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  gig reviews -march 05


Black Wire
4.3.05 - The Cockpit, Leeds

It had been a couple of years since Black Wire had last dazzled me at Leeds Met Uni while supporting Ladytron, a somewhat unlikely collaboration. Like last time, the venue is full of fashionista (as we undeniably untrendy types like to call them) - you know, skinny tie, scarf wearing types and the like.

Initial concerns that I had inadvertently ended up at a Kaiser Chiefs gig are crushed when the three-man Black Wire enter the stage. Well, yeah, they do wear skinny ties but this music has got much more of a punk edge to it than the current crop of edgy guitar indie that is found around every corner. Black Wire's sound is fuelled by a relentless drum machine (apart from a few pregnant pauses between songs which see the band members cast anxious glances towards the sound desk) and their on stage persona is a fury of hair, whirring arms and posturing.

More self assured in a headline slot than in support, Black Wire seem to have come of age and effortlessly play the crowd to the point where there is a completely unchoreographed stage invasion which sees a few burly security men wade anxiously towards stage before realising it's all in good humour and that they might have trouble shifting 50 people off the stage. I feel a bit cheated later when I see the video has exactly the same set-up, complete with stage invasion, but it sure did look rock 'n' roll.

Shane Blanchard

Adam Green
Nottingham Rescue Rooms

With support from his own four piece band, The Gnomes, and a top hat with which to entertain himself, Adam Green puts on quite a show. The Rescue Rooms is filled with eager young hipsters with Adam the hippest of them all. He commands the stage with grace and humour. Formerly one half of the Mouldy Peaches, he is now three albums into a remarkable solo career. This eccentric young fella performs charming ditties, combining painstakingly constructed tunes with quirky, off the wall lyrics. Green certainly has a way with words, even at their most offensive his witty lyrics retain a certain sweetness and simplicity making his music accessible and enjoyable in spite of, or maybe even because of, the absurdity. The challenging "No Legs" may shock, but like his comical take on current affairs "Jessica Simpson", it leaves us giggling. With a good mix of old and new, this modern-day doyen of anti-folk enthrals his audience with lyrical genius and meticulously crafted tunes and he certainly seems to enjoy his own show with those special dance moves, air piano and that hat adding to the fun! 

Hannah Webster

Half Man Half Biscuit + MJ Hibbert &The Validators
Nottingham Rescue Rooms

Tasty Towers favourite and all round nice guy Martinez Jigsaw Hibbert, kicks off proceedings to a fairly small and unappreciative crowd. The AWOL daft bastards don’t know what they’re missing as we’re bombarded with pop gems about shoddy old skool computers and cockle warming ditties about what happened to your old classmates. They’re tighter than a lemon juice smeared lady virgin live, with some splendidly warm violining combined with some equally excellent glasses being pushed up nose action. The quintessential speccy indie lead singer manoeuvre. I suggest you go and track them immediately, even if is just to pop round their houses try on their underwear and eat their rich tea biscuits. 

Suddenly a million crinkled balding heads spring forth, as if from nowhere. Probably been round Homebase returning those crystal chandeliers the wife decided she didn’t like after all. Unfortunately after two songs my horribly overworked bladder packed in and I had to trudge through 400 pogoing beer guts. Trudging back, this time through 400 pogoing beer arses I notice that every second person appears to be from Liverpool, clearly national Express made a killing tonight. Some more tunes are played and my hard fought position at the front begins to feel more like my hard fought position at the Battle of the Somme. ‘Light at the end of a tunnel’ comes on and I fear my rapidly refilling bladder is going to be exploded by the numerous flying belly flops of the collective biscuit army. Me and Tasty Sam trudge defeatedly back to the bar slinging vulgar regional stereotypes around. We later rejoin the very back of the crowd to see the top of Neil’s head perform a few more numbers ’24 hour garage people’ and ‘Fred Titmus’ leap pleasantly to mind. Drunk and annoyed at having gone from being crushed against the front stage to being crushed against the back door we make an exit, go back to the bar and Sam tells me all about the time he got a tin of Tesco value baked beans stuck up his anus. In a few days we will be called ‘poofs’ on the official HMHB website. A glorious ending to a gigging debacle.  

Jamie Collings aged 23 3/4

Hood + Semi-Squared +  The Unpleasants
Brudenell Social Club, Leeds

Hood’s new album has been lauded with much favourable press over resent weeks and on the back of this gig promised a lot form one of Domino Records roster.

Initial disappointment at the dropping out of printed Circuit was soon swept away as The Unpleasants, a member of Hoods, gave us a quick insight into his solo musical outings that are akin to Danny Elfmans friendlier electronic cousin. Looped and sampled keys built to form sweet unnerving melodies that while not always quite getting there were still an unexpected treat.

Next semi-squared and his magical Playstation graced us with his usual array of bleeps, clicks and grooves. I’m never sure how to describe his music but for now I’ll just say it’s electronically wonderful.

Finally Hood graced, well not the stage but the floor just in front, drum kit all dolled up in fairy lights and a twinkle in their eyes. Hood’s blend of folk, rock and electronica manages to sound warm and haunting and also very British all at the same time. Vocal harmonies, samples and a tight percussive element make Hood an enjoyable live experience. This said nothing ever actually struck as anything more than just pretty good. They seem to teeter on the brink of great but never quite make it. A minor quibble though for what was an engaging and uplifting evening of performances.

Luke Drozd

Kelly Joe Phelps + Rob Kurreri
28.2.05 - City Varieties Theatre, Leeds

This is the second time Phelps has graced the wonder of the musical hall interior that is the City Varieties but this time the blues guitarist has done away with his usual backing band and set out alone. But before we could see if this shift was for better or worse we had support provided by Rob Kurreri.

Rob Kurreri is somewhat of a prodigy of Phelps who as well as taking him on tour produced and performed on his most recent album. Rob Kurreri is at first deceptive the slight bearded man with the friendly demeanour who graces the stage is no indication to the wonderful soul filled voice that he possesses.  It is fair to say that Rob Kurreri is cut from a similar cloth as Phelps. He plays heavily Blues inflected folk with style and passion.  His songs are lovingly constructed and full of whimsy. I can honestly say it’s been a long time since a support act has won my heart so easily.

After a short intermission we have what we’ve all been waiting for, Kelly Joe Phelps himself. Phelps always reminds of a bear the way he self-consciously wanders onto the stage, verging on a lumber really.  As he sits down to thank us fro coming you are drawn to his deep affectionate voice one that proves at time to indecipherable from the back of the hall is somehow a welcome calming presence.

What is always compelling about Phelps live as apposed to Phelps on CD is that they are genuinely to deferent things.  On stage he allows himself to rearrange and play with songs in that time honoured blues way. Tonight we hear re-imaginings of excellent Phelps originals like Jericho and Fleashine which at times are almost unrecognisably different form their studio siblings but no less compelling.  We also get to her Phelps paying tribute to one of his musical heroes Skip James through his superb rendition of Killing floor Blues.

However for as much as his songwriting is compelling I can never help myself drifting into a near trance just watching him play guitar. He remains the best live guitar I think I have seen and the only thing I feel disappointed by is his choice to move away from doing any of the slide numbers from which he made his name.

Kelly Joe Phelps continues to be one of the worlds leading blues and folk figures, producing some of the finest records in the genre, but to really hear him at his finest, he really must be seen live.  

Luke Drozd