Monday, 28 February 2011

Week 8: A good week for gigs - Glasser, NME Awards & British Sea Power

Week 8 was a busy week on the gig front and none of them disappointed.

First up:
Tuesday 22 February - Glasser, XOYO, Shoreditch
I received Glasser's album 'The Ring' through the Rough Trade Album Club late last year and hadn't really given it much attention until I saw she was playing at XOYO in February.  After a few listens, I'd really got into it and was looking forward to seeing her live.  The music can be compared to Bjork, it's experimental electronic sounds in which Cameron Mesirow's voice is used as an additional instrument, and wow, what a great voice!  They played through the whole album so it was only about an hour long set, but Glasser came on at the end to sing an acappella folk song to appease the crowd who were keen for more.  

This was also my first trip to XOYO which is a good little venue.  Sight-lines aren't great in various spots of the venue which isn't helped by the stage being quite so low, but the sound system is great so it'd be a good place to see showcase style gigs and club nights.  Overall an enjoyable evening.  I'd be keen to see Glasser again when she's got some more material.
Listen: Glasser Myspace

Next up:
Wednesday 23 February - NME Awards 2011, Brixton Academy
I had the great opportunity to work on the NME Awards 2011 as a talent liaison, mainly looking after My Chemical Romance.  It was a great but quite surreal day; walking around backstage I bumped into Dave Grohl, PJ Harvey and Kate Moss amongst other celebrities.  I was able to knock off at 10pm which meant I was free to watch the Foo Fighter's extended set with a beer in hand.  

Dave Grohl received the Godlike Genius Award and said they'd had to option to play 5 songs after accepting the award, but instead, they decided to play a whole gig - a whole 90 minute gig I might add.  They started off by playing their new album "Wasting Light" in its entirety before unleashing a greatest hits set and the venue went wild!  Apparently there was lots of broken furniture after their set, which isn't surprising seeing the amount of booze the awards guests had put away before dancing on tables and chairs.  My fears that I wouldn't see a band who could rival the Manics' 10/10 set were put to rest by the Foo Fighters who played hit after hit, including one of my all-time favourites 'Stacked Actors'.  

Here's what they played after finishing "Wasting Light":

All My Life
Times Like These
My Hero
Stacked Actors
The Pretender
Learn To Fly
I'll Stick Around

Monkey Wrench
This Is A Call

It was a brilliant end to an awesome event - the Foo Fighters know how to put on a great show.

Lastly in week 8....
Sunday 27 February, British Sea Power at The Forum, Kentish Town
We arrived just in time to catch the last few songs by Team Me - a young band from Norway who sound similar to Freelance Whales.  They won us over within a couple of songs with their energy, enthusiasm and catchy songs.  It was so good to see a band really enjoying their performance and trying to engage the crowd rather than standing still, bashing out mediocre tunes (Chapel Club....).  Anyway, we enjoyed them so much we bought their EP.

After Team Me finished, the crew went about setting the stage for British Sea Power which included a lot of foliage and a giant projector screen.  

This is a band who really pay attention to presentation, which even extended to their merchandise stand - if there was an award for the best merch stand at a gig these guys would win with goodies including a specially brewed British Sea Power beer, fudge, mugs, t-shirts, pin badges, LPs and CDs - all presented in a quintessentially British way.  I went home with a British Tea Power mug which will sit nicely on my desk at work.

Anyway, back to the gig...  British Sea Power are a band with a core following of old and young fans alike, and The Forum was crammed full of them last night.  They delivered a great show which was nearly 2 hours long - not bad for a Sunday night.  They played a mix of songs spanning all their albums, including songs from the 'Man of Aran' soundtrack which were accompanied by footage from the film on the giant screen.  Highlights included Waving Flags & No Lucifer - it's safe to say 'Do You Like Rock Music' is my favourite of their albums.  I find they're a band who I really enjoy about 2/3 of the songs by but the others I tend to zone out in and this happened a little during the gig.  On the whole though, a brilliant and energetic performance which really livened up an otherwise slow Sunday.

Listen: British Sea Power

Monday, 21 February 2011

Week 7: Wed 16 Feb - Chapel Club, Heaven, London

I was quite looking forward to seeing Chapel Club after hearing their courtyard session for The Fly out the window when I was working at hmv Live.  They sounded great and I really liked their singles 'Surfacing' and 'All The Eastern Girls'.  Unfortunately, these were the two best songs in their set and the rest was quite monotonous and uninspiring. 

Heaven was sold out and completely jammed full of people keen to see a band who I considered would be amongst 'the next big things'.  I'd become wary before the gig as their album had received a luke-warm reception but I was still expecting a good show.  They opened with Surfacing which I enjoyed, along with the rest of the crowd.  Then they proceeded to play album tracks for the next half an hour which quite honestly all sounded a bit too similar to one another to be interesting.  Frontman Lewis Bowman has a great voice and they could do something much more interesting with it, but the melodies were all quite safe and formulaic.  They don't seem to experiment enough which is a shame as Surfacing and All The Eastern Girls are good pop songs in their own right, but when played in the context of the album, they just sound like all the other songs.  

I wouldn't rush to see these guys again, nor will I rush out to buy their album, but judging by the rest of the crowd who seemed happy enough listening to a mediocre indie band - they'll do just fine.


Listen: Chapel Club Myspace

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Week 6: hmv Next Big Thing festival

Last week was the hmv Next Big Thing festival which  I was working on, so sticking to my resolution was especially easy.  I dropped into various gigs during the week.

Highlights were:
- The Phoenix Foundation, Upstairs at the Garage as part of the Memphis Industries Night.  I've heard a few of their songs on the radio since, and quite like them.

- Morning Parade at Heaven, supporting the Airborne Toxic Event - great band, these guys sound very polished and I can see them cracking the charts - they've got the right sound to appeal to the masses, kind of Killers-esque rock with a great vocalist and they give a great live performance.  Sure we'll be hearing more from this lot in 2011.

- Sissy & The Blisters - I'm mentioning these guys merely because they were a very sweet and polite bunch who deserve to do well.  They've only been gigging for 6 months and by their own admission they tend to split the audience with their music, but they sounded great and I'm sure they'll find their niche.

- Josh Weller at the Jazz Cafe - Josh is a good showman who likes interacting with the crowd.  The audience seemed to react well to his music which was good, but not great.  It's quite simple poppy music and it's hard to see how it'll make him big.

- The Airborne Toxic Event - I really don't get the following for this lot.  They were a lovely bunch, but their music didn't really grab me.  Still, this was the largest of the hmv Next Big Thing gigs and was sold out, so they're obviously doing something right for some people...

- The Chapman Family and Mazes at The Garage - again, not my cup of tea.  Sadly we left before The Young Knives in order to scoot over to the Jazz Cafe to see Josh Weller. 

- Banjo or Freakout and Dutch Uncles at the Memphis Industries Night - sadly neither of these bands lived up to my expectations.  We ended up leaving after a couple of Dutch Uncles songs.  The Phoenix Foundation should definitely have headlined this night.

- Heart Kill Giant, Upstairs at the Garage - I'd listened to this lot online before popping upstairs to see them, but from the outset they were out of tune and the songs just didn't sound right live.  A band who sound good in the studio but need a lot more practice in the live sphere.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Gig #5: Friday 4 February - hmv Next Big Thing presents: James Blake, The Borderline

The Borderline was packed to the rafters with industry and fashionable folk eagerly awaiting this performance by James Blake. It was definitely the hot ticket of the hmv Next Big Thing festival, evident by the lack of space in the room and folk backed up the stairs trying to catch a glimpse of the man everyone's talking about.

James entered the stage accompanied by a drummer and guitarist who he later introduced as two close school friends.  As he sat down he said "Next Big Thing, no pressure then" and you kind of felt for him. In the space of a couple of months since all the hot tips for 2011 lists were announced, James has come from the relative unknown, signed to a major record label and found himself the subject of critical scrutiny - this gig had a lot riding on it.

His set was short, maybe 5 tracks or so, including the hit 'Limit To Your Love' which included some bass trickery in the dubby parts, making the metal flues on the ceiling shake and the whole venue reverberate.  Fans basing their interest in James Blake on this one song may have been disappointed by his other tracks which weren't quite of the same chart-topping mould.

Blake is obviously feeling the pressure to deliver, with his album being released tomorrow and having already received some scathing reviews. He said at one point "remember to listen to albums on your own with the lights off before reading reviews" and I couldn't help but think I'd enjoy the music more in that setting too.  I wasn't buzzing with excitement by the end of the gig, but then again I wasn't expecting to be. I liked what I'd listened to prior to the gig, but I was always sceptical about how it would translate live.  He's evidently a talented producer but the performance of his music is something which needs a bit of work, it's not quite as cohesive as you might expect considering the hype surrounding him.  If he successfully rides the storm of critical acclaim in the coming months I have every faith that things will only get bigger and better for James Blake.  He's definitely a curious one to watch.

James Blake myspace