gig reviews - nov/dec 06
14.12.06 - On the Rocks, London
I have to admit I had big expectations of Kat Vipers. A
rock/ jazz/ Lillith Fair type artist who’s being funded by the Arts Council
has got to be something special. I mean, unless you’re an orchestra, a
struggling opera singer or using music as an outreach programme for bisexual
women of ethnic minorities who are HIV+, the Arts Council are quite ready to
overlook the aspiring faux-hemians amongst us.
I have to say I was not disappointed. Her dramatic
onstage enthusiasm eclipsed the ‘Smells Like Teen Irony’ vibe from the other
bands that preceded her. I was impartial to her music before, but like every
good live show I was more than convinced to give it a second shot after
seeing this. The way she loves her voice (in the way that Ella Fitzgerald
loves to sing) is inspiring, and her vocal improvisations were entertaining
to say the least. Even if the songs were bad, I think the room would still
be filled with open mouthed gazes.
Vipers bashes at her keyboard like she wants to destroy
it, and yet manages to maintain a look that is somewhere between vaudeville
cabaret and glitter explosion. Part of me almost wants to hate Kat Vipers,
but she’s like a perfect promo package. She’s almost like a toddler having a
fit in a supermarket, and you just have to watch to see how the audience is
going to react.
The night was, however, dampened by the citrus-y fresh
fragrance of urinal chunks spilling over from the venues toilets, and I
couldn’t help but feel there was an ‘A and R showcase’ type vibe to the gig,
judging by what I can only describe as ‘light entertainment value’ of the
bands on before. But I guess that’s Vipers’ style; entrepreneurial. She’s
everything a good solo artist should be.
It doesn’t matter if you haven’t noticed her. Vipers
doesn’t want your attention. She doesn’t have to want it; she’ll take it
Now I must confess that I have never really aspired to be a Magic Numbers
fan. I fall into the category, who regard them as a rather inoffensive,
rounded and dare I say it, cuddly group of musicians sitting on the
periphery of my musical radar. However, I also fall into that other category
(as probably many other people) who have spent many a day infuriatingly
humming one of their latest offerings after unfortunately hearing it on the
So, I approached the gig at the Refractory with bit of trepidation. My
girlfriend and several friends who had seem them play previously in Leeds at
Across the Tracks, the Cockpit and the Refectory had all been instantly
converted, raving about their musical prowess and how when they performed
live, it felt like you were listening to the CD. The question was would
Romeo et al. enchant me under the same spell?
The night started effortlessly enough; there was sterling support from
two acts, Goodbooks and the Irish singer-songwriter, David Kitt. The crowd
was an eclectic mix with the older generation well represented. The only
flaw, as always with Leeds, was the venue. Other than the poorly positioned
columns and mixing desk, over-priced cans of larger and a stage elevation,
which probably defies some obscure olde Yorkshire law about discrimination
towards dwarfs, the heat was far more oppressive than usual (probably
something to do with the upper balcony being sealed off with black plastic
sheeting). So by the time the band punctually and rather energetically
arrived on the stage, the crowd were suitably boiling in their own sweat.
The set, as you would expect, was a typical second album performance; new
songs from the latest record, 'Those the Brokes' interlaced with arguably,
more well-known songs from the self-titled, first album to get the crowd
going. The four-piece slowly built up the crowd by dropping a couple of new
songs, including the opener from the new album 'This is a song'. By the
third song, and with the crowd baying for an anthem, the band knowingly
played one of their familiar tracks from the first album 'Forever Lost',
ensuing in a wave of merriment and hand-clapping.
The excellently performed gig continued in much the same way, a
well-timed roller-coaster of thoughtful lyrics, infuriately catchy harmonies
and peerless performances, in particular the angelic voices of Michelle and
Angela. Other notable highlights were the first single from the latest album
'Take a Chance' and the collaboration with the Chemical Brothers 'Close your
Eyes'. I was a little bit disappointed by their decision to play the crowd
pleaser, and arguably their most popular song, 'Love me like you' at the end
of the set, instead of during the encore. However, my annoyance proved to be
short-lived as the encore turned out to be a real gem, kicking off with
'You're in Denial', followed by one of their first (and unreleased) songs,
Anima Sola and cumulating with the 15 minute, blues-soaked frenzy of the
'The Beard', the on-stage reappearance of the support-acts and lots of thank
you's for the crowd.
On the whole, I'm sure I will struggle to see a better performed gig all
year. I left the gig with a big, sweaty, appreciative smile on my face and
naturally with the lyrics of the final song "we're going to have a party,
we're going to have a real good time" spinning through my head. But, was I
converted? Well I still wouldn't call myself a fan, I still found their
music a little too sugar-coated for my taste, but would I go and see them
again? Definitely! So you never know this maybe the start of something
Eeee, well here we go!!! How long
had I been waiting for this?! Rescheduled from Tuesday the 3rd of October, I
had waited too long for Prichard to recover!! But bracing the cold December
wind, headed off down to the Refectory at Leeds University.
And I can proudly say that the ratio
of boys to girls was 50:50 despite a bet to the contrary. And when I say
boys and girls I mean it! Amongst the crowd, a mother her two daughters and
a son, young boys with afros and some sweaty middle aged women trying to
recapture their youth! Oh yeah and lots of screaming young femmes!
So to the music! Kicking off with
the best kept secret of all time, the support band! Larrikin Love, (and I
still didn’t have a clue who they were until today when I goggled it!)
Throwing in a little bit of ragga and break beat they weren’t too bad, but
did seem to drag on for a while and to be honest the only people that I
could see really enjoying them were four very drunk girls behind me!
Ah yes but then the Kooks joined us
and bounded on stage complete with their pork pie hats! And being the tiny
ladee that I am, that’s all I could see! But they started off with one of my
favorites 'The Seaside' - nice one! But the tracks which stand out the most
were ultimately ‘Naïve’, 'She moves in her own way', and ‘Ooh Laa’ which
sparked phone camera mayhem in the audience and happy hand clapping, singing
along, loveliness! Overall I think the Kooks played a strong setl and
sounded just as crisp as they do on the album.
28.11.06 - The Charlotte, Leicester
Ok. Band: Turin Brakes. Tickets: £15. Venue: The Charlotte, Leicester.
WTF!! Isn’t this the same band headline a sold out show that I saw a few
years in Leicester at the now ‘almost’ demolished student union, that was
three times the capacity? Yes it is. I have to say that when their debut
many years ago, I was very much a fan and the show I saw previously was
spectacular. But that was some years ago, and at tonight’s performance, they
seem as though they are fighting very hard to be heard by an audience who,
despite having flocked to the Charlotte and packed it out heavily, don’t
really seem that interested. Indeed the majority of the crowd talk through
most of the set very loudly. That said there are still a decent number of
die hard fans at the front who prevent me from getting any closer (or to the
toilet for that matter!).
I can’t hear shit so off I go to the bar again to take them up on their
£1.50 Jim Beam offer. That knackers it because after that the dense crowd
completely cuts off my entry for the rest of the night.
They play a lot of new music, most of which seems pretty by the books apart
from one really lovely piece which I can’t make out the title of. Only four
or five tracks from the first two albums are played and they get the biggest
cheers and rightfully too. Technically they play fine and their voices, as
on recording, sound great. But I can’t help but look around and think that
this is maybe the end of the line for Turin Brakes.
Sure enough, at the end of show, Ollie chirps up to say that they probably
won’t be seen for a while. “We’ll come back if you want us back”, he says.
That’s all well and good I think, but do you really want to come back? After
all, The Charlotte in Leicester seems a bit of a comedown for the final
night of a tour.
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21.11.06 – Aragon Ballroom, Chicago
How utterly, utterly thrilled I was
to learn that Morrissey had once again chosen Chicago as his sole U.S. gig
of his latest tour. He had done this in summer 2004 as well (though,
admittedly, he came back to do a full U.S. tour just months later).
Still, I’ve seen the great man seven
times already in my young life, an amount which I think is really quite
something considering I’ve only been living in a major metropolitan area for
just over three years that Morrissey would ever visit. Could I still be
completely enraptured by him in concert?
Ah, I think I can be. When the day
came, I was noticeably apprehensive, tapping my fingers against my desk
after a full day in the office. After scooting to the Aragon straight after
work in time for a 6pm door time, the tension at the venue built through an
endearing loves-of-Morrissey video mix of ye olde music television – the New
York Dolls on some German chat show, a super-cheesy Brigitte Bardot video,
the 1974 Italian Eurovision contestant, and the one that yielded the most
screams (because they knew who was coming up), James Dean and Dick Davalos
light and wardrobe testing for East of Eden.
At long last, Morrissey paraded out
in a bright fuchsia shirt with his adorable backing boy band in tan trousers
and matching tan vests. Alas, no great-return-to-the-stage from Alain Whyte,
but hey! I think Boz has lost weight, and Gary Day’s quiff is still mightly
impressive. Nearly unbelievably, the band began with a Smiths song –
“Panic.” It totally set the tone for the night.
Morrissey quipped that he was
embracing Chicago with his “beefy locker room arms” - and he did. He was
really on the whole night. You catch glimpses of him, standing in the
spotlight, reaching out to fans, dropping down to the stage, and you realize
how utterly iconic he still is. His sense of humor never fades, nor does
his beautiful, untouchable voice.
Of course he played loads off of
Ringleader of the Tormentors, an album I don’t much care for. However, the
beginning of “Life is a Pigsty” was wonderfully tense, and his vocals were
showcased superbly on “Dear God Please Help Me.” As they were on “I’ve
Changed my Plea to Guilty” – a song which apparently was on the re-release
of Viva Hate in, um, Albania (so he said!).
My favorite song of the night was
surely “William, it was Really Nothing.” Oh, the guitars! I don’t think
Jesse Tobias played a 12-string (did he?), but the keyboard twinkles and
Boz’s kicks filled it out. A close second would probably be
“Disappointed.” It was played far too early in the set, when it really
should have been the closer. However, to my delight, the crowd voiced the
cheers and boos at the right time, just like on record!
I don’t need to hear “How Soon is
Now?” like the casual fan does, but Mr. Tobias did it for me during this
song. The keyboardist played a little twinkling number before the start of
it, the lights went down, and the guitar came roaring in. I didn’t even
realize what it was leading into but – PHWOAR – Jesse showed me.
Of course there was “Everyday is
Like Sunday,” all too often my life’s theme song, “Irish Blood, English
Heart,” a song which reminds me that Moz should write more social commentary
in his lyrics, and “The National Front Disco,” another classic off of Your
Arsenal (but lo! How I wished it had been “You’re Gonna Need Someone on Your
And the encore? The much too short
“Please Please Please Let me Get What I Want.” Replete with Morrissey in
pale peach button-down shirt. He’d changed from fuchsia to black
previously. With brown flat front trousers. A look many boys could learn
from. Alas, there is no one like Morrissey. Thankfully, for me, he visits
my city every few years. And I think I will always scream like a lovesick
teenager when he does.
After an age spent hanging round in the railway arches
of Cargo (I insisted on setting off early to make sure we got there on time
– Christ I’m turning into my dad!), we were finally treated to the bizarre
spectacle of To My Boy. I knew nothing of them when they came on, but for
the 40 minutes I witnessed them on stage I was mightily impressed. Two guys
looking like nerds from an 80’s teen movie, multi-tasking like crazy on all
their instruments and dancing like a cross between Ian Curtis and a
spasmodic Status Quo, belted out some ‘banging’ (© 1990) electro tunes,
topped by vocals veering between Ian Curtis (again) and a troubadour from
days of yore. Their insane energy created an exciting vibe, and, hemmed in
by all their equipment, threatened to cause an accident as they threw their
guitars around with abandon. In order to express my feelings on this, and in
response to a criticism of my last review, I have to include a swear word
and say they were absolutely fucking brilliant. Definitely catch them live
if you get the chance.
Then to the main event, and I have to say, after To My
Boy, Junior Boys seemed a bit tame. I suppose it’s unfair to compare as the
two styles of music are quite different in tempo, but there were other
problems too. The instrumentation was great, keyboards and guitar combining
to create a wall of sound, but it seemed Jeremy Greenspan’s vocals were lost
in the mix. It seemed to be sorted when they played ‘Birthday’ – the vocals
were strong and came through well, but then on the tracks that followed it
was hard to hear again. It could be argued that their sound consists of his
soft voice mingling with the electronic backing and that it shouldn’t be too
in your face, but here it seemed they’d gone too far the other way. Rather
than mixing in it seemed drowned out.
There also seemed to be a lack of rapport with the
audience, typified by the keyboard player looking like he was about to fall
asleep, which seemed a shame as when Jeremy did try to interact he seemed a
Despite my reservations I still enjoyed the gig. It was
good to hear them, and they belted out ‘In The Morning’, and their encore
(after they were summoned back with cries from the crowd of “Hamilton”,
their Canadian hometown) left everyone on a high. It just left me with a
slight sense of disappointment. They informed us it was the last date of
their tour. Maybe they were knackered, maybe the sound engineer had had
enough, but there was a definite sense that it could have been better.
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05.11.06 – Schubas, Chicago
On a recent Sunday night in balmy (a
lie; it’s November) Chicago, I was really rock ‘n’ roll and went to TWO
gigs. I haven’t done that since seeing The Aislers Set and The Shins about
three years ago, then cabbing across town to catch Arab Strap while
desperately trying not to pass out. No matter. The music has always been
good enough to keep me propped up.
I just had to see Asobi Seksu again,
who came back to enrapture us mere weeks after their last appearance here.
This brilliant, gorgeous New York-based band has released two albums, but
has failed to set the indie underground afire. I cannot comprehend this.
Like their previous gig, the 150-person capacity room was not that filled
up, but I was soon quite giddy to see a pair of goths make their way to the
front. This girl with her ratted purple hair made me smile because if one
likes Robin Guthrie guitars, then one should love the swirling noise of
Asobi Seksu. So even though a cadre of hipsters don’t seem to be getting
how brilliant this band are, at least some people are.
The band’s set list wasn’t much
different from a few weeks ago. My favorite song in the world right now,
“Strawberries,” was again right up front – the second song! Though that
bothered me because I believe it should be the centerpiece of their set.
Playing such an all-consuming song so soon is kind of like having sex with
little foreplay. You don’t want it to come so soon! “Strawberries” is so
lush that it makes me want to lay on stage with my eyes closed and get lost
in the sweet, sweet swirl.
Surprisingly, they played three
songs from their rather dire first album – “I’m Happy But you Don’t Like
me,” “Sooner,” and “Walk on the Moon.” But the guitarist’s, James, sole
lead vocal song was so fine this time – “Pink Cloud Tracing Paper.” On
their set list, they call it “MBV.” I cannot articulate how perfect this
And I must throw in how fantastic
everyone looked. I greatly admire the lead singer, keyboardist, and
percussionist Yuki’s collection of well-fitting vintage shift dresses and
lemon heels. And any band that gets the venue to turn all the lights off
onstage (save for fairy lights) is ace in my book.
Wayne and chums are obviously a lot
more popular these days – the last time I had the pleasure of catching them
in Birmingham was at the significantly smaller Academy. In contrast, the
N.I.A is like some vast aircraft hangar, and although the Lips aren’t yet
massive enough to pack it out I’m actually rather pleased since we have no
trouble swapping our seated tickets for a much closer vantage point in the
Deerhoof are in the final furlong of
their set when we arrive. Looking and sounding like a jazzier Blonde
Redhead, their guitarist produces some impressive squalling feedback while
the drummer flails away at the most economical kit I’ve yet witnessed
(hi-hat, cymbal, snare, bass drum…that’s it!) and their female Oriental
singer bobs around, pulling staccato body shapes and squeaking. Inviting
Lips drummer Stephen Drozd to jam along on bass is a cool way of showcasing
their free-form oeuvre, too, even if he is wearing a truly horrendous
The wait between sets is a lengthy
one but despite the fact that the Lips themselves do all the monkey work of
setting up their equipment, they still know how to make a proper rock-star’s
entrance. As two groups of willing fans dressed as aliens and Santa Clauses
assemble stage-left and right, Wayne climbs inside a huge inflatable ball
and goes rolling out over the eager heads and hands of the crowd. It’s quite
surreal to have one of your musical heroes clambering over you…I’d like to
see Bono pull it off without looking like more of a twat than usual.
Now, this is the fourth time I’ve
been to a Lips show and while no-one could deny that they are simply one of
the best live acts doing the rounds at the moment, in my opinion Mr. Coyne’s
patter is starting to get out of control. They may have more confetti,
balloons and laser beams than an intergalactic wedding reception, but a five
minute ramble about George Bush spoils the sense of escapism that we’re all
here to enjoy. Given the recent downswing in the fortunes of the Republican
Party, it’s perhaps worth a mention. And yet, off he goes again, jabbering
on about what an amazing, unique bunch of fans the band has, how Birmingham
has always been the loudest audience, and trying to gee up us
“motherfuckers” at every given opportunity. It soon gets tiresome and means
that by the time the show climaxes at the 90 minute mark, the band have only
performed 13 songs. Even with all the visual trimmings, not necessarily good
value for money.
The other problem is that the album
they’re promoting is, by their standards, not very good. “Free Radicals” and
“The W.A.N.D” have a bit of muscle on them and “Vein of Stars” is quite
pretty, but “The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song” is still overly-cutesy rubbish and
none of it is in the same league as the material from “Yoshimi…” or “The
Soft Bulletin”, criminally under-represented at just two songs. An enjoyable
romp through Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” swings the pendulum back in their
favour a little (if the nude girl in the video is Wayne’s girlfriend then
all I can say is he’s a lucky, lucky man!), and “She Don’t Use Jelly” is a
welcome reminder of their more guitar-heavy past, but I’d welcome less
banter, more music in future. Someone needs to fall out of love with the
sound of their own voice.
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Empty Bottle, Chicago
At around 11:30pm on this Sunday
evening, I high-tailed it over after the Asobi Seksu gig to see Voxtrot
setting up – perfect timing! I immediately noticed how different the crowd
were from the Asobi Seksu gig. There were loads of people milling about,
chatting excitedly, crowding the stage. Ok, there were namely girls at the
front who wanted to get with lead Voxtrot man Ramesh, but can you blame
I do like Voxtrot, and their
sweetness, charm, and chiming guitars, but I realize they’re not
particularly innovative. And it really hit me after seeing them
back-to-back with Asobi Seksu who sound like nobody around today. I want
Voxtrot to get more jangly like the indiepop perv I am, and continue on with
Field Mice-like guitars like at the end of “Raised by Wolves.” Well, their
”Your Biggest Fan” is quite lovely. Still, their performance was a bit of a
letdown after the blissed-out beauty of Asobi Seksu.
So what was their set list like?
They played their aforementioned new single and “Trouble,” and two songs I
didn’t recognize. One of them was really quite punky! Someone yelled out
for “You Can Hide Your Love Forever.” I had to smugly chuckled to myself as
I saw them perform that at their first gig here back in February. Sorry
sweetie, you must have missed their first gig, eh?
Maybe it was because it was a Sunday
night, but their set list was rather short; they just played two songs off
of the “Mothers, Sisters, Daughters, & Wives” EP, and I believe two off of
the “Raised by Wolves” EP. Ah, they were still darling.