March 16, 2015, Posted by Tom in Culture, Live reviews, Music

Live review – Idlewild at the Roundhouse

They’ve been away for a while, but it’s bloody good to have Idlewild back.

It’s Friday night in Camden, and a couple of thousand punters have descended on the Roundhouse to see one of the most underrated British bands of the last 20 years. After the release of their storming seventh album, Everything Ever Written (their first in five years), Idlewild are back in a big way.

Their comeback UK tour has been a resounding success, and the Roundhouse seems a suitably glorious venue to draw this current string of dates to a close.

Ambling on stage just after 9pm, they head straight into a new song, the gentle and rather sweet ‘Nothing I Can Do About It’. If that gives the impression that this is going to be a quiet, brooding evening, then the next few songs quickly smash away those fears.

The anthemic classic, ‘You Held the World in Your Arms’, and the crunching rock of new album opener ‘Collect Yourself’ follow straight after, and from then on in the band have the audience lapping everything up. Basically, people go mental.

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There’s crowdsurfing (even during the supposedly more chilled ‘Live in a Hiding Place’), a continued chorus refrain from the audience following ‘Love Steals Us From Loneliness’, and the fervour that greets ‘Roseability’ is nothing short of heartwarming. Whilst frontman Roddy Woomble has calmed down a little over the years, he’s still an engaging and charismatic frontman, and often disappears off to the side of the stage to let his bandmates take the limelight. Indeed, the instrumental jam at the end of ‘(Use It) If You Can Use It’, during which guitarist Rod Jones takes centre stage, is a personal highlight.

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At the end of the main set it’s hard to see how they can top all that. But then they do. A superb 4-song encore that concludes with the fuzzy punk of ‘A Modern Way of Letting Go’ and the quintessential Idlewild tune, ‘In Remote Part/Scottish Fiction’ (complete with spoken word sample from legendary poet Edwin Morgan), draws things so a thrilling conclusion, and the smiles on the faces of the band as they leave the stage suggest it’s been just as enjoyable for them as it was for us.

And then that’s it. On a night like this it’s really difficult to understand why Idlewild have never been one of the biggest bands on the planet, but perhaps that’s part of what makes them so special to their sizable base of hardcore fans.

They came, saw and conquered, and hopefully we won’t have to wait another five years to see Idlewild headline shows like this again.

You can catch Idlewild later this month, as they’re supporting Frank Turner as he plays the Royal Albert Hall for the Teenage Cancer Trust on Sunday 29th March. Get your tickets here.

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Idlewild played:

Nothing I Can Do About It
You Held the World in Your Arms
Collect Yourself
Little Discourage
Make Another World
Every Little Means Trust
Roseability
Live in a Hiding Place
Come on Ghost
Quiet Crown
A Film for the Future
Captain
So Many Things To Decide
Love Steals Us From Loneliness
(Use It) If You Can Use It
American English
El Capitan
Utopia

Encore:

Too Long Awake
I Understand It
A Modern Way of Letting Go
In Remote Part / Scottish Fiction

October 28, 2014, Posted by Tom in Culture, Live reviews, Music

Gig review round-up: The Antlers and British Sea Power

Everyone loves a good gig, and we’ve been to a few recently. Here’s what we thought of them…

The Antlers at Hackney Empire

Rolling in to East London to promote their fifth full-length studio album, the excellent Familiars, The Antlers lit up the Empire with their atmospheric brand of indie rock.

Sounding something like a ruddy lovely blend of Local Natives and Sigur Rós, the Brooklyn-based three-piece (plus an extra pianist/trombonist to beef up the sound – he even played them both at the same time! Hero) barely said a word as they drifted their way through an almost flawless set. Opening with the devastatingly beautiful ‘Palace’, they played a large chunk of material from the recent LP, but dipped into their back catalogue for choice cuts such as ‘Kettering’, ‘Widows’, and a surprisingly heavy rendition of ‘I Don’t Want Love’.

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The Empire is a properly beautiful venue, and was well-suited to hosting a band like this. The audience spent the majority of the gig in respectful silence, but the rapturous applause the band received as they made their way off stage following the main portion of the set showed how much of an impact they’d had.

They returned for a two song encore of ‘Refuge’ and ‘Epilogue’ that was perhaps even more hypnotic than what had come earlier. They’ve been on a steady rise for the past few years and, although they might be a bit too ‘weird’ to ever be a festival-headlining commercial success, The Antlers proved again that they’re a formidable live act, more than capable of replicating the exquisite sounds of their records live. If you’ve never given them a spin before, you know what to do.

Also, a shout out for the brilliant support act, singer/songwriter Marika Hackman. Having toured with the likes of Laura Marling and appeared on alt-J’s recent second album, she’s definitely one to watch.

The Antlers played:

Palace
Doppelgänger
Hotel
Kettering
No Widows
Director
Revisited
Parade
I Don’t Want Love
Surrender
Putting the Dog to Sleep
Encore:
Refuge
Epilogue

British Sea Power ‘Sea of Brass’ at the Barbican

Cancelled due to a power cut, unfortunately. Disappointing.

 

September 3, 2014, Posted by Beau Merchant in Live reviews, Music

Benjamin Booker live review – the night New Orleans came to London

When listening to Benjamin Booker’s (brilliant) self-titled debut album, you can only imagine the songs being performed in small, sweaty, dimly lit rooms, which is why London’s iconic 100 Club was the perfect venue for last night’s gig. It was like New Orleans had come to Oxford Street.

Sharing the stage with a drummer and bassist, Booker opened with the energetic ‘Always Waiting’ and instantly had the audience in his hand. Moving around the stage and bending his body into shapes you’d usually see in a yoga class, the signs were there that we were in for a special night.

As well as the raw, riff-heavy numbers like ‘Chippewa’ and stand-out track ‘Wicked Waters’, Booker’s lush vocals were most apparent on the beautiful and haunting ‘I Thought I Heard You Screaming’. As though he’d gurgled a bottle of Jack Daniels, Booker’s voice sounded like it was coming from someone far older than the 25-year-old on stage. You could hear a pin drop.

Closing numbers ‘Violent Shiver’ and ‘Have You Seen My Son?’ saw Booker swigging champagne, spraying it over the audience and looking like he was having the time of his life.

Speaking with him at the bar after the gig, he was a true gent and seemed genuinely humbled by the crowd’s reception. After signing an LP and planting a smacker on Mrs Stare at Books’ cheek, we left knowing we’d seen a future star. Watch this space.

Benjamin Booker’s self-titled debut album is out now. For a full list of  remaining tour dates visit his website.

May 17, 2014, Posted by Tom in Live reviews, Music

Benjamin Clementine live review – an incredible performance from a unique talent

Since his breakthrough appearance on Later with Jools Holland in October of last year, Benjamin Clementine has been an artist on the up. Having first come to attention busking on the Paris Metro, Clementine has now risen to the level where he can headline a show at the 1,400+ capacity Koko before he’s even released an album. By the time tonight’s performance came to a close, it was easy to see why.

Koko is a beautiful venue (apart from the scandalous £5.20 charge for a can of warm Red Stripe – poor Ben Willis looked on the brink of either passing out or kicking the bar staff), and it was perfect setting for an artist like BC. The stage set up was simple, with just a piano and a microphone, and as he wandered on stage at just after 9pm he was lit by just two spotlights. This wasn’t a gig that needed gimmicks to hold your attention; it was all about Clementine’s incredible voice.

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There are few comparisons that spring to mind when watching Clementine perform, as his delivery is incredibly unique. Antony and the Johnsons and Nina Simone seem to get mentioned a lot in press about him, but the best thing to do is give his songs a listen and draw your own conclusions. On some songs he barely whispers, and on others he sounds so tortured you just want to get up there and give him a big cuddle. Either way, it’s impossible not to be blown away.

Inevitably for an artist who has only released one 3-track EP, it was the well-known songs that received the most rapturous reception, but the material tonight was strong enough to suggest that his debut album, when it eventually arrives, will be something special. For the most part, however, the audience stood in respectful silence, mesmerised by what was happening on the stage.

Clementine performing ‘Nemesis’ on Jools Holland. It’s bloody good.

The between song chatter, whilst kept to a minimum, was also pretty funny, adding to Clementine’s charm and skill as a performer. But really is it’s all about the voice. It might not be everyone’s cup of tea; some may argue his delivery can be a bit OTT, but to me (and the entirety of tonight’s audience) it’s haunting, intense, and unconventionally beautiful. Basically, he’s one of the biggest new musical talents in the country at the moment, and if you do get chance to see him live, do it.

Benjamin Clementine‘s Cornerstone EP is available now
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April 10, 2014, Posted by Tom in Live reviews, Music

Vampire Weekend: Live review

Vampire Weekend perform at the Roundhouse, Camden, as part of the month-long iTunes festival.

It’s a strange beast, the iTunes Festival. 30 days of free gigs from world-famous acts like Arctic Monkeys, Justin Timberlake, Lady Gaga and Sir Elton John sounds amazing. But no matter how good the act is, the actual gigs themselves can be a little lacklustre, and not necessarily due to any fault of the artists themselves.

On a damp and wintery Sunday evening, New York’s finest alt rock/afrobeat/pop quartet Vampire Weekend rolled into town, with their gig marking the halfway point in this year’s festival. Tight, polished and a lot of fun, they delivered a frenetic set that packed in the hits from their three excellent albums.


Kicking off with the disgustingly infectious recent single Diane Young, lead singer Ezra Koenig kept onstage chatter to a minimum as the band raced through their set. They played a healthy chunk of material from their latest album Modern Vampires of the City, with Ya Hey being a particular highlight. In fact, whilst the songs from the first album still sounded fresh, the band really seem to have upped their game with the new album, with each song being a lot more multi-layered and ambitious.

If there was any criticism of the band, then perhaps they were a little too perfect. Every song sounded almost identical to how it does on the record, with a nice segue from Campus in to Oxford Comma being the only deviation.


If the band were great, what went wrong? Basically, the crowd were rubbish. With tickets available for free by lottery, the majority of punters apply for every gig, regardless of whether they are really a fan of the act. I can’t complain, I did it too, but thankfully I didn’t win tickets for Rizze Kicks.

As a result of this, the crowd were flat, with many even leaving after the band had played probably their biggest hit, A-Punk. It was telling that early B-side Boston, which usually gets a massive reaction at their gigs, was greeted with virtual silence. Similarly, the old ‘filming a gig on your mobile’ thing was a big problem here. Sure, I took a few photos, but several people had their iPads held aloft for the majority of the set, spending their time staring at a screen rather than watching the band.

It was a shame as you couldn’t really ask for more from the band’s performance, and the venue itself is one of the best in London, but you just came away thinking about how good it could have been.

You can watch the full set for free on the iTunes store


Vampire Weekend played:

Diane Young
White Sky
Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa
Holiday
Step
Unbelievers
Horchata
Everlasting Arms
Cousins
California English
Diplomat’s Son
A-Punk
Boston (Ladies of Cambridge)
Ya Hey
Campus
Oxford Comma
Obvious Bicycle

Encore:

Hannah Hunt
One (Blake’s Got a New Face)
Walcott

April 9, 2014, Posted by Tom in Live reviews, Music

David Brent and Forgone Conclusion review

The earring’s back (‘fashion, innit’). Foregone Conclusion are back. David Brent strode out onto the stage complete with Bono-esque sunglasses and leather waistcoat (Sergio Giorgini perchance?). 

With this tight hour of tunes at the Bloomsbury theatre, Ricky Gervais has found the perfect vehicle to celebrate his most glorious creation fronting the band that famously spurred Texas on.

We were treated to an album’s-worth of songs debuted during Gervais’s Learn Guitar With David Brent, all performed brilliantly by Brent’s backing band (‘couldn’t get the original guys back together unfortunately’), whilst Gervais sang with rock-star earnestness, before breaking out Brent’s trademark bottom lip biting for air-guitar solos.

Gervais has been there before, of course, so he knows very well how to put on a gig. Any criticism that there should have been more mistakes, that the band is too tight, is missing the point. This is Brent’s dream when he’s not repping he’ll have tried his absolute hardest. Also, musical comedy is one of the most difficult things to get right and it never, ever works when there are ‘deliberate’ mistakes. Look at Tim Minchin, Bill Bailey, The Concords, Isy Suttie and Bo Burnham, they work because they’re brilliant musicians.

Only when the music’s stopped are we treated to some excruciating (and hilarious) stage patter, particularly when he introduces rapper Dom Johnson (played by Doc Brown): ‘Chris Martin has Jay-Z, Frank Sinatra had Sammy Davis Jnr. And I’ve got one!’ That’s the thing with Brent give him a microphone and time to speak and it’s only a matter of time before he digs himself into a gloriously awkward hole.

The new song ‘Lady Gypsy’ was a particular highlight part wistful reflection on Brent’s coming-of-age, part recollection of his clarification about a cash exchange and some heather…

Whether or not the inevitable stadium gigs will work is another matter this did seem suited to a tiny venue; after all, the function room of a pub with the smell of stale beer and feedback squeaking through the silence is where Foregone Conclusion would be playing every Sunday afternoon.

But then again, I kind of want as many hardcore Brentians as possible to see Freelove Freeway performed in the flesh…

As he walked off stage, fist raised in the air like a conquering hero, I thought there goes David Brent. I must remember to thank him…

Postal Service

April 8, 2014, Posted by Ben Willis in Live reviews, Music

The Postal Service: Live review

In 2003, Ben Gibbard from Death Cab For Cutie and Jimmy Tamborello of DNTEL meshed indie navel-gazing and Laptop Electronica to form The Postal Service (the name derived from the way the two chose to share their demos). Their one and only album ‘Give Up’ became a cult classic, boosted further from Iron & Wine’s glorious cover of lead single ‘Such Great Heights’ in Zach Braff’s Garden State.

Ten years later and a group of wide-eyed fanatics have come to the Brixton Academy to see Gibbard and Tamborello play ‘Give Up’ in its entirety as part of a ten-year anniversary tour.

Any worries that the two have lost their mojo were instantly quashed as a huge cheer greeted the beginning of ‘The District Sleeps Alone Tonight’. Backed by Jenny Lewis from Rilo Kiley and Laura Burhenn of Bright Eyes fame, Gibbard was surprisingly animated, with some decidedly dodgy drunk-Uncle-at-a-wedding dancing going on, as well as skipping over to a dormant drum kit to add some weight to Tamborello’s beats.

Having a look on exciting new social networking microblogging site ‘twitter’ after the gig, in amongst the breathless, frenzied loveins and ohmygod hashtags, there were quite a few people grumbling about the sound mix – and there was a noticeably bass-heavy sound which did rather drown out Gibbard’s soft, lilting vocals at times.

Undeterred, the band ripped through their limited material, banging out the b-sides in front of some lurid lights, and returned with a triumphant encore, finishing with ‘Brand New Colony’.

‘Everything will change,’ Gibbard crooned, the crowd needing no encouragement to yell it back at him. To the lucky lot who saw the band in London ten years ago, it probably didn’t feel like much had.

Rich

Check out the The Postal Service setlist HERE

Kevin Devine

April 8, 2014, Posted by Beau Merchant in Live reviews, Music

Kevin Devine: Live review

Paddy reviews Kevin Devine’s superb gig at The Lexington in Islington, 4th February…

Kevin Devine’s show at the Lexington was originally billed as a show with his backing band, The Goddamn Band – an exciting prospect in light of their album, Bubblegum, released with Kevin last year. Kevin also released an accompanying album, Bulldozer, with both albums being funded by one of the most successful Kickstarter campaigns for music in the history of the site. Having declared both of these albums to be my favourite records of last year, I was really excited to see Kevin come and play his blistering new songs with the band, having last seen them play at the Borderline in 2012.

So I was a little disappointed when I heard that, due to the difficulty of making a tour outside his native US viable with the full band, the show would now be a solo show. And then I remembered it was a Kevin Devine show.

With or without a band to back him up, Kevin Devine always puts on a great show, a fact known by every single person in the sold-out crowd the filled the Lexington early in the evening for opening act Katie Malco. Katie is also a singer-songwriter who shines with or without her backing band, and her smartly written melancholy love songs held the audience enraptured from the word go as she appeared solo, playing a right-handed Telecaster left-handed and with beautiful tone and chiming chords.

Kevin Devine took to the stage unassumingly and was greeted with the whoops of affection and excitement that only a loyal fanbase, built through hard work and a fifteen-year career of great record following great record, can produce. Kevin’s gratitude for and emotional connection with his fans felt genuine and was more than a little infectious, as he allowed himself to be pleasantly surprised by spontaneous singalongs by the audience and engaged in small talk with the audience about the new records, touring Europe and the possibility of Limp Bizkit’s DJ Lethal appearing out of the blue in the DJ booth at the side of the stage to ruin the show. That didn’t happen, thankfully.

What did happen was that I didn’t think, for a second, about the absence of the band. The energy and intensity of Kevin’s live performance outweighed the absence tenfold, and many of the songs were performed in altered ways that made them perfect for a live show. Even the high-speed political punk rock song “Fiscal Cliff,” which Kevin acknowledged might sound odd on an acoustic guitar, sounded great. Kevin’s songs are often political (another example was “Private First Class,” written about US whistleblower Chelsea Manning), and to see these songs performed with conviction was incredibly powerful; but equally moving were the songs with lyrics more personal in tone, such as the surprisingly romantic “Matter of Time.” Kevin covered all bases with his setlist, mixing old and new material well and responding to a crowd request for an Elliott Smith cover. The crowd was also free of the incessant chatting that often ruins acoustic shows, so every song fell upon appreciative ears.

There wasn’t an encore, but it wasn’t necessary – Kevin’s usual final song, Ballgame, is a long and inspiring one about, in his words, “trying to get your shit together,” and I (along with the rest of the crowd) hung on its every word, leaving uplifted and sure that the show was worth enduring the tube strike and walking home in the rain for. Let’s hope Kevin comes back soon.

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