Category Archives: Music

MUSIC – February 21st – The Spirit @ Spotted Mallard

I’m not a musician; it’s more than likely now that I never will be, so I won’t get that chance to strut my stuff in a band. I’m definitely not qualified to make a judgement on what individuals want or even should get out of making music. However, I have no doubt though that if the question was asked whether you wanted to make money or make people (or yourself) happy then the majority would obviously want to reap the financial rewards, instead of self-satisfaction – however, I could be, and probably am, wildly off the mark.

So, what really makes one of the most exciting live bands in Australia call it day less than a year after their debut album hit the airwaves to rave reviews. King Cannons were not a flash in the pan. Their live shows got better and better – they played as though their livelihood depended on it, which probably has some truth to it. It showed more importantly in that their local following was rapidly growing in numbers; I regularly saw King Cannons t-shirts around Melbourne and heard their tracks on National radio. Their last live show was on the bill for the Byron Bay Blues & Roots Festival, headlined by Paul Simon, Robert Plant and Ben Harper to name but a few. In August last year a simple and straight to the point press release announced the band had split up due to “musical differences”.

It was with great anticipation that Luke & Mikey (featured in the clip above) had teamed up with a new female bassist and drummer to form the four-piece “The Spirit”. This was their debut show at the curiously named Spotted Mallard. I had heard a few snippets of tracks that had been previewed through social media and not surprisingly they sounded a lot like stripped down King Cannons numbers. In essence, I was expecting more of the same from the live show, and no doubt so were the majority of the 250+ that were in attendance too.

The Spotted Mallard is an old ballroom dance studio. It’s has parquetry floors and chandeliers; and dinner tables! The majority of punters were sitting – not a great feel for a night of rock and roll!!! In a way though, the music suited the venue nicely. The Spirit proved that you can take the remnants of a punk rock band that channeled Joe Strummer and Bruce Springsteen and turn them into REO Speedwagon. Musically they are gifted. The drummer, Ryan Mano, is quite possibly the best drummer I have seen around Melbourne since I’ve been here. Mikey Ting tinkles the ivories like few others do today and Luke Yeoward is an ideal front man – charismatic, gruff, burley, tattooed, with rocking vocals to boot. Phoebe Neilson on bass adds some glamour but little else. The Delta Goodrem wannabe has the unerring habit of echoing most other bass players in the fact she remains virtually motionless and rooted to the spot on stage. Give me John Entwistle, Rob Bryers or Flea any day!!!

IMAG2783

I maybe being harsh here, as it was their very first show, but the 30 or so punters that left after only a couple songs are testament to the fact that this is not a poor man’s King Cannons. The similarities end in the fact that Luke had been writing the majority of the songs, no doubt, intended for King Cannons, and they have developed as part of this forum instead. There are elements of King Cannons that do show through and for me these are the positives. There is just too much of the “Americana” driving rock that goes nowhere and does little to get me excited.

the spirit live1

I saw a quote from Phoebe recently that said “we have all come at this with the intention of going hard or going home”. I don’t see how you are able to go hard if you are so “middle of the road” you can’t find the edge. The Spirit – as yet – have no edge. However, saying this, their sound is crisp and their songs are well crafted, but there is nothing to distinguish their sound from the masses of other middle of the road pub rock you get everywhere. I hope they can develop their sound deeper, and can come up with something that makes them somewhat different and makes them worth investing in. I miss the King Cannons (can you tell?) but The Spirit aren’t the answer to fill the hole that has been left (perhaps The Bennies are though……)

The question I posed at the start remains – if you want to make your mark and be successful, you need to stand out from the crowd, not bury yourself in the midst of it and hope that inspiration and good feelings shine through. The Spirit are a solid outfit that have so far produced some nice pop songs. I mentioned earlier that when King Cannons played it was though their livelihoods depended on it. That couldn’t be further from my thoughts with The Spirit. They will find their place as time goes on, but in the long run it will more than likely be missing myself and 30 or so others!!!!

 

 

 

Advertisements

MUSIC – January 6th – VAMPIRE WEEKEND @ Festival Hall, Melbourne

I was looking forward to seeing Vampire Weekend. I can’t believe it’s nigh on 6 years since I heard The Kids Don’t Stand a Chance totally by accident on a Community Radio Station. The very simple poppy-reggae lick, coupled with the Paul Simon-esque vocals got me scrambling to find more. I am not understating the fact that the debut album was a work of art. Even with my ska and punk leanings, it appealed to me, and to its ultimate credit, it still does!

I hadn’t been to a “screamy/squealy” gig for quite some time. I must send out a big thank you to the larger than life “tweener”, who clearly doesn’t get out that much as she seemed to scream directly into my left lughole (the one that does not suffer from punk-rock deafness!) at any opportunity she had. Unfortunately the gig was a sell out, so the vantage point I occupied was the best I was going to get so I couldn’t really move to anywhere more suitable!

IMAG2524_BURST003

This was also perhaps the most diverse crowd I have ever been a part of. The floor was amass with aforementioned tweens, complete with chaperoning dads that obviously had nothing better to do on a Monday night, except score brownie points with mum – and probably coolness factor points with said daughter and her friends! However saying that, there were a large number of 20 to 30 something couples on date night (and quite a few of the older set too), boys and girls nights out as well as the interested gig goer. Vampire Weekend’s appeal engenders the complete cross-section of society – and their popularity and success goes totally against the hype of hip-hop and glorified karaoke singers.

Festival Hall is a dinosaur of a venue. It is a traditional boxing hall with high ceilings, elevated seats to the side and rear of the room and that’s about it. It’s run down, looks ugly from the outside and generally lacks any modern amenities you would generally expect in a venue nowadays! But what do you really need to go and watch a band? As long as the sound is up to scratch and the toilets aren’t flooding, everyone’s a winner…. I can safely say that since I’ve been going to Festival Hall the sound quality has improved markedly, and it is now up there with any other venue in Australia.

The front man was doing his best impersonation of Tom Cruise in Top Gun. I’m not entirely sure why you would want to wear a flight suit in the middle of an Australian summer, but I suppose he had his own reasons!

vampire w 1

Their stage craft is very understated. The most animated out of the four piece is the keyboardist! But that doesn’t get in the way of a decent show – it was a quality night. The blend of inoffensive melodic reggae infused pop and the odd injection of punk and  coupled with banging drum solos and rhythms keeps you bopping along. Vampire Weekend are far from sell-outs or hanging out for commercial success. I’m pretty sure they just play what they want to play, enjoy it to the fullest and hope that they strike a chord with their adoring, but quite squealy fans. However, there is no getting away from the fact that their music is catchy and you do end up singing along like some 10 year old primary schoolgirl does to Justin Bieber!!! Indispurced through the boppy foot-tapping, and waving hands in the air,  there were quite a few sing-a-long moments during the show especially the final tracks of the night.

Their latest single Hannah Hunt, One and Walcott finished the night off in grand style. Very little from the back catalogue was left out, and everyone left in that euphoric state, akin to the one you get when you’ve just stuffed yourself with that unsurpassed jalfrezi – you want more but you physically can’t fit any more in.

They exude a punk energy without that explosiveness you might expect from it. They do suck you in, even without the engagement you feel you may be entitled to. The true barometer of a good night though is that time old question – would you go and see them again – too bloody right you would. And, you never know your luck; it might even be date night!

MUSIC – November 12th – The Members @ Northcote Social Club

I am a punk rocker from way back. When this gig was announced, I must admit I had a bit of a double take to see if it was really was the same band that had fleeting chart success in the late 70s with their “new wave” punk sound. Sound of the Suburbs was quite huge at the time and even as a nipper, I remember it being everywhere, and this was before the likes of the Sex Pistols, The Ramones and X-Ray Specs managed to get any radio time at all.

Unfortunately I have been to a few of these revival/reunion gigs over the past few years and it’s fair to say that the bands are a shadow of their former selves – The Buzzcocks & The English Beat to name just two offenders here. Although saying this, as The Members only really had three notable tracks, how bad could it be. If I went expecting very little, then anything above that would be a bonus – yeah?

IMAG2109[1]Guest appearance of Rudi Thompson (X-Ray Specs) on sax added greatly to the sound

They have been together for since 1977, and apart from a short 23 year hiatus between 1983 and 2007, they are still active on the live scene! Not bad for blokes pushing 60! They have even recruited punk drum legend Rat Scabies (The Damned) to play their shows. You can tell that their hard punk rock days are well and truly behind them, as the beer swilling on stage has gone, replaced with fine reds all round!! Lead singer JC Carroll really needed longer arms to get round his “middle age spread” to play the guitar! They delivered a rather methodical set, covering most of everything you would expect and few more. Throw in a guest appearance from now local, Rudi Thompson on sax, they delivered a 90 minute set which even included a rather different take on Kraftwerk’s “The Model”. However, the sound was solid, even if the banter between songs wasn’t! Solitary Confinement was certainly a highlight!

Again at the Northcote Social Club, we saw a band that didn’t want to stop playing! Even after JC Carroll went off to the sell merchandise, the band then came back on to do another number!! I’m not sure what it is about this suburban “room” but bands just want to give, give, give! There was never a lull in proceedings during the show and the 150 or so that came to re-create their fledgling punk rock career. I managed to catch the track everyone was waiting for – their biggest and most well-known “hit”; Sound of the Suburbs.

The other reason that this gig was so attractive was the support acts. The Bennies are an irreverent keyboard infused ska-punk-madcap-mayhem act that I have now seen a few times and they never fail to deliver something different. They bounce around like no tomorrow and even at 830 on a Tuesday night in front of 12 people, they delivered the same intense show as they would in front of a baying Saturday night crowd. The Bennies are quickly becoming every punk bands favourite band, as everyone they support comes early to watch them. It is a great compliment that other bands want to see the show! Expect much bigger and better things from these guys in the very near future.

the-bennies live

The Go-Set are a staple diet of the celtic-punk scene in Melbourne. They come complete with bagpiper and even though they are a stripped down unit tonight without their violin and mandolin players they still manage to deliver a short sharp set, without any between song banter bullshit. Half an hour of continuous tunes is EXACTLY what you want from your support acts. A solid show from an always entertaining tight outfit. I can’t recommend these guys’ shows enough – they never disappoint!

IMAG2078

All in all, a pretty lively Tuesday night! Like I said – go in with low expectations and you never know what you might end up with!

MUSIC – October 16th – IMAGINE DRAGONS @ Palace Theatre, Melbourne

When is a sold out gig a sold out gig? Imagine Dragons came all the way to Australia to play all of 2 shows, one in Sydney and this one in Melbourne. It was the first time they had ever been down under, and as they are one of the hottest bands around, it was no surprise that both shows sold out in the space of an hour or so. Ebay tickets were going for 4 times their face value in the days leading up to the show. The Palace Theatre is a fairly small mid-size venue (does that make it a large small venue?) so tickets were as scarce as local cab drivers. So, when you turn up and they are selling tickets on the door (cash only!!!!), you just have to ask WTF????

The Palace was as packed as I have ever seen it. Imagine Dragons’ music does seem to cross a lot of genres and has a wide appeal, so it really wasn’t surprising. Their songs have featured prominently outside of radio play which always helps popularity. On Top of the World is featured in the Samsung Galaxy Note ad, as well as in the video game FIFA 13!!! That’s generally where I always get my music fix – playing FIFA!!!! Radioactive, as well as being rammed down our throats by commercial radio at every opportunity over the past few months, has been used in the Beats by Dr. Dre ads and in numerous sporting contexts across the board recently. I’ll be honest and say straight out that I truly detest this song and cannot fathom why it has received so much airplay. Someone pointed out to me that it is just one of those viral tunes that sticks in your head and no matter how hard you try, it’s always there in the back of your mind. I guess that’s the secret to success – get something that just gnaws away at your sanity until you give in!!!

Its Time was featured on Glee and subsequently used on National Geographic ads, but the crowning glory was when it was used by Sky Sports in their end of season montage to celebrate England & Wales winning the 2013 Ashes series!!! Football AND Cricket – what’s next for this band?????

The first thing you notice about the stage is that it is filled with drums, including a huge one front and centre. The band enter the stage 10 minutes early to rapturous screams and cheers. The reception is nearly as ear deafening as the drum intro to Round and Round that gets smashed out. I use the verb smashed carefully, as within a minute of the gig starting the lead singer put his drumstick through the skin of the huge drum. It’s lucky drums have two sides……

imaginedragons-1

Imagine Dragons do have a great sound and it’s difficult to pigeonhole them into a specific genre. There’s definite indie influences of The Killers, Coldplay and Arcade Fire, but there’s a Paul Simon and Mumford & Sons feel to their music too. They do like to bang out some rhythms though. Every band member has access to a drum kit and regularly join in on the skins – but not as much as the lead singer though, who quite clearly didn’t see himself as the Don Henley or Phil Collins of the band, but didn’t want to let his drumming talents go to waste.

I did feel sorry for the roadie who had to chase flying drumsticks about the stage during nearly every tune, when our front man decided to throw them on the floor when he had finished his bit. The drum rhythms really made the music stand out in a live environment. They probably wouldn’t come across as well on radio, but live, they just suck you in. Not that the band needed any help doing that.The crowd interaction was just about spot on. There was enough sing-a-longs for everyone, there was a bit of banter between songs and there was a genuine humbleness shown by the band in appreciation of where they were, who they were playing in front of, and their meteoric rise to where they are now.

Fair credit to our front man Dan, he knew how to pronounce Mel-burn too, as most Americans do pronounce it as it’s spelt – Mel-born! I liked the way he fronts the band. He has quite a presence up front and does command the stage – even when he plays any of the four of five drum kits in stage, he does it with quite a verve!

imaginedragons-11

He possesses a decent voice too, which will only get stronger with more and more live performances like this one! I have to say that he is by far the good looking one out of the band – the others are questionable at best. The lead guitarist could quite conceivably be a Hanson reject and we can all stop looking now, because we have managed to find the whereabouts of Zed from Police Academy. All along he had been hiding all this time behind the 4 stringer in the Dragons:

imagine dragons zed

This is a great tune and one of my favourites, only made better with the crowd participation. Other highlights include the dancey, upbeat, synth-poppy Underdog, complete with tens of larger than life balloons descending on the crowd, that when burst showered everyone with confetti, the seemingly impromptu Stand By Me cover (it wasn’t, it was always meant to be there – I don’t think impromptu is quite their thing yet!), and the anthemic rock of Bleeding Out, where the crowd really belted out the chorus – all memorable stuff.

The show was a quality night. The blend of inoffensive indie-pop coupled with banging drum solos and rhythms even made an 8 minute version of Radioactive to end the show palatable!!!

They did come back on stage to finish off with the more than apt, Nothing Left to Say as their encore – in my opinion a much better show stopper than Radioactive. They started 10 minutes early and they finished 10 minutes early – which tells you they keep a pretty tight ship with their set lists. The fans bought in to the show completely and would have gone home very happy! I have no doubt that we will see a lot more of Imagine Dragons both in Australia and in the charts. And when they come back, I am more than happy to say that I will definitely go and see them again – mind you, I doubt that it will be at the good old Palace Theatre next time!

 

MUSIC – October 15th – Cosmo Jarvis @ Northcote Social Club

Cosmo Jarvis is from Newton Abbot, in deepest, darkest Devon. The most famous people to come out of Newton Abbot are a cricketer that played 7 tests for England in the early 60s (Len Coldwell – yes, I’ve never heard of him either!) and David Vine, a TV sports presenter!!! They have even claimed Muse as their own even though they aren’t even from there (a bit like Kiwis Russell Crowe, Crowded House & Pharlap that Australia considers their own!)

My guess is that most of you have never heard of him or his music, and the fact that he is playing at a small local venue on a Tuesday night in Melbourne reflects this. It is amazing what new bands and artists you can discover with social media now. I only came across him when I “Shazammed” him in the car and then got a further taste through Spotify to check him out.  In terms of genres, his music kind of flits between folk, folk-punk, sea-shanty (see later) and pub pop- rock.

Cosmo was scheduled to play between 9.30 and 10.30. I’m not overly familiar with the complete Jarvis back-catalogue, and as I’ve only just come across him, I immediately thought that for a school night, that would suit me down to the ground – short and sweet. And the bonus would be that if he wasn’t that great I wouldn’t be up all hours and getting to work on time wouldn’t be overly difficult. Cosmo and his band came on stage at 9.40 and he eventually had to be dragged off stage at 11.55!!!! Half of the 300 strong crowd left before the band came back to do their encore, and that was at 10.50! The encore lasted nearly twice as long as the support band!!! It was hilarious to see Cosmo usher his band back on stage as they tried to depart the stage on a number of occasions!

IMAG1782[1]

He looks more like he should be playing rugby than a singer-songwriter, but he obviously loves playing music, which thankfully he is quite good at, as his stage presence is quite subdued. His interaction with the crowd is even worse. He freely admitted during the show that “in between song banter just isn’t his thing!” His favourite comment was “This is the next song…” – mind blowing stuff.

He was an incessant tuner too. In between nearly every song there was a good minute of tuning. I know nothing about guitars, but for the life of me I can’t work out why this needs to be done after every song. It was very off-putting and pretty unprofessional. During one of these tuning breaks, one of the crowd grew a bit impatient and shouted out for Cosmo to “tell us a story”.  The story consisted of “Today, we drove down and I had a pepper-steak traveler pie” failing to mention where he had driven from or any other highlights.  After further questioning, during this extended tuning break, it turned out they had driven down from Canberra, but even getting that information out of him was like pulling teeth.

The tunes are very catchy and full of great lyrics that paint vivid pictures in your mind. “Let’s just grab a cup of coffee, get fair trade if you’d prefer”, “I’m a coward, a deserter, an anonymous flirter. I had me a woman but my bullshit just hurt her”, “My Fiat Punto awaits. There ain’t a lotta room but the view is great”, “Would you teach me to lick my ass if I were a dog” and a great verse from She Doesn’t Mind – “Mum and Dad, she’s an active member of Greenpeace, she’s from an educated home and she plays the trombone;
makes my heart tingle, she’s trilingual” – just brilliant. I just love a good story and a classic lyric, and it seems that Mr. Jarvis likes blast them out throughout his songs. There are a number of sing-along tunes and plenty of upbeat, punky numbers to throw yourself into, but as a storyteller I can’t help feeling you need to engage yourself to your crowd much better.

He made a comment about one track called “Train Downtown.” He mused that it was going to be a single, then it was decided that it wasn’t going to be the single because noone was ever going to play it!” On reflection, the track is about leaving a package on a train. In these terrorist times, it isn’t really surprising that it wouldn’t get airplay! He has made a name for himself with his most well known swashbuckling track that celebrates gay love on the high seas and the difficulties of being a homosexual pirate couple. A very light-hearted, quirky tale of forbidden love.

Cosmo Jarvis’ performance is not quite something you see every day, and it’s something pretty special. Expect to hear his name creeping up more and more frequently, for he is genuinely talented and his music does speak for itself. It’s a fun night, and he is pretty clear he likes to put on an honest, heart on your sleeve show. It is performers like these that are not to be missed.

MUSIC – October 6th – Me First & The Gimme Gimmes @ Corner Hotel, Melbourne

There are two phrases that fill most gig-goers with fear – “This one’s off our new album” and “This next one’s a cover!” If it’s the second one that really grinds you then a word of advice – Me First and the Gimme Gimmes may not be the band for you.

Evolution, we are lead to believe, takes (living) things and makes them better – it enhances them for future generations to enjoy a better way of life. Me First and the Gimme Gimmes are the musical epitomy of Darwinism, but unlike the Dodo and Tasmanian Tiger we will unfortunately continue to experience the likes of Barry Manilow’s Mandy and The Searcher’s Needles and Pins in their unimproved forms. Me First take those cheesy tunes that you were forced to endure by your parents and turn them into fast, raucous, bouncing punk rock anthems – the type you will be able to torture your kids with in years to come!!!!

Me First are the punk rock supergroup that have no agenda, no fixed make-up and no “original” tunes to speak of. Formed by members of notable punk bands NOFX, Foo Fighters, Lagwagon, No Use For a Name and a host of others, just for something to do in their downtime. Nearly 20 years on, eight albums and over 500 live shows later their appeal has not waned. It takes some doing to get a room full of punk rockers to sing along with fervour, to R Kelly’s powerballad I Believe I Can Fly or Lionel Richie’s Hello. They are a genuine covers band and could quite easily be accused of being a bad cruise ship or wedding reception act! In fact, they do dress accordingly to suit either of these personas….

MFGG1

They did two shows in Melbourne – both of which sold out. The only thing you can guarantee with a Me First show is that you have no idea what classic tracks they are actually going to play, but you will know the majority, and you WILL sing along, even if you have no idea what tune it will end up as. And if I am being completely honest, there were times during the set where I don’t think they really did either. During a couple of the tunes I felt that the punk rift stayed the same and all they changed was the lyrics, but as everyone was singing along and having a great time, no-one cared or batted an eyelash. It was just part of the show. The pisspoor extrusion of Stevie Wonder’s Isn’t She Lovely was comical to say the least – even the band couldn’t stop laughing at how bad it really was!!!

They opened with a rousing rendition of I Will Survive, and followed up with the 1935 smash hit, George Gershwin’s Summertime. They turned Dolly Parton’s Jolene into 100 seconds of pure boom-crash mayhem and cut John Denver’s Leaving on a Jet Plane in half. Hits from Paul Simon, Billy Joel and The Beatles all got the treatment, but it was the Yippee-Yi-Ay, Yippee-Yi-Oh chorus of Johnny Cash’s Ghost Riders in the Sky, where every man and his dog joined in at the top of their lungs and blasted it around Richmond and beyond. That was quickly followed by Somewhere Over the Rainbow (1939 – is there a theme?) which enjoyed nearly as much crowd participation. I was then half expecting the theme song from Sesame Street to come up, it was that kind of vibe…. but thankfully it didn’t.

One well received surprise (to me anyway!) was a solo ukelele, punk-rock performance of Tom Jones’ Green Green Grass of Home. I’m pretty sure I was the only one in the crowd that knew it all the way through, seeing as it was my karaoke specialty way back in the deepest, darkest pubs of the Homeland, but it totally brought the house down. They brought the show to a close with a version of Rocket Man that Elton John could have never envisioned and then crowned things off in their own inimitable style with Boyz II Men’s End of the Road.

In about 80 minutes, they blasted their way through 20 odd hits. There was never a dull moment. The crowd sung along with every tune and no-one went home disappointed. The perfect Sunday night combination of a few drinks and an upbeat sing-song in a punk rock stylee. I have to say that the sound was again top notch at the Corner Hotel, which in the past has been a bit hit or miss. It still has the famous view defying pillar in the middle of the dancefloor, but I don’t think anyone expects that to change anytime soon.

corner hotel

When you go to see a Me First and the Gimme Gimmes show, and I cannot urge you enough to, because they are great fun, there is only one thing I can guarantee you; “the next one’s a cover” – and it always will be!

MUSIC – August 16th – Bastille @ Corner Hotel, Melbourne

I love reading pointless genre descriptions like the ones I saw for Bastille. Brit Indie Synth-Poppers…… South London Pretty-Boy Indie Popsters…… I saw one report saying “they were treading that fine line between Indie-cool and Indie Complete Crossover” !!!!! Yep – I’ve got no idea what actually means either!!! Whatever genre these lads end up getting classed as, it makes no real difference as the crossover appeal is as far fetched as One Direction fans going to a Tom Jones gig!!! And that is near enough exactly who turned up to the Corner Hotel…. (not the One Direction fans….)

What I can say is that at 11pm on a wild, windy Friday night in Melbourne, the Corner Hotel is rammed full to capacity for the debut Melbourne outing of Bastille. There are young, nubile women and slender, gay men by the bucketful, as well as a handful of pissed up British & Irish backpackers paying homage to their counterparts that have already broken back in the UK. There is no doubt a catchy tune that has saturated airplay captures the Australian public’s ears like Ipads in the middle classes. Essentially, after releasing one single and one album, they sold out one of Australia’s iconic music venues – no mean feat – especially for a British band.

There were some singalong moments. There was some bouncing moments. There were some Nik Kershaw style electro-drum moments and there were some other join in on the drums moments, with band members banging out rhythms on skins strategically placed over the stage. You’ve gotta love a random percussion solo! The band is a tight outfit – they are obviously well schooled musicians, and they do produce a full sound, which, for a four piece is quite impressive. They also show their versatility, regularly switching between instruments, between themselves. Strangely enough (for me anyway), the one track that really stood out was a ballad called Overjoyed. The crowd sang along, but the band really nailed it too. It has a great blend of haunting melodies over solitary keys, with multiple synths and that electro snare marching beat – look it up and you’ll eventually get what I’m trying to say, As the band stood together as a foursome at the front of the stage, it was as if they were ready to stand up against the Zulus at Rorke’s Drift (other stand-alone battles are available).

Bastille-31

It’s 2013 and Australia still hasn’t fully embraced modern technology. When the Gavin Henson lookalike (think it is the hair more than anything), lead singer Dan Smith, decided to venture into the crowd during their rendition of Flaws – it proved to be a little more difficult than he probably first thought.

It was like watching those news reports when there’s floods happening, with a relay line of people moving sandbags from one person to the next, with that microphone wire!!! One day, in the not distant future, I might see a gig down here with wireless mics, that let singers move about freely, be what they want to be and do what they want to do!!!! I do have to ask though why Mr. Smith thought he had to put on a hoody, especially to go into the crowd. The Aussies aren’t that bad – they’ve got running water and everything nowadays…. (just no wireless mics!!!)

Fair credit to Bastille though, they do put on a decent show. Mr. Smith has a good, solid set of pipes – and is consistent throughout! However, they have only been around 5 minutes and it showed in a set that lasted just UNDER an hour. And that had a couple of covers thrown in and an inevitable encore It kind of told you that they are at the beginning of their musical journey, but it looked and sounded that they have invested in people that know what they are doing in terms of delivering a performance. The sound was excellent and coupled with the blazing lights and strobes, they are no doubt set for bigger and better things down the line. The one criticism I do have is, in that whatever genre they end up occupying, there is all too much familiarity across all of their tracks. You just get that “samey” feel no matter what songs they are doing.

In this respect, the fact they throw in genre defying covers of City High’s, What Would You Do, as well as a hybrid concoction 90s dance classics, Snap’s Rhythm is a Dancer and Corona’s Rhythm of the Night, highlights their need to become that little bit different and offer something that is outside of what their punters expect. That live “point of difference” is what could really push Bastille into a must see event.

Bastille 1

Considering they are on the brink of quite a lucrative sojourn in the music industry, they are quite understated. They will be back and playing much, much bigger venues along the way. Whether they stay understated, humble and down to earth is another question. They seem quite reasonable lads, but so did Bono, pre Live Aid!!!!

Due to the unbelievable amounts of airplay of the poppy, radio friendly Pompeii, it would be a shame not to get a clip of them doing it live. Apologies for the quality, but the lights play havoc with my phone.

Number of Events

TBC

Number of Sports

TBC

Gigs (Bands: Headlines + Support)

TBC

MUSIC – June 28th/July 5th – Manic Street Preachers – Lions Tour, Melbourne/Sydney

2 gigs; 1 set list; 8,000 Brits; a cross section of rugby royalty; all of 10 Aussies and a Kiwi; numerous LIONS, LIONS, LIONS chants; 2 Welsh Flags on stage (as well as 2 weird pink trees); 1 very special guest appearance and true to form, no encores.

It’s a god given right for a band of the magnitude of the Manic Street Preachers to get paid to come and watch the last two tests of the British & Irish Lions tour. They also got to treat the Lions fans to two “Greatest Hits” gigs. There are few surprises in the jam packed 90 minute sets, full of the Manics best and well known tracks.

As soon as lead singer James Dean Bradfield opens his mouth, you know that he is on form. If the man was an American, he would have been one the industry’s greatest rock and roll voices. Silky smooth, yet powerful and strong (yes I do have a man crush on JDB – always have and and always will!) yet the control and ease that the vocals are delivered have stood him in good stead ever since the band’s raw explosion onto the punk rock scene way back in 1991.

Nicky Wire, was looking far less demure than his normal exuberant on-stage self; minus his usual dress or frilly mini skirt, and wearing significantly less make-up than normal, but still lit up the stage. Wire still doesn’t say much, which kind of adds to this on-stage persona that remains mysterious and  just out of reach.

Manics JDB Wire

The sound at both gigs was pitch perfect, which is a credit to the crew and the professionalism and experience of the band. I had reservations about the quality at both venues, but I was blown away by the clarity and acoustics, which to be completely honest is somewhat lacking in Australian venues. JDB regularly brought the crowd together, chatting away, re-iterating the real reason why they were here – for the Lions. They even changed the lyrics of Send Away The Tigers to Send Away The Lions as an homage to the tourists.

All four home nations were widely represented amongst the crowds and no doubt they were tempted to throw in some rugby songs to get the punters involved, but it would have taken ages and taken away from the occasion AND there was no way on Earth that the Celts (including the band) were going to join in with anything that involved Sweet Chariots…..

The set got off to a lively start, as they opened with possibly their most loved track – Motorcycle Emptiness. Start as you mean to go on I guess and it certainly got the blood pumping and set the bar very high. The sweet pop rock of Your Love Alone was up next, minus any female vocal, which JDB skewed enough to pass off as Nina Pearsson – mind you I’d had a few by then, so it could well have been anyone really! The hits kept coming, although the inclusion of the rather pedestrian Ocean Spray was a surprise. Australia was roared out and they rollocked their way through more classics. There was manna for both the die-hard fan and the show junkies. Very few Manics songs disappoint the male 25-45 demographic and tonight’s feast was no different.

A Design For Life was left for the crowd to sing the first verse in what proved to be the highlight with the crowd.

In a surprise to everyone, JDB introduces a one-off band member, Wales and British & Irish Lions player, “The Flying Doctor” Jamie Roberts. Roberts, possibly more nervous about performing in front of 4,000 here than the normal 70,000+ at the Millenium Stadium, accompanies the band on You Love Us and looked happier than the proverbial fox in the henhouse. Sometimes being a Welsh rugby player has its added benefits….

One of the first Manics tracks that made me take notice of the band was Motown Junk. The guitar rifts and its anthemic punk nature struck a chord with me at the time. I don’t think I even realised they were Welsh then, but when I discovered that they hailed from only 15 miles away from where I was born and bred, the 22 year love affair was borne. I still love this track – it’s a great scream out loud, air guitar worthy blast.

The atmosphere of the two gigs was something I’ve not experienced for a long time. The tracks were decent sing-a-longs for the vast majority in attendance, and JDB’s acoustic set brought everyone together, arms aloft pumping like a good old 70s disco. The punters really got involved. They contributed when they were asked and more often than not, when they weren’t. The rockers from the Gwent Valleys did not disappoint. They have an overwhelming stage presence that is so simple yet so engaging and yet it is not in their nature, despite the showmanship from Mr. Wire, to be flashy or over the top. They haven’t always let their music do the talking, but moreso now it’s what it’s all about. They enjoy what they do, and goddamn they do it well.

At the end of the Melbourne gig, I honestly think JDB toyed with the idea of breaking a 23 year tradition of the band not doing encores. He even teased the crowd by mentioning this fact and came back to the microphone to join in with the singing crowd before exiting. I’m glad he stuck by his principles and left the stage gracefully. In Sydney, it was more of a “exit stage left”….

Will they come back to Australia? Only time will tell, the next Lions tour is 2017 in New Zealand, don’t bet against them doing a few sideshows in Australia to compliment a couple of weeks in New Zealand…… I did remark after the Melbourne gig that I have added a bucket list item of seeing the Manics perform in Wales. I have no doubt it would be an emotional homecoming (for all of us!). CYMRU AM BYTH!

SET LIST:

  1. Motorcycle Emptiness
  2. Your Love Alone (is not enough)
  3. You Stole the Sun from My Heart
  4. Ocean Spray
  5. Australia
  6. Suicide is Painless (Theme from M*A*S*H)
  7. Its Not War (Just the end of Love)
  8. La Tristesse Durera
  9. Revol
  10. Everything Must Go
  11. Send Away the Lions (was Tigers!!!)
  12. A Design for Life
  13. James Dean Bradfield doing solo acoustic – Everlasting
  14. JDB solo acoustic – Can’t Take My Eyes Off You (Da Da, Da Da Da Da…)
  15. You Love Us
  16. Little Baby Nothing
  17. Tsunami
  18. Motown Junk
  19. If You Tolerate This (Your Children Will Be Next)
Number of Events

TBC

Number of Sports

TBC

Gigs (Bands: Headlines + Support)

TBC

MUSIC – May 14th – Gaslight Anthem @ The Palace

As you may have guessed by now, I love my music a bit harder and edgier than your average “middle-of-the-roader”. The Gaslight Anthem are perhaps not quite as raw and “punk rock” as they used to be, but all the same, they put on a solidly brilliant rock show. They boast the classic rock 5 piece set-up – 4 guitars and a drummer, and their heavy rift driven tunes are timeless!

IMAG0689

They had to do 2 gigs in Melbourne due to their recent burgeoning popularity. The latest single has moved them from the alternative and cult status into mainstream rock radio airplay – and why not? It’s a very popular genre you know! Muchly associated with being “heavier versions of Bruce Springsteen”, straight from the same New Jersey upbringing, Gaslight Anthem continue to push roots rock rifts into the chasm left by The Boss’ natural evolution into retirement. There also seems to be a touch of The Mighty Mighty Bosstones in their sound, which is probably why I’m totally beguiled by their catchy hooks.

The Palace is filled by hipster punks and rock chicks, totally not your typically punk rocker clientelle. I was half expecting to see a Journey or Toto T-shirt in amongst the Hot Water Music and Offspring ones to be honest. But the crowd is peripheral to the show itself. I love the fact that despite the fact there are four guitarists in the band, the total number of guitars used during the gig was….. wait for it…… four!!!! Awesomely, there were no guitar changes throughout. Who needs roadies????? It does drive me insane seeing bands constantly change guitars, especially when there is no noticeable difference in sound….

The Gaslight Anthem members are an interesting mix of personalities. I have seen them a few time now and from the outside looking in, here’s my perception of the lads:

gaslight anthem band

LEAD SINGER

Definitely the All-American hero. Boyish good looks. Confident frontman with the sexy, gravelly voice, but with the ability to get all sentimental and poetic. Keeps in great shape, but smokes and drinks like a fish. Is probably the life of the party and has a trail of women around him at any get together. Sees it as HIS band, writes all the songs, does all the media commitments and will no doubt do a series of solo, acoustic shows down the line. Drinks Budweiser.

BASS PLAYER

The band’s gay icon. Muscles, tight white t-shirt, chains around the neck, denim waistcoat, tattoos and sculptured hair. Probably unnaturally obsessive about his hair and looks. Pouts and gurns quite a bit during the show and tries a bit too hard for a quirky stage presence to try to create some mystery, when there probably is none. Likes his equipment to be just right and everything will have it’s own place – loves a wine after the show.

RHYTHM GUITAR

Quiet type that used to tag along with the cool kids. Stands at the back of the stage a fair bit making faces at the drummer. Likes football instead of American sports just to be a bit different. Has a retro Brit rock obsession with Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin as early influences. More than likely quite a sensible chap that loves a beer but every now and again goes a bit wild by having a whiskey binge!

LEAD GUITAR

Total recluse that was the “weird kid” in school. Learnt to play the guitar very early on but was into Anthrax, Anvil and Metallica before it was vaguely cool or rebellious to do so. On stage, keeps himself to himself and out of the limelight. Hangs out next to the amp just to make sure its loud enough. Wears a black hoodie in the middle of summer, and always hi-top basketball shoes. Drinks Jack Daniels, only, even for breakfast!

DRUMMER

Wants to be Dave Grohl and has grown his hair long for that look. Bangs the skins as hard as he can at all opportunity. No doubt has toyed with a dodgy mo’ at some stage too. Definitely loves being in the band as he gets to pick up chicks. Hates rehearsal, but loves playing live and the touring lifestyle. Has a ball hanging out with other bands at gigs and festivals and enjoys the rider of his as well as all the other bands. Was the cool kid in school that never wanted to go to university as he was always going to be a rock star. Drinks absolutely anything with alcohol in it!

I have absolutely no idea if any of the above is accurate or not – in fact I very much doubt if any of it is. I’m sure they are all great fun and truly professional with how they go about performing – just like every other band!!!!!

A straight shooting 90 minute set was blasted out. They did a lot of their big tunes very early on, but maintained the atmosphere and momentum throughout. They are a very no-nonsense band and I don’t think banter is quite their forte – especially with a pissed up Aussie crowd!!!! The band don’t move or thrash about too much on stage but their intensity and passion is there for all to see. At the end of the set, they take an extended break before returning for the encore and it finishes all too soon. I had a feeling of wanting just a bit more, but on the whole I think everyone got their money’s worth. A highlight from the show for me:

The loud positive response from the crowd for The ’59 sound, 45 and American Slang are great indictments of the popularity of the band in Australia, the home of classic pub rock. The vocals of lead singer Brian Fallon are perfectly suited for their style. The band are tight, and their enthusiasm for their music is infectious. If they continue to make good old fashioned rock records and put on good old fashioned rock shows, their legend can only grow – rock music will never go out of fashion! (Hopefully!)

I was a touch confused/intrigued as to why they had a Watford and Crystal Palace scarf hanging off one of the amps? I was probably the only one that noticed though!

Number of Events

TBC

Number of Sports

TBC

Gigs (Bands: Headlines + Support)

TBC

MUSIC (Ska Time) – April 27th – Area 7 @ The Espy

The Espy is Melbourne’s iconic music pub. Bands play 5-6 nights a week and on Fridays and Saturdays it is not uncommon to have all 3 band rooms rocking all night long. Tonight is no different.

Area 7 have been knocking around the Australian music scene for well over 20 years now. However, they are genuinely seen as the archetypal one hit wonder to the majority of locals, and that was in essence due to a novelty record that has had a resounding resonance within the Australian working classes.

The ska scene in Australia seems to have some momentum right now. Ska music never seems to go away, and the huge number of British males of over 35 across the country will ensure that it never will. Old school 2-tone outfits continue to tour and sell out, as we have seen with The Specials, Madness, The Selecter and Bad Manners.

Here’s one for the economists and the many elasticity of demand theories. I saw Area 7 play at the Corner Hotel not so long ago. The tickets were $ 35 and they near enough sold out – well over 750 tickets. Tonight they played for free at one of Melbourne’s most iconic music venues and there was less than 200 people there. Of course there are many reasons why this occurs but it continues to irritate me that the public still don’t support live music, especially when you have bands playing for nothing and performing just for the hell of it.

AREA 7 are generally a 7 piece, hence the name!!! For as long as I’ve been in Melbourne they have always been 8 strong. One time I even saw them as a 9 piece with extended 4 man horn section. Horns are king as far as I am concerned with live music, so the more the better.

IMAG1043

The set list hasn’t changed too much either over the years. Unfortunately there’s not been much new material for a long long time now, which kind of explains why. But they have all have fun on stage and more importantly, so do the crowd. After diverting themselves off the proposed setlist (many times), lead singer Stevo, reverts to asking the crowd what they want to hear instead. I promoted an Area 7 gig in Brisbane quite a long time ago, and every time I see Stevo now, whether it be at Area 7 or other gigs, he always makes time to say hello and ask how I’m doing – just a quality individual. It was no different tonight either!

The set list descends into chaos as the night continues.Althought the set is quite short tonight for some reason (I guess because it’s free!) and they finish off with their cover of The Cure’s Boys Don’t Cry and then their best track Bitter Words rolled into AC/DC’s Long Way to the Top.

The support band is releasing their new album. Between the Wars are a band that kind of live in the Celtic Punk genre. Complete with a female violinist and a huge tall bloke playing a toy ukulele, I can honestly say that the eclectism of the performance is truly unique. The lead singer is short in stature, but giant in voice and passion. He also plays a decent steel guitar which again adds to the distinctive sound of the band.

IMAG1031

They finish with their best number too, The Tail of the Rats, which I really like. I found a live version on youtube, but not from this gig, but it shows the dynamic of the band and the track.

There were 12 bands on at the Espy that night. I saw all 6 of the early performers, of which only one could I genuinely bare listening to. After Area 7 finished I managed to catch the last 15 minutes of Massive. – a hard rock act with a mini-Meatloaf as lead singer – and I mean mini – the guy is 5ft 3!!! They drew quite a crowd to the Espy, which is quite surprising as I hadn’t heard of them before now. In the final throws of the set, mini-Meatloaf decided to climb the bar in all readiness to jump onto the dancefloor. He hadn’t noticed the ceiling fan literally 3 feet from his head and I was expecting the worst. It is lucky Mini-Meatloaf is as vertically challenged as he is, as he literally came within 2 inches of decapitation by ceiling fan. Bugger!

massive band

All in all quite a decent night out – what gig night isn’t? (oh…. too many stories that could go here!)

Number of Events

TBC

Number of Sports

TBC

Gigs (Bands: Headlines + Support)

TBC

%d bloggers like this: