Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Gig #4: Mon 24 Jan - The Head And The Heart, The Lexington, Islington

This was The Head And The Heart's first UK gig having recently signed to Heavenly Recordings and for a debut show, it was pretty damn good.  The Lexington was full to the rafters of industry and indie kids alike and I left feeling we were onto something with this band, a bit like when I saw the Fleet Foxes for the first time.  We went in a little blind, having only heard a handful of songs online before the gig, but were won over by their excellent poppy-folk harmonies.  The three lead vocalists, Josiah, Jon and Charity indulged in banter between songs and were obviously very excited to be on these shores (they were over supporting The Walkmen at Shepherds Bush Empire the following night).  The songs are really well written and live their performance is surprisingly polished considering they've been together not long over a year.

Highlights were: Down In The Valley; Sounds like Hallelujah; Rivers & Roads and Winter Song.   Really looking forward to the release of their self-titled album on 18 April and I might have to break my 'no duplicates' rule, as I'm quite keen to see these guys again this year.  They're playing another gig in London in the spring supporting The Low Anthem at the Queen Elizabeth Hall.  The fact I can't stop listening to them since the gig must be a sign they were good!

Support came from The Mariner's Children and The Fancy Dress Party.  I've seen The Mariner's Children a few times and really enjoyed seeing them again although the sound was a little dodgy which meant a few of the nuances in their music got lost but on the whole a very enjoyable performance.  I've got an EP of theirs but I'm really looking forward to seeing a full album from this lot soon.  The Fancy Dress Party weren't bad, quite a young studenty folk band from Essex.  Their songs were pretty simple and again the sound for them wasn't fab, they didn't really do it for me, but as they're just starting out, perhaps they'll be ones to watch.

Overall it was a really enjoyable gig and I was pleasantly surprised at how good The Head and The Heart were - definitely one for a sounds of 2011 list.


The Head and the Heart Myspace
The Mariner's Children
The Fancy Dress Party 

Official sites
The Head and the Heart

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Gig #3: Sat 22 January - Manic Street Preachers, Brixton Academy

Wow, what can I say?  The curtain rose to reveal a luscious red back drop and glitzy stage props, illuminated one by one by spotlights before the Manics entered the stage. From the moment they opened with Slash 'n' Burn we knew we were in for a good night.  This gig was rescheduled from October when James Dean Bradfield was taken ill and unable to perform - I'd luckily managed to buy a standing ticket for the rescheduled date and am so glad I went.  James said they'd pay the audience back in kind for having had to change the date, and they did through a series of their greatest hits, with a few newbies thrown in for good measure.  Inevitably there were songs they didn't play which I was itching to hear (I was especially disappointed that the Friday audience got This Is Yesterday sung acoustically by JDB and we got Small Black Flowers - pah!), but when you've released 10 studio albums, I suppose you can't please everyone.  

I've seen the Manic Street Preachers more times than I can remember, but this gig was definitely up there with my first time seeing them at Reading Festival in 2001.  They're as good as they've always been and don't get the recognition they deserve.  I've followed this band for 16 years so it's difficult to be impartial, but the audience was a mix of staunch Manics followers and newer fans of their recent material and everyone seemed to be having a great time.  They know how to put on a show with the right mix of upbeat and slow brooding songs.  One thing's for sure, this gig has set the bar high for the rest of the year.  Perhaps Arcade Fire at Hyde Park will be a strong contender for gig of the year.....

British Sea Power supported the Manics and played a great set spanning their releases.  Highlights for me were the tracks from 'Do You Like Rock Music' - No Lucifer, The Great Skua, Waving Flags and Canvey Island.  Seeing them again reminded me to revisit their old albums and check out their new album 'Valhalla Dancehall'.  Perhaps I'll catch a headline gig of theirs later in the year.

Watch: You Stole The Sun From My Heart (acoustic)  ignore the terrible singing from the guy recording it!
Watch: Small Black Flowers That Grow In The Sky
Listen: Manic Street Preachers myspace
Homepage: Manic Street Preachers
Listen: British Sea Power myspace
Homepage: British Sea Power

Manic Street Preachers set list
Slash 'n' Burn
Your Love Alone Is Not Enough 
Motorcycle Emptiness
(It's Not War) - Just The End Of Love
Everything Must Go 
Roses in the Hospital 
My Little Empire 
Postcards From A Young Man
You Love Us
Suicide is Painless (Theme from MASH) (Johnny Mandel cover
A Billion Balconies Facing the Sun 
Motown Junk 
If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next
Small Black Flowers That Grow In The Sky (Acoustic)
You Stole The Sun From My Heart (Acoustic)
La Tristesse Durera (Scream to a Sigh)
Some Kind Of Nothingness 
Me And Stephen Hawking 
A Design For Life 

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Gig #2: Wed 12 January - Singing Adams, The Old Blue Last, Shoreditch

I was really looking forwards to this gig for two reasons.  Firstly, being a big Rumble Strips fan back in the day, I was looking forward to seeing Henry Clark do his first solo gig. And secondly, I really like the Singing Adams' new single 'I Need Your Mind' and had high hopes for the rest of their material.

The Old Blue Last was pretty busy, packed with friends of the bands and evidently some Rumble Strips and Broken Family Band followers.

Unfortunately, Henry Clark's set was a little disappointing, not least because I had it in my head that Henry was the lead singer of the Rumble Strips.  After half an hour deliberating which member of the band we were going to see on stage, I realised I was thinking of Charlie Waller and had no idea who Henry was (he plays trumpet and piano in case you wanted to know).  That aside, I was willing to give him a listen, but after a couple of songs I lost interest.  Perhaps this was due to the general sound level being a little too low, making it difficult to listen to his mix of Graham Coxon-esque ditties, but the patterns created on the wall by the mirrorball whirling around also became a little more interesting than the music.  Perhaps that's a little harsh...  My friend quite enjoyed it, but it didn't capture me.  Maybe it would have been better to see Henry in a more intimate and quieter venue.  Anyway, it was his first gig, so things can only get better, right?

Next came the Singing Adams.  They got off to a good start, and the tempo picked up three songs in when they played 'I Need Your Mind' - obviously a few fans of it in the room.  Highlights aside from the single were 'Giving It All Away' and 'Injured Party'.  The rest of the set was a mixed bag, and I can't say I came away thinking there were many other stand-out songs but then I'm unfamiliar with the material, as were most of the audience.  I'll definitely give their album a listen when it's released later this year and perhaps go and see them again once I'm familiar with more than a couple of songs. 

Listen: Singing Adams Myspace 
Homepage: Singing Adams

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Gig #1: Thursday 6 January - Dropbear, The Buffalo Bar, Highbury

A friend's band who I'd not managed to see until now and I have to say I was pleasantly surprised.  There was a good crowd down at the Buffalo Bar and Ben's guitar riffs had people dancing.  Although not my usual cup of tea, Dropbear are technically tight and well rehearsed, and they deserve a bigger following than they currently enjoy.  Keep your eyes peeled if you fancy a decent rock night out, there'll be plenty more gigs in the year to come.

Sound like: Incubus, Muse, Soundgarden, Iron Maiden, Chilli Peppers.
Rating: 7/10
Listen: Dropbear Myspace