ledge on 7th October 2008 at 11:53 pm | comments (5)
File under Gig Reviews,in the city,Reviews.

Gig Review: In the City, Manchester, Sunday, 5th October 2008

Per usual, we were stumped about where to begin with In the City this year. The Ledge initially wanted to check out The Magic Arm at the Night & Day, but I had it on good authority that at his Monday gig at Piccadilly Records he’s got My Side of the Mountain as his backing band. Apart from being some of the nicest guys in Manchester, they’re also shit-hot musicians, and apparently they were brilliant with him at Glastonbury, so we opted instead for Simon Connor at The Bay Horse, figuring we’ll watch The Magic Arm tomorrow instead.

We made a good choice as Simon was lovely. His melancholic singer-songwriter fare is a notch above the norm. Lyrically he writes very vivid vignettes, although he would benefit from having a backing band with him on stage. It’s a shame he was on so early, at 4pm, as he deserved a bigger audience as he sounded lovely. Having become familiar with some of his songs, particularly the tracks off the Seaside Surprise EP, I was really captivated by his performance.

Simon was followed swiftly by a folk duo called Butler-Williams who were funny and self-deprecating and positively lovely. They used guitars, odd percussion and a theramin to great effect in their musical tales of everyday. Apparently their EP has been record of the week at Piccadilly Records recently and we could definitely see why.

The last act we watched at the Bay Horse was called Kev Fox and he sounded like his main influence is Doves first album. He has an absolutely massive voice which at times was so powerful that it was breathtaking and startling and we really enjoyed his very short set of moody musical landscapes.

From the Bay Horse we moved onto Cellar Vie, which I thought was a gentleman’s club, as I pass it twice a day. We caught the end of The Fire and I who I thought sounded like rather boring, bogstandard rock and The Ledge thought had potential. The band on after them, however, Isosceles, came on stage with a bang and were enjoyable protoges of the angular art pop of Young Knives and Franz Ferdinand. There was an amusing moment at the end where the young scenesters played a song called “Kitsch Bitch” which was mocking, erm, scenesters. Well done.

Unexpectedly, Silverclub really blew us away almost immediately, coming on stage looking decidedly unassuming and producing, with just a singer/guitarist and a bassist, quite a big sound which was heavily influenced by The Happy Mondays and New Order – but in the best way possible. We’d never heard of them before but I don’t know how. We’ll certainly be looking out for them in future.

Finally, we stuck around just long enough to watch To The Bones, who turned out to be a raucous, hairy rock band who screamed a lot, jumped around the stage and then jumped around the crowd. The singer poured beer in his own hair before rolling around on the ground a bit. They were highly enjoyable and very skilled at what they do.

So, day 1 of In the City has been a success and we’re looking forward to another couple of days of new bands!

Posted by JustHipper on 5th October 2008 at 10:56 pm | comments (4)
File under Gig Reviews,manchester gigs.

Gig Review: Neil Halstead @ Sacred Trinity Church, Salford, 25th September 2008

We had quite a choice of gigs last Thursday and after planning to head down to the Night & Day for Broken Records we changed our minds, realising that we couldn’t pass up the chance to see Neil Halstead at Sacred Trinity Church. For starters, he tours rarely, whereas Broken Records are currently plugging away and are bound to be back soon when they have an album to promote. Secondly, Sacred Trinity Chuch is a wonderful venue and we could imagine hearing Neil’s beautiful folky, poppy ex-Shoegazer tunes echoing around the hall and we just knew it was going to be a good gig.

Daniel Land and the Modern Painters @ Sacred Trinity Church, SalfordOpeners Daniel Land and the Modern Painters started proceedings with what I can only describe as anthemic shoegazer indie. They reminded me a little of Doves and a little of defunct Manchester outfit Snowfight in the City Centre but with additional fuzzy guitar effects. I can equally imagine enjoying them in a dark, smoky basement with loads of smoke and backlighting as I can sitting in a field in the sunlight with a couple thousand people singing along. The songs were immediately effective and the band put in a good performance. The between-song banter was humble and funny and warm.

Neil Halstead has been on and off my radar for a while. I have one Slowdive album, Souvlaki, which I like but never really grew to love. I adore the first Mojave 3 album, Ask Me Tomorrow. Something about the way they marry the aesthetics of their shoegazer days with folky, twangy country tunes really appeals and the quiet restraint combined with the lyrics about love and loneliness still have me coming back to that album ten years on. I completely missed out on a couple of Mojave 3 albums but picked up Puzzles Like You, the most recent offering, to discover that they had mutated again and were writing pop gems that were more reminiscent of Teenage Fanclub than My Bloody Valentine. Needless to say we were expecting a bit of stylistic variety from Neil Halstead.

Neil Halstead @ Sacred Trinity Church, SalfordThe gig began with Neil sitting in a chair, playing soft folk songs on just his acoustic guitar before inviting the full band on stage. He was reserved, as expected, but did have a couple of funny stories to go with the songs – as folk singers do. He amused the crowd by playing a track he said he probably shouldn’t play in a church as it was about being woken up by people knocking on his door to teach him about Jesus Christ. The songs with the full band were still folky, with more of an Iron & Wine vibe than anything else – so it seems he’s gone the whole route from fuzzy guitars to soft country to American-influenced folk. Having heard music from every stage of his career, it actually makes sense – he’s always written light, airy melodies, he just changes the way he chooses to present them.

Midway through the set he sent the band back off stage so he could play a few Mojave 3 tracks for us. First asking the crowd for requests, he abandoned that idea when the only requests he received were for tracks he said he couldn’t play. He instead performed songs of his own choosing – sadly, songs whose names are unknown to us – before bringing the band back on stage to finish the set with a final few numbers before closing with a song about beards – dedicated to everyone with facial hair.

Overall, it was a lovely performance, pretty much what we expected, to be fair, and enough to recommend his solo album for purchase.

Neil Halstead – Martha’s Mantra (For The Pain)

Mojave 3 – She Broke You So Softly

Posted by JustHipper on 1st October 2008 at 8:40 pm | comments (2)
File under daniel land and the modern painters,Gig Reviews,manchester gigs,mp3,neil halstead,sacred trinity church.

Robert Forster @ RNCM, Manchester, 21st September 2008

Robert Forster @ Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester
Robert Forster was in fine form when we saw him last Sunday night at the Royal Northern College of Music in what was his first time back in Manchester since the tragic and untimely death of close friend and songwriting partner Grant McLennan put an end to The Go-Betweens as a going concern and robbed the world of one of its finest songwriting talents. Grant was never far from our or, I suspect, most of the audience’s minds for much of the evening, his absence heightened by the familiarity of Forster’s backing band – Adele Pickvance and Glenn Thompson were both Go-Betweens in the band’s noughties revival. I was expecting some kind of tribute from Forster but he didn’t mention Grant at all; what was left unspoken came pouring out in a spine-tingling, beautiful reading of “Quiet Heart”, one of Grant’s finest songs and the only one of his played on the night.

The evening began with Forster alone with acoustic guitar, strumming his way through “Something For Myself” from Bright Yellow, Bright Orange. Tall, besuited and with an impressive mop of silvery hair he looked every bit the elegant elder statesman of pop that he now is. Band members were introduced one by one with Adele Pickvance appearing first for “If It Rains” followed a couple of songs later by Glenn Thompson, who was on guitar and keyboard duties, rather than drums, this time around, and then 21-year-old Matthew Harrison on drums. This first section of the gig really set the tone for the evening: plenty from his new solo effort, The Evangelist, and from The Go-Betweens’ post-reformation albums with a couple of golden oldies thrown in for good measure. Surprisingly, for me, it was the songs from the first of those latter day Go-Betweens albums, The Friends Of Rachel Worth, that made the greatest impression. “Spirit” and “When She Sang About Angels” – which was preceded by a rather long-winded anecdote about gatecrashing a Patti Smith gig at the Serpentine Gallery that was about twice as long as the song itself – really shone and had me rummaging through the CD racks at home this week for a quick re-evaluation of what was previously my least favourite Go-B’s long player. Forster obviously likes it, though, and played all five of his compositions from it on the night.

The gorgeous “I’m Alright” brought us up to the 15 minute interval (are these unnecessary interruptions a contractual obligation in theatre venues or just a ploy to sell more beer?) with Thompson perfectly replicating Grant McLennan’s fluid, melodic guitar parts, as he did brilliantly throughout the evening. The second part of the set was like a beefed-up, lengthier version of the first with Forster switching from acoustic to electric, but what it lacked in real surprises it made up for in sheer quality. We got fantastic versions of Go-Betweens classics “Head Full Of Steam” and “Spring Rain” that had me wishing that we were all jumping up and down and singing along at the Night & Day rather than sitting passively in a theatre. However the venue’s excellent acoustics really brought out the lush, rich textures of the likes of “Clouds”, “Dive For Your Memory” and “Darlinghurst Nights”.

A thunderous “Here Comes A City” brought an end to the main set and the encore saw an outing for a couple of his solo tracks from albums other than The Evangelist. I was really hoping for a few songs off his first, and best, solo effort, Danger In The Past, but all we got was “Heart Out To Tender”, which isn’t exactly my favourite. Oh, what I’d have given to hear “Justice”. Similarly, “I Can Do” was the sole representative from Warm Nights and there was nothing at all from Calling From A Country Phone. The classic “People Say”, from way back in 1978, brought events to a rapturous close and from the vibrant quality of the performance and Forster’s obvious enjoyment of proceedings, I’d say that there is still plenty more to come.

The Go-Betweens – Quiet Heart

The Go-Betweens – Head Full Of Steam

The Go-Betweens – Spirit

Robert Forster – Demon Days

Posted by The Ledge on 30th September 2008 at 10:05 pm | comments (4)
File under Gig Reviews,mp3,Reviews.

Gig Review: Brett Anderson, Manchester Royal Northern College of Music, 26th September 2008

Dear Brett Anderson,

Last night’s gig at the Royal Northern College of Music in support of your new album, Wilderness, was many things, but it was far from being a typical Brett Anderson gig. I know we’ve had our musical differences over the last couple of years but seeing you on stage really made me worry about you. You looked gaunt and a little ill – a thin man who is noticeably thinner, eyes sunk into his skull, brings out my mothering instinct. Please, let me send you a casserole, or some brownies. You need a good feed or twenty. It might cheer you up. I’m deadly serious, if you want me to feed you, let me know. I’ll send a care package. I promise not to send Pot Noodle. I also promise not to poison you. I’d hate to see the songwriter whose Dog Man Star and Coming Up albums got me through the two worst years of my life starve to death. I’d also hate for you not to receive the same comfort from somewhere that your records gave me.

The first twenty or so minutes of your performance, where you emerged to the piano without even acknowledging the audience were excruciating. Running one song into the next, the songs from Wilderness all have the same tone and pace, are even in the same key, and the cello arrangements are so monotonous that I didn’t notice when “A Different Place” turned into “The Emperess.” With you staring at your hands, tearing through these slow dirges, it was hard to engage with what was occuring on stage. Although I adore “Back To You” it felt soulless, the way you were jauntily hitting the keys with a plink-plink-plink, even though it was slow and quiet, it felt hurried, lacking in the necessary brooding and restraint.

I was so relieved when you finally moved to your stool and took up a guitar. “Love Is Dead” was a bit better, even though you still kept your eyes closed and for the first time ever I quite enjoyed “Song for My Father” – it was the first moment in the show where you actually seemed to be really singing something like you meant it. Now this is not to say that you landed a note out of place, but watching you perform with such obvious disengagement from the gig, like you were entirely in your own head, barely acknowledging the crowd or even your cellist, Amy, was so unlike you as a performer that it really detracted from the experience.

I kept expecting you to open your eyes, banter with the crowd, tell a dorky anecdote, but we got nothing – just closed eyes and song after relentless song.  “Funeral Mantra” connected a bit better than it had when I was listening to the album, “To the Winter” suffered the same fate as “Back to You.” I wanted to scream “WHY WON’T YOU LOOK AT US!” on a number of occasions but the pace between songs was such that I’d have had to interrupt your playing – and I’m not quite that rude (nearly, perhaps). I was terribly disappointed when you left after 45 minutes for the interval.

The problem I had, and I continue to have this morning is that just over a year ago I saw you perform songs from your eponymous debut, Brett Anderson, at the Manchester Academy. Despite promoting an album you described as personal and intimate you were strutting around like a rock god, waving your arms, shaking your arse and the gig lacked that intimacy – until you did an interlude of acoustic songs with just your guitar. That was an amazing 15 minutes because you stopped being a performer and just sang to the audience. You were engaged with us, you were open and you talked with us and for a few minutes the wall dropped and I felt like we were seeing a vulnerable, honest performance. You can see what I said in my original review. I’m also not the only reviewer to have expressed this sentiment.

Strangely, a few months later you went out on an acoustic tour and then recorded an acoustic album. Maybe you already had this plan in mind, but the cynic in me wonders if you read your reviews and thought that in order to achieve songwriter gravitas you had to pursue this direction – whether you wanted to or not. The worry is that something in your head told you that Brett Anderson at 40 cannot be a rock star, can’t explore and experiment with computers or electronics, plugged in instruments – that people wil say you lack dignity if you don’t go all singer-songwriter acoustic. The worry is that you feel that acoustic and slow is the same thing as honest, open and vulnerable – it is not. I have seen screaming punk rock performances, electronica acts who were raw and expressive and honest. It wasn’t the fact you were playing acoustically on your own – it was the fact that you weren’t delivering a performance, you were, quite simply, singing songs that mattered to you back to us.

Last night was a different story, however. Now, maybe I have it wrong and these songs are so emotional for you that you find it hard to perform them and you need to go inside your own head to get through the performance – but I just find that hard to believe. You produced some very raw performances of some very emotional songs with Suede and there was rarely a moment where you were disengaged from your audience – even when you were at your worst, while promoting Head Music. But mostly, this conclusion comes from the fact that the Suede part of the set consisted of much of the same disengagement.

Now don’t get me wrong, I was thrilled when you came back on stage and played “Europe is Our Playground”. “The Wild Ones” still has the ability to completely make the world stop for me and “Still Life” nearly brought a tear to my eye. On the other hand, one of my all-time Suede favourites, “Pantomime Horse” suffered a bit from the sudden need to express emotion which involved violent strumming and headbanging – open your eyes, stand up and express it as a singer, don’t just phone it in with a rock cliche! “The Living Dead” suffered from the same fate.

When you moved back to your piano and treated us to “Another No One”, “Down”, “He’s Gone”, “The 2 Of Us” and “Asphalt World”, I finally felt that you were coming out of your shell a little – you looked at us a couple of times, or maybe I just love those songs that much that your coldness didn’t matter.

The final two songs, however, were an absolute disgrace. I made a joke in our Manchester Gig Guide earlier in the week regarding hearing “Trash” and “Animal Nitrate” on acoustic guitar and cello. I did not expect to get this performance – albeit “So Young” instead of “Animal Nitrate”. For starters, even though you acknowledge that playing “So Young” is a bit ironic that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t retire it entirely. It sounded ridiculous. Ok, it was pretty, but the slow, acoustic delivery completely destroyed the anger and energy of the song. “Trash” sounded moronic when you played it in that format for Jonathan Ross on Radio 2 a few years ago, it sounded even more idiotic last night. Singing a bombastic song about mis-spent youth, clubbing and drugs in the same dirge-like manner as the rest of your recent offerings just emphasizes the fact that you were delivering what you think you should be doing now, rather than playing the songs in the way that you’re really feeling them.

I enjoyed parts of your performance, you sing beautifully and you always have, however Mr. Brett Anderson, your performance in Manchester last night felt hollow and at times I think you knew that – or you would have been able to make eye contact with us.

Please Brett, before releasing another monotone album where the bland music contrasts and spoils the melodrama in the lyrics, please think about what will work best for what you’re feeling and for what the songs need. Don’t just make an acoustic album so you sound “mature” and don’t just make a bombastic rock album because that’s what the legions of fans who have deserted you over the last two years will require in order to return to the fold. Think about what you need to write in order to be open, vulnerable and honest with us again and try to write that record.

Oh, and do eat something please.

All the best,


Posted by JustHipper on 27th September 2008 at 11:48 am | comments (13)
File under brett anderson,Gig Reviews,manchester gigs,video.

Gig Review: Shearwater @ The Roadhouse, Manchester, 16th September 2008

I’ve been trying to get into Shearwater of late but it’s been a bit of a struggle. While I find their last couple of albums, Palo Santo and Rook, to be eminently listenable and quite enjoyable affairs, there just seems to be something missing, something that’s stopping me from declaring myself a fully-fledged fan. The main problem I have is that the songs don’t seem to stay with me too long after I’ve listened to them; there’s only a faint glimmer of recognition when I next put on an album. As for the songs’ titles: forget it.

I was hoping that the Roadhouse gig last Tuesday would fill in the missing pieces, that something would click and I’d finally be able to fully embrace the Shearwater enigma. Unfortunately this didn’t happen. Watching the gig was very similar to listening to the albums: it was largely enjoyable, I recognised almost everything they played, but a day later I couldn’t tell you what they’d played – even listening back to those albums. There were a couple of exceptions to this: “Rooks” is a gorgeous track, their best as far as I’m concerned, and the band certainly did it justice on the night while “Seventy-Four, Seventy-Five” is not one of my favourites but is one of the few Shearwater tracks that wears its title on its sleeve.

The band can certainly cut it live, though it’s a shame that so few people turned up to witness it. There were a huge number of different instruments on the stage – more, perhaps, than people in the crowd – and the band members swapped roles with great ease. Drummer Thor Harris – a guy who looks exactly like his name might suggest – certainly deserves much praise in this respect, although his drumming and snare sound were a little overbearing at times and I certainly hadn’t forgotten his performance the last time I saw him drumming for Bill Callahan. As well as drums he handled clarinet, glockenspiel and dulcimer with great aplomb and has certainly risen in my estimation. If only his bandmates had just an iota of his personality. There was barely any attempt to communicate with the audience and singer Jonathan Meiburg has the aura of a grown-up choirboy, which, I believe, he actually is. Compared to Okkervil River – lead by former Shearwater member, the charismatic, swaggering Will Sheff – they are shrinking violets. Maybe it’s this lack of personality and the inherent lack of character in many of the songs that has stopped them from becoming a band that I love rather than one that I merely like.

Shearwater – Rooks

Shearwater – White Waves

Posted by The Ledge on 23rd September 2008 at 7:48 pm | comments (5)
File under Gig Reviews,mp3,Reviews,roadhouse.

Gig Review: Bon Iver @ Manchester Academy 2, 15th September 2008

Bon Iver @ Manchester Academy 2

I think I can safely say that last night’s sold out Bon Iver gig at the Academy 2 exceeded my expectations, and probably the expectations of almost everyone there. Having seen his appearance on Jools Holland back in May where he played alone armed with just an acoustic guitar, and given the quiet, desolate nature of the brilliant For Emma, Forever Ago album, I was expecting much quietness and gentle nodding and stroking of beards. But no! Bon Iver rock! Like bastards! Well they did for the first two songs: a blistering “Blindsided” and a version of “Creature Fear” in which the guitars completely swamped the chorus to the song’s detriment. I was beginning to wish that I’d taken my new earplugs.

The band is now a four-piece with main man Justin Vernon on guitar and keyboard duties augmented by a drummer, bassist and guitarist, all of whom know their way around a four-part harmony. Vernon’s voice is a thing of wonder but backed by his three cohorts the likes of “Skinny Love” and “Flume” reached new heights that the album versions can only hint at. The contributions of guitarist Mikey Noyce, a guy who looks like he’s barely passed puberty, were especially welcome. He took lead vocals on an excellent cover of Graham Nash’s “Simple Man” and his atmospheric use of slide and E-bow on the likes of “Flume” and “For Emma” added an extra dimension to the sound.

There was some great audience participation with the extremely affable Vernon getting everyone to join in the “what might have been lost” refrain on “Wolves (Acts I and II)”. As the song built up from its subdued beginnings the band shifted gear as the audience came in and eventually drowned us all in another huge racket of guitars.

The band were equally as compelling when they quietened down a bit. “Skinny Love” had Vernon on acoustic and the other three on drums and those delicious harmonies while “Re: Stacks”, probably my favourite track on the album, was the most faithful to the album version with Vernon left to his own devices to send shivers down spines, bring tears to the corners of eyes. After the gorgeous “Flume” the volume rose again with new song “Blood Bank”, a superb organ-led country rocker that reminded us that they’ve only really got 9 songs and could do with getting a few more like this under their belts before they come back, something which Vernon then promised to do, sooner rather than later. This was a truly outstanding gig, one of the best I’ve seen this year. When they do come back, make sure you go and see them.

The setlist, if I’m not mistaken, went like this:

Creature Fear
Wolves (Act I and II)
Skinny Love
Simple Man (Graham Nash cover)
Re: Stacks
Blood Bank

Lump Sum
For Emma

Bon Iver – Re: Stacks

Bon Iver – Blindsided

Posted by The Ledge on 16th September 2008 at 7:49 pm | comments (15)
File under Gig Reviews,manchester academy 2,mp3,Reviews,setlist.

Gig Review: R.E.M. @ Lancashire County Cricket Ground, 24th August 2008

R.E.M. @ Lancashire County Cricket Ground, 24th August 2008This was the third time in five years that R.E.M. had played Lancashire County Cricket Ground at Old Trafford and, with the news from Cardiff earlier in the month of the band having to scale down to a venue a tenth of the size of the Millennium Stadium, you could be forgiven for wondering if Manchester would turn up this time, especially as the band’s setlists had become a little tired and predictable on their previous couple of tours. Manchester did turn up in droves, however, even if a large part of the cricket ground was cordoned off making it seem even fuller than it was. Maybe it was the band’s return to form of sorts with the new album Accelerate after the dreary Around The Sun; or maybe the rarity of a warm and dry afternoon in what has been a quite abysmal summer.

The support acts were both bands we showed an initial interest in, buying their debut albums before growing bored well before their follow-ups were released. We always had high hopes for the Guillemots as they were such a good live band before they released any albums and before their live shows became weighed down in tedious self-indulgence. Things didn’t start too well with “Get Over It” sounding turgid and empty thanks to Fyfe Dangerfield’s anaemic guitar sound fighting a losing battle with the wind and only bass and pounding drums backing his vocals. They improved from thereon in, first with a couple of tunes we didn’t recognise that sounded pretty good, presumably they were from the latest album, and then with a succession of tunes we did recognise. “Trains To Brazil” and “Made Up Love Song #43” reminded us how good the Guillemots can be while “We’re Here”, given the setting, really should have been played with the full band and not just Fyfe on his own. It was a ponderous version that was quickly drowned out by the chatter of a bored crowd. They finished, as ever, with a 10 minute “Sao Paulo”, which, though it sounded good, left me thinking that they really haven’t moved on as much as they should have in the last couple of years.

Editors @ Lancashire County Cricket GroundI’m not sure what I ever saw in Editors. Opener, “Bones”, sounded ok but things got very boring very quickly. They are the post-Interpol Coldplay and while the succession of half-remembered singles from their debut album sauntered by I was playing Countdown with their backdrop. “Steroid” and “storied” for 7, Des. At least Tom Smith seems to have left his ridiculous arms-around-the back-of-the-neck emoting poses behind, instead choosing to clutch his microphone like he’s practicing his new golf grip. We left for beer and food well before the end.

R.E.M. @ Lancashire County Cricket Ground, 24th August 2008We saw R.E.M. at T In The Park last month and they certainly seem to be hugely re-energised on this tour, as evinced almost immediately with the tremendous opening salvo of “Living Well’s The Best Revenge”, “These Days” and “What’s The Frequency, Kenneth”. The fact that the new songs from Accelerate are invariably short-and-to-the-point rockers is a great help as it means that there is very little slack in the set, unlike last time around when their set was bogged down with the ponderous five minute plus dirges of Around The Sun. With the U.S. elections around the corner it was no surprise to hear some of the band’s more political works with “Drive”, “Man-Sized Wreath”  and the ever wonderful “Fall On Me” joining a rare and highly welcome outing for “Ignoreland” in close succession.

When Michael Stipe promised something special to mark Manchester’s Gay Pride celebrations, JustHipper immediately predicted “Pretty Persuasion” and she was spot on. It brought a tingle to the spine and it was as if time had stood still for 23 years, which is probably how long ago it was when I last saw them play it, so faithful it was to its original form. We hollered along with inane grins on our faces, as we did a couple of songs later when “7 Chinese Brothers” was dusted off, heads turning inquisitively in our direction as we yelped with delight on hearing Peter Buck’s opening refrain. Things slowed down a little with an unexpected “I’ve Been High” showing that Reveal wasn’t all bad, followed by a quiet, intimate “Let Me In” with the band gathering in a circle and the much of crowd, sadly, resorting to chatter.

R.E.M. @ Lancashire County Cricket Ground, 24th August 2008To be honest, the final third of the gig didn’t reach the heights of the opening hour or so as things got a bit more predictable. “Orange Crush” and “Bad Day” are now firmly entrenched in the R.E.M. setlist and, while both are fine songs, I wouldn’t be sorry to see the back of them for the next tour. “Imitation Of Life”, however, was a highlight at T In The Park and was just as good here as it closed out the main set. The encores included the inevitable “Losing My Religion” – cue groups of lads jumping up and down with their arms round each other’s shoulders – and “It’s The End Of The Work As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)” and promised another surprise as Stipe introduced a song that “we don’t play very often”. Unfortunately it turned out to be “Mr. Richards”, which may be one of the better songs off Accelerate but it’s no “West Of The Fields”. At least they’ve finally dropped “Everybody Hurts” for this tour, which is especially good as JustHipper promised to buy me a cheap bottle of plonk to celebrate if they didn’t play it, though the ever-present set closer “Man On The Moon” must surely be up for review any year now. In all, though this performance wasn’t quite up there with T In The Park, it was close enough and I’d go as far as to say that this is probably the best R.E.M. tour since they toured Monster in 1995. Long may they run.

R.E.M. – Pretty Persuasion

R.E.M. – 7 Chinese Brothers

R.E.M. – Ignoreland

Posted by The Ledge on 25th August 2008 at 5:50 pm | comments (44)
File under Gig Reviews,LCCC,mp3,R.E.M.,Reviews.

Gig Review: Those Dancing Days @ Manchester Roadhouse, 8th August 2008

So, I know this is a bit late. The problem was not so much lack of motivation or even lack of time as it was not quite knowing what to say. Even The Ledge firmly thinks I’m out of my mind about this gig.

The Bangs LiveIn any case, it all started off promisingly enough. We arrived early so we would be certain to catch The Bangs, who we very much enjoyed at Sacred Trinity Church back in February. They pretty much tick every one of our music-loving boxes being a female-fronted indie band whose influences are clearly PJ Harvey, The Breeders, Elastica, Sonic Youth, Helium, etc. They sound like they sprung fully formed from 1991 rather than walking the “indie” standard line of trying to sound like The Libertines or Oasis. They sound fabulous and they look the part too. If they’re not on stage at ATP in a couple of years time performing in front of a drooling cult following of hundreds of pale-faced indie boys in Yo La Tengo T-shirts and gushing music journalists I’ll be very disappointed. They played a blinder, the two female leads swapping bass and guitar back and forth, looking intent and not bothering us with loads of forced, between-song banter. But hey, if you’ve got the songs, you don’t need to ply the crowd with chatter, trying to get them on-side.

The Answering Machine LiveThe crowd had swelled considerably by the time The Answering Machine took the stage. It has been a while since we’ve seen them play – I can’t work it out even looking through our archives – although we do keep seeing them, most notably eating in Barburrito a few months back and queuing for beer at a Death Cab for Cutie gig a few weeks ago. We had not seen them perform since they added a drummer and we were looking forward to it. The drummer has certainly added a lot to their sound and their stage presence. The songs sound fuller and louder even if they haven’t moved on musically very much in the last couple of years. They still sound like a chirpy, British version of The Strokes’ first album. This is not to say that they were not as enjoyable as ever – they were – I just fear that perhaps they’ve missed their window. Too many bands with similar influences have come and gone at this point and it may be a case of evolve or die. I am surprised they haven’t had a hit single by now, but I suspect that if they haven’t they may not. I seriously hope I’m wrong because I think they’re fab.

Those Dancing Days LiveAnd then we came to Those Dancing Days. Now The Ledge had sold me on this gig by telling me they sounded like an old Sarah Records band, playing lo-fi, girlie indie pop. I’d heard about half a song and it sounded pretty good. They certainly seemed to be enjoying themselves on stage and the crowd around me seemed to like it, but frankly, I was bored witless. To be fair, I was suffering from that sound problem where if you stand too close to the stage you can’t hear very well, but as a result it sounded like one long perky pop song. And that one long song was not as charmingly lo-fi as I’d expected. I could have done with the pace changing. Now, I can’t fault the band’s energy – they were throwing themselves into things – but I was just ready to leave after about 10 minutes. I’m not even sure that I wouldn’t enjoy them on record, but on stage, with poor sound, there was nothing particularly attention-grabbing, unexpected or exciting about what I was watching. It’s a pity cause The Ledge hasn’t stopped saying how much he enjoyed it (but he is a guy and he was watching a bunch of young, pretty ladies in skirts playing guitars – he likes that sort of thing – if Kim Deal had been on the stage he’d have been in indie-boy heaven) so I feel like I possibly should have liked it more. But I didn’t. Oh well.

Those Dancing Days – Those Dancing Days

Those Dancing Days – Hitten

Posted by JustHipper on 22nd August 2008 at 7:09 pm | comments (11)
File under Gig Reviews,manchester gigs,mp3,roadhouse,the answering machine,the bangs,those dancing days.

Gig Review: A Day At The Races Festival, Moho Live & The Night & Day Café, Manchester, 2nd August 2008

Things didn’t start too well for the inaugural A Day At The Races festival the Saturday before last. After the band that prompted us to buy the tickets in the first place, Frightened Rabbit, pulled out a couple of weeks before in order to play The Big Chill, Elf Power became the band we were really looking forward to seeing. On arriving at Moho Live just after 4pm we found out that they too had pulled out. At least we get to see Suburban Kids With Biblical Names, I thought (the two bands clashed on the schedules), but no, they too had disappeared from the line-up. Schedules were re-arranged and Calvin Johnson’s festival opening set was put back an hour to 5:30pm, giving us an hour’s wait in the bar.

Calvin Johnson @ A Day At The RacesCalvin Johnson, formerly of Beat Happening, played solo acoustic and unamplified to a decent sized crowd of early birds, not taking the stage but playing on the floor of the venue in front of the stage as the crowd formed an intimate semi-circle around him. He was clearly unphased by this set up and regaled us with the occasional amusing anecdote and found time for a few songs, none of which I recognised – I only own one Beat Happening album – but all of which were pretty good and in a folksy singer-songwritery vein, with his rather wonderful deep croon often overpowering his scratchy guitar work.

David Thomas Broughton @ A Day At The RacesThe non-appearance of SKWBN gave us the chance to see David Thomas Broughton for the first time after he had been drafted in as a replacement, presumably at short notice. So, we headed off to the Night & Day only to find that they weren’t letting people in, even though it was 6pm and Broughton was on at 6:30, and there were a few people already inside. About 40 people waited for half an hour to get in, during which time there was a brief, but heavy, downpour. Once inside, the unassuming Broughton treated us to a highly entertaining half hour of oddball folkiness, building up improvised atonal loops and offering pleasingly nasal old school English folk vocals, when he wasn’t banging his head against the microphone or wandering into the crowd and scaring the locals.

It was at this point that JustHipper, who had been feeling pretty ill for the previous few days, decided to throw in the towel and make her way home to a warm sofa and last week’s “Gossip Girl”. This strangely coincided with the point at which I really started to enjoy the evening. Long-time John Peel favourites Bearsuit were great fun in their superhero costumes, their vibrant Welsh indiepop coming in somewhere between Gorkys Zygotic Mynci and Los Campesinos, but certainly much better than the latter who where so disappointing at T In The Park recently that I had absolutely no intention of catching their set at this event.

Jeffrey Lewis @ A Day At The RacesNext, Ólafur Arnalds‘ blend of chamber music and electronica was frankly a little boring so I set off early back at Moho Live to see Jeffrey Lewis, who put in perhaps the outstanding set of the day. It was the first time that I’d seen him but I kind of knew what to expect – repetitive hooks, dense, funny lyrics – and he certainly delivered the goods. New song “I Preferred Herman Dune With Two Brothers In The Band” set the standard – and sounded not unlike something Herman Dune themselves would write – while “Back When I Was 4” and his cover of Crass’ “Big A, Little A” were also great, though not as good as the excellent “Creepiing Brain” which had Lewis flicking through a huge comic book as the song went along, unravelling the story in graphic as well as musical form.

Múm @ A Day At The RacesI arrived back at the now sweltering Night & Day in time to catch Adem put in a stellar cover of Low’s “Laser Beam” and, though I’d never had any intention of catching any of his set, found myself a little disappointed that he’d clashed with Jeffrey Lewis.

Then it was off for a quick kebab before returning to see Icelandic popsters Múm end the day’s proceeding with a wonderfully feelgood set of summery electronica. If I say they fell somewhere between Sigur Rós and Stereolab then JustHipper won’t feel the slightest tinge of regret on missing most of the day, though I have a sneaking feeling that she’d have really liked them. Anyway, though things didn’t look too promising at the outset, A Day At The Races turned out to be a thoroughly good outing.

Video: Bearsuit – Foxy Boxer, from their set at the Night & Day

Posted by The Ledge on 12th August 2008 at 11:01 pm | comments (5)
File under Festival Reviews,Gig Reviews,john peel bands,night & day,Reviews,video,youtube.