February 13, 2007

Muse (GIG REVIEW)

Music front cover
Title:
Muse, Black Holes & Revelations tour
Rating:
5 out of 5 stars

Venue: Newcastle Metro Arena 

Date: 19.11.06

Without a doubt the best gig i've ever been to. My Ex, Gay Claire, bum fluff-sporting lanky sexy beast (Jeffers) and I hit Newcastle Metro radio arena to see Muse last (sunday) night. With a queue that ran half way round the external perimiter of the building 15 mins before door opened, me stood in the bitingly cold wind and nasty spitting rain of durham, freezing our ASSES off. Still, due to a high of wine, Muse and lucozade tablets we cared little while we moved frustratingly slowly towards the doors.

Inside, as we were in the first few hundred of people, it was relatively empty. While Jeffers and I got excited when we discovered that later next month the Winter Wedding Show will be coming to the radio arena, the girls took in the sight of their very first arena.

Skipping through to after we had got our spots, standing dead centre about 5 rows from the front of the stage, I was oversome with occasional thoughts of "In a couple of hours Matt Bellamy is going to be standing right on this stage in front of me". Having only seen them from a greater distance before, this was an exciting prospect for me.

The support band, the Noisettes, were ok. Nothing particularly stood out, and I was trying not to be irritated by the lead vocalist's constant screaming and shouting and general frolicking about the stage. (picking up the mic stand and dropping it is NOT cool. ever.)

in the ensuing gap, Jeffers and I headed over to the bar, and on our return fought our way through the crowd - a difficult feat with some Geordie wankers attempting to block our path at every opportunity - to with a frustratingly-close metre of the girls. Managing to feel just about content with being at least able to see my (then) girlfriend, I settled into my crowded and confined spot and psyched myself up for the moment everyone in that arena had been waiting for. The lights went down, the curtain dropped, and a spectacular backdrop of screens, stars and lights was revealed. As the synth arpeggios of Take A Bow began to ring out over the arena in waves of excitement almost as visible as the light displays on stage, a spotlight picked up Bellamy as he stalked on stage looking Oh So Very Sexy (as i remarked to the group over a drink in a bar after the gig, if there was one man in the world I'd sleep with, it would be him. Come on, you would, wouldn't you).

There was an almost audible gasp as the mysterious looking odd-shaped display on the left of the stage began to rise, revealing the beaming face and beautiful kit of drummer Dominic Howard. The light show built up as Bellamy's voice powered over the crowd, filling every corner of the arena. The cobwebs were surely blown out last night. Chris Wolstenholme, with his nodding head and precision fingers, brought in that progressively more powerful baseline, with shadowed "fourth member" Morgan at the decks, bringing in that signature high-pitched whine, leading into a blaze of light as Bellamy struck the first chord on that beautiful guitar of his. The crowd went crazy, and i know i wasn't the only one totally awestruck as i gazed upon what can only be described as Gods (and thats strong words from an atheist).

The band played hit after hit after hit, leaving almost no gap. The only calmer songs were Invinvible and Forced In, giving the crowd a much-needed breather from jumping around like madmen (and women). It seemed like every single person standing was involved in that mosh, to the poor people in seats it must have looked like one huge pulsating animal, moving in unison to the beat of the veritable audio orgy coming from the arena's PA system. It was like sex for the ears.

Set list:

Take a Bow
Hysteria
New Born
Butterflies & Hurricanes
Assassin (with outro)
Map of the problematique
Starlight
Invincible
Forced In (leading in to...)
Time is Running Out
Supermassive Black Hole
Plug In Baby
Stockholm Syndrome

**Encore**
Apocalypse Please
Bliss

**Encore**
Hoodoo
Knights of Cydonia

Kights of Cydonia was officially the best closing song ever.


Various – A Brokedown Melody (ALBUM REVIEW)

Music front cover
Title:
A Brokedown Melody
Rating:
4 out of 5 stars

Everyone’s favourite laid-back guitarist Jack Johnson is back with another surf film and its soundtrack from Woodshed Films, featuring three of his own tracks and contributions from various other contemporary low-fi artists.

A Brokedown Melody has the normal chilled vibe that we have come to expect from his surf soundtracks, but mixes in some fresher songs amongst the blend of acoustic guitar melodies, including Know How from Norwegian acoustic chillout favourites Kings of Convenience and Goodbye, a simple song comprising only of Eddie Vedder (of Pearl Jam fame) and a ukulele.

This soundtrack has a lot of beautiful sounds, with influences from all over the world, from Hawaii to Jamaica. If you’re a fan of Mr Johnson and beach-barbeque background music, then you’re sure to love this album.


The Magic Numbers (GIG REVIEW)

Title:
Magic Numbers gig review
Rating:
4 out of 5 stars

Venue: Carling Academy, Birmingham

Date: 30.11.06

Walking into a half-empty venue an hour after doors, with indie band GoodBooks just starting their support set, I was prepared for a mildly entertaining night. So imagine my surprise when I realised that not only was the support band decent, but the crowd was too, dancing away to the kids on the stage

When lead vocalist Romeo came out onto the stage with the band, aside from the average hairiness in the room increasing suddenly there wasn’t actually much of a crowd reaction, but as soon as they started to play it was like being grabbed into an almost sickeningly happy, bouncy place.

With beautiful melodies and carefully yet effortlessly sung harmonies, they were truly a pleasure to watch. Seamlessly switching to more upbeat songs, they captured an energy which was pure brilliance, culminating in the ever-popular Love Me Like You. The crowd got into it and the band clearly enjoyed themselves. It was a real treat to go and see some actual musicians for a change, and I whole-heartedly recommend them to anyone!


Tracey Thorn – Out of the Woods (ALBUM)

Music front cover
Title:
Out Of The Woods
Artist:
ASIN:
B000KJTCS2
Rating:
4 out of 5 stars

It’s been nearly 25 years since her last solo album, but this March Tracey Thorn of Everything but the Girl fame (Missing, I Don’t Want to Talk About It), makes a welcome return with Out of the Woods. Five years after the last EBTG release, it’s a pleasure to hear Thorn’s soft, distinctive vocals once again.

           The EBTG electric dance-pop song style is back, but featuring some fresh new twists, such as the soft-core house Grand Canyon, the slow power ballad At Piccadilly Station I Sat Down And Wept and disco closer Raise the Roof.

           Although Thorn plays around with plenty of new sounds, one can’t help but hear other influences in her vocals – in particular there’s a definite Imogen Heap feel about the whole album, but sounding a little like Heap’s creative genius is hardly a bad thing.

This album will please Thorn and EBTG fans alike, and if you like a balance between soft, chilled sounds and electric dance beats with beautiful vocals topping the whole thing off, then Out of the Woods is well worth your time and money.


Damien Rice – 9 (ALBUM)

Music front cover
Title:
9
Artist:
Damien Rice
ASIN:
B000IY03ZA
Rating:
4 out of 5 stars

Rice reminds us why we fell for him in the first place, with more of his winning formula.

Some may call it unoriginal – I know I did once-upon-a-time, but 3 years after the success story that was O, Rice does it again with a well produced and often minimalist second album.

Rice had a challenge on his hands when trying to follow-up O classics such as Blower’s Daughter and Cannonball, but he pulls it off with the album’s centre-piece Dogs. The powerful Rootless Trees follows it, which never ceases to shock with its explicit chorus of “Fuck you/fuck you/fuck you”, a sharp contrast to the delicacy we’ve come to associate with his song writing.

Telltale signs of outside influences can sometimes be heard, most noticeably with the Dylan-esque Coconut Skins, and Me, My Yoke & I ’s slight White Stripes edge. Elephant features one of his most impressive vocal performances yet, and builds beautifully to a powerful and emotional finish. It is a shame that Lisa Hannigan’s vocals aren’t so prominent this time, but she takes the role of lead vocalist in 9 Crimes comfortably within her stride. The last few tracks slip down into softer tones and melodies, with Rice’s trademark cello harmonies in the background, drawing the album to a gentle close. Sleep Don’t Weep, the final track, puts the album to bed almost like a lullaby.

If O was a journey through music and emotion, then 9 reaches out and brings us back home again. It even comes with an impressive 21 minutes of single-tone noise at the end of the album, which I have fondly termed ‘reflection time’, but suspect it may just be to bump the album run-time up a tad. An astonishingly good second album, and a definite must-have for every Damien Rice fan.


Snow Patrol (GIG REVIEW)

Title:
Snow Patrol gig review
Rating:
3 out of 5 stars

Venue: Birmingham NIA

Date: 28.11.06

Call me old-fashioned, but when I go to see a band I’m expecting to hear some live music. Unfortunately, Snow Patrol seemed to think that having vocalist, Gary Lightbody, sing over what was mostly a backing track would appease the largest crowd they have ever played to.

Playing their biggest indoor show to date at the NIA, the band well and truly missed the mark with what could’ve easily been one of the best shows of the year, and definitely in their music careers. An unusually quiet crowd for a Birmingham gig looked on in mild amusement – and in some cases I noticed, distinctive boredom - as even fan favourites Spitting Games and Chocolate failed to impress.

The highlight of the set was, predictably, Chasing Cars – although this was more due to the spine-tingling sensation of nearly 13,000 people all singing along to the same song, rather than what was little more than the album being played over the arena PA. In the penultimate song before the encore, Run, they finally seemed to start playing properly, with an immediate reaction from the crowd, but it was too little too late for them to redeem themselves. The people filing out of the arena talked in hushed voices, and I know I was not the only disappointed fan that night. One can only hope that it was due to inexperience and a poor sound crew, and that the next time Snow Patrol plays Birmingham they’ll be singing an entirely different song.


Freemasons – Shakedown (ALBUM)

Music front cover
Title:
Shakedown
Artist:
Freemasons
ASIN:
B000JJSKNG
Rating:
3 out of 5 stars

If, like me, your pre- union night routine is to whack on Insomnia or some originally titled “Like, the Best Dance Choones in the World, Like, Ever! Volume 97”, open up a can or two whilst picking out what you believe to be the hottest outfit from your wardrobe and dance around your room wildly (at least until somebody walks past your wide-open door and you suddenly become oh-so-cool and nonchalant), then you will love the Freemasons’ new release.

           Featuring all those tunes that make you resort to listening to Radio 1 on a Friday night, but in one convenient and non-stop barrage of commercial dance beats and samples from classic 70s songs, Shakedown manages to keep up an impressive 2 discs of interesting and seamlessly mixed euro-pop club remixes. Highlights include the remix of Amanda Wilson’s Love On My Mind, Luther Vandross’ Shine, Herd & Fitz’s I Just Can’t Get Enough and the fantastic Pacific which features 808 State’s classic saxophone sample.

           For any hardcore amongst you, disc 1 also features full-length encoded versions of 5 tracks for all your DJ needs. All in all, if you fit the criteria above, and you have an inexplicable love of glow sticks, then I cannot recommend Shakedown enough. I sat down expecting to be tortured, but am instead hooked on those cheesy dance beats. Put your hands up for the Freemasons, we love this album!


The Flaming Lips – It Overtakes Me (EP)

Music front cover
Title:
It Overtakes Me (4 Song EP)
Artist:
The Flaming Lips
ASIN:
B000K15UWW
Rating:
3 out of 5 stars

When I spotted The Flaming Lips in the pile of CD’s that cluttered the desk in the Boar office, I jumped to rescue it from the unworthy company of Wolfmother and the Divine Comedy. The American band is renowned for their funky pop/dance beats and stupidly long schizophrenic song titles.

It Overtakes Me is a 4 song EP, including the title track, one of its extended sections I’m Afraid of Dying…Aren’t You?, Free Radicals (the Bird and the Bee Mix), and Time Travel?? Yes!! . The shortened version of It Overtakes Me makes it more accessible, with the separate extended section flowing seamlessly on from it. The remix of Free Radicals by Greg Kurstin (of The Bird and the Bee), is irresistibly sexy, with so many subtle sounds and a fat synthesised bass line that almost melts in your mouth, making it better than the original in my opinion.

Time Travel?? Yes!! featuring vocals by Steve Burns is the usual Lips affair but with a slightly darker edge to it than the general sound on their album, At War With The Mystics.

Warning: Hardcore fans only – if not, buy the album.


Paul Weller – Wild Blue Yonder (SINGLE)

Music front cover
Title:
Wild Blue Yonder
Rating:
3 out of 5 stars

Take one ageing ex-front man, add splashes of cheesy vocal harmonies, and a few drops of unoriginality and you get something like Paul Weller’s new stand-alone single, Wild Blue Yonder, but on a sunny afternoon its beautiful music ‘to procrastinate by’. Bonus!


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