Posts Tagged ‘gigs’

Gig Review: Leeds Lights 6th Nov 2008

Sunday, November 16th, 2008

I’ve noticed that a lot of comics blogs include gig reviews. What, comics not cool enough for ya? So in the best spirit of copying everyone else, here I go.

Every year my wife suggests we go and see the Christmas lights in Leeds being turned on, and every year it’s exactly the same. Some schmucks from local radio introduce a pop group you’ve never heard of, someone that used to be in a pop group you have heard of, someone who was on The X Factor the previous year, Santa, the Lord Mayor (why are we expected to cheer that guy?), and then someone else from The X Factor. However, in these times of crunch being credited, you can’t really complain because it’s free.

Over the last few years I’ve seen more rubbish pop groups than I can remember. These include, but are not limited to Rachel Stevens, McFly, four fifths of Girls Aloud, Darius Danesh and Cannibal Corpse. That last one might not actually be true. Last year one time X Factor winner Shayne Ward was being helicoptored in from Manchester (take that, environment!) but was running late, so his “set” ended up being shorter than Chico’s. Oh the indignity! Dick and Dom were a laugh though, with their constant chanting of “Shayne Loves Dick!”.

Usually “Santa” appears and does a bit of business with Rudolf, or elves or some such. Santa appears to be a bit of an egomaniac, though. His party piece is his rendition of Santa Claus Is Coming To… LEEDS! I see what you’ve done there to make it a bit more unique, but talking about yourself in the third person? That’s not cool man. I dunno, but seeing some guy (spoiler alert: he’s not the real Santa) leering into the camera saying “I know when you are sleeping!” is a little unsettling. At least this year he didn’t do I Believe which is always a rather excrutiating and this is me moment.

The eyes of a killer

Same Difference: Cute, perky and unthreatening. And her slightly creepy brother.

 

Santa was joined this year by X Factor (I’m getting sick of typing that) runners up Same Difference. Saying anything bad about these two would be like kicking a puppy, possibly while shooting fish in a barrel, so I shall leave it, except to note that they did a cover of Starship’s “classic” Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now.

Starship were a bit weird, weren’t they? Originally Jefferson Airplane, one of the most radical psychedelic acts of the 60s, they morphed into Jefferson Starship (sci-fi credentials cemented by an appearance in the infamous crapfest The Star Wars Holiday Special), and then simply Starship. I still can’t get my head around the fact that the band that sang “I’d rather have my country die for me” ended up soundtracking Mannequin. Let’s be honest, Mannequin is terrible. I can just about accept the idea of a shop dummy coming to life as Samantha from Sex and the City (it was the eighties, after all), but don’t expect me to care about the cutthroat world of professional window dressers.

The evening was rounded off by Simon Webbe out of Blue (think about that: he’s a quarter as good as Blue!), Alesha out of Mis-Teeq, and Leon Jackson, who resembles a cleaned up, but terrified Pete Doherty. Leon may have won The X Factor, but it has to be said, he really isn’t cut out for a career as a performer.

Oh well, roll on next year. Steve Brookstein, Matt from Busted and someone from Atomic Kitten. Possibly.

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Gig Review: Marillion, Leeds Met 13 Nov 2008

Sunday, November 16th, 2008

I don’t go to a lot of gigs these days, for a number of reasons. The ever present credit crunch notwithstanding, it’s mostly the fact that I generally hate people. However I do always go to see Marillion when they’re on tour. It’s a very blokey thing to do, follow a particular band through thick and thin. In Chuck Klosterman’s excellent Fargo Rock City he talks about the fact that he buys every Motley Crue album even though he knows, these days at least, they’ll invariably be rubbish. It’s the same impulse that drives men to support crap football teams I suppose. Marillion’s fans are so devoted that they actually pay for the albums before the things are recorded.

That’s not to say I’m joylessly following a hopeless band, as Marillion have been going through a particularly rich creative spell for a number of years now, and the new album Happiness Is The Road is superb, melodic, mature and inventive. Not sexy, fashionable terms I’ll grant you, but it’s a bunch of guys who have been playing music since the late 70s, not some bunch of 19 year old haircuts from East Twattington.

Weirdly enough though, back when he first joined the band Q Magazine described vocalist Steve Hogarth as a “leather jacketed sex bomb”, and mentioned his “shaggy dreamboat good looks”. He’s a bit more grizzled these days. In fact he seems like a weird eccentric little dude who should be running a second hand shop in a sitcom with limited appeal on BBC2. Mind you, I’m sure he makes women of a certain age wet.

I’ve actually lost track of the amount of times I’ve seen Marillion live now, and with their best songs, not to mention their musical abilities they don’t have any problems putting on a great show.

Marillion, honest

Some brilliant photography by me

They could do with varying their setlist a bit though. They’ve been playing emotional, stirring versions of songs like The Great Escape and Afraid of Sunlight for so long that they could do it in their sleep, but I would rather they give those songs a rest and play something a little more surprising. The highlight for me was The Invisible Man from 2004’s Marbles album, a performance so dramatic and atmospheric that I think my mouth was hanging open like a particularly stupid whale shark for the duration.

Whatever. The probelm with writing about stuff you genuinely like is that you tend to come off sounding like a bit of a dickhead. It’s far easier (and more fun) to slag stuff off, or be sarcastic. And so to Razorlight.

One suspects that if the record company support dried up, Johnny Borrell’s boys wouldn’t be able to rely on a fanbase as committed as Marillion’s. They’d have to get proper jobs. Professional gits, probably.

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Gig Review: Extreme + Hot Leg, Leeds Academy 14 Nov 2008

Tuesday, November 18th, 2008

As someone who loved The Darkness, I was made up at the chance to see Justin Hawkins’ new band Hot Leg. He has teamed up with a bloke from a band called Anchorhead (who play what they describe as “Darth Metal“, which it would appear is what I’ve been waiting to hear my whole life), to continue the legacy of riffs, awesome guitar solos and high pitched vocals. Sentimentally, it made me happy to see Justin looking and sounding so good, not to mention having such a good time, seeing as he’d been a bit fucked up for a few years. I can’t wait to see them again once their album is out, as I had only heard two of their songs previously (including Trojan Guitar, the title of which should let you know the sort of thing you’re in for.)

 

We Are Hot Leg

We Are Hot Leg

 

There aren’t many bands that had the rug pulled out from beneath them as spectacularly as Extreme. After the massive one-two punch of the throbbing cock rock Get The Funk Out and the swoonsome romantic ballad More Than Words in 1990, the world was at their feet (although I always preferred the acoustic 12 string stompalong Hole Hearted). They then went ahead with their Big Statement, which, as they had clearly grown up not only in thrall to the tight trousered histrionics of Van Halen and Kiss, but also the meticulously constructed fantasies of the likes of Queen and Yes, resulted in a triple (!) concept album. However, it was now 1992 and the public no longer had time for either raucous metal anthems or twenty minute orchestrally augmented song suites. Grunge had arrived.

This led the band to follow up with a raw sounding album full of angry, bitter songs, such as No Respect, Cynical Fuck and Hip Today (“You’ll be gone tomorrow” etc etc). And then they split up.

But they’re back back back baby, with a new album (the implausibly named Saudades De Rock) and tour, and good grief they’re pretty much the same as when I saw them back in ’90. Gary Cherone and Nuno Bettencourt are practically unchanged, Cherone resembling an Easter Island moai, and Bettencourt being possibly the most ridiculously beautiful man I’ve ever seen. Surely being that talented should be enough, and some universal justice would kick in and make him look like a guitar toting Joseph Merrick, but no. How utterly unfair.

I had initially been taken aback that the tickets were a credit crunch baiting thirty quid, a bit cheeky for a band that have been absent for so many years, but my god, they gave it their all, and it was worth every penny. I think the rest of the audience were in agreement with me (for once), considering how mental they were going. Usually these nostalgic shows tend to be a little subdued, but the band and the audience acted as if the early 90s had never ended. The new songs were pretty good too,?my only grumble being that they didn’t play the hilarious King of the Ladies. I even sang along with More Than Words. Well, you have to, don’t you?

 

Nuno. And some other blokes

Nuno. And some other blokes

 

Now, when are Living Colour coming back?

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Gig Review: Thoughtbubble Festival, Savile Hall Leeds, 15 Nov 2008

Wednesday, November 19th, 2008

OK I guess it’s not technically a gig, but if we wanted to be conceited and act like we were making a personal appearance, that is exactly what you’d class it as.

I had no idea that Savile Hall was named after Jim’ll. I suppose he’s considered to be the greatest living?leodiensian, but what about Andrew Eldritch? Arthur Brown? Andi Watson? Mel B? Science off of Big Brother? These things are far too arbitrary if you ask me.

We were, as I had previously noted, a man down during this convention. Andrew was actually at a wedding, but for some reason, his stuff just flew off the table. People couldn’t get enough of Chimpanzee Democracy, so he should really make an effort to publicise it. I guess that’s too “obvious”. Maybe if I don’t show up to the next con, it’ll be my stuff that sells like hot, shitty cakes. I can dream.

Something else I can’t believe is that even though there were Stormtroopers, Imperial Officers, various superheroes and manga characters, lots of girls with pink hair and a slightly chunky Tusken Raider, the only photograph I managed to take was this-

No stormtroopers. Move along, move along...

No stormtroopers. Move along, move along...

They were really good costumes too, even though one of them was (get ready for this…) too short to be a stormtrooper. No, really. Because of this gross lack of foresight, I shall have to rely on ages from my sketchbook instead.

 

They wouldn't stay still

They wouldn't stay still

As I had not gotten up early enough I was in a bit of a rush to get to the venue, and neglected to bring any pens. Luckily the bloke next to me, Ben Powis had tons of them, and I’m really grateful that he let me borrow a couple. Unfortunately, his art was really good, so people went straight to him without noticing our stuff. I really have to start insisting that we get placed next to crappier artists. Still, at least I was able to while away the lonely hours drawing Batman.

 

My lovely assistant, and musical director Ol, here looking a little more like a salty sea dog than he does in real life

My lovely assistant, and musical director Ol, here looking a little more like a salty sea dog than he does in real life

Lots of people asked why we need a musical director if we’re a comic (I said we were a collective. That’s a lie), so I pointed them (and you) towards our fantastic musical animations.

In addition to seemingly vast quantities of Andrew’s comic (which I feel I can take a small measure of credit for, as I came up with the name), we sold a fair few back issues (bissues) of Hope for the Future which I presume is because they are so cheap.

Idle sketchings

Idle sketchings

The hard sell is something I still struggle with (along with basic human interaction), so I think I sometimes have difficulty putting my work over across as well as I could. But I have discovered a solution. Alcohol. Ol decided he fancied a drink so popped out for a bottle of vodka and some coke, not forgetting the lemon. We may have been drinking out of plastic thermos cups, but we’re not barbarians. Seemingly in no time at all we were shitfaced, which made it incredibly easy to go and say hello to people (yeah, about that, apologies to the artists behind?Scary Go Round, Reet!?and?Fetishman. And possibly a few others that I don’t remember. It is we who were the drunken fools babbling at you).

Self Portrait: drunken comic artist in his natural environment

Self Portrait: drunken comic artist in his natural environment

Being slightly tipsy (to say the least) also improved our sales technique. This manifested itself in our shouting at hapless passers by. Amazingly, many of them actually bought our comics. In the final ten minutes of the con we sold probably more than we had done all day up until that point. If anyone ever tells you that alcohol is not an answer to life’s problems, they have clearly never tried this. As the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi would have said, it totally kicks ass.

After the convention, as I believe R Kelly once said, is the After Party. Unfortunately in this case it was about three hours after, and we had sobered up by then (and I had resumed my usual sullen demeanour), and this, in addition to the fact that it was being held in a stupidly expensive bar (yeah, because comics people have tons of cash don’t they?) and a very brown room playing the kind of non-music that makes Morcheeba sound like The Mars Volta, we buggered off to a nearby old man’s pub and drank weird, cloudy cider. At the end of the night I was bundled into a taxi and trundled home, losing a Robin of Sherwood series two DVD boxset in the process. I may now no longer be able to watch The Swords of Wayland, but sometimes sacrifices have to be made. We had a great con, and Herne himself would approve. And then probably spout some mystical bullshit about light and darkness. But he’s like that.

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Hot Leg and the pursuit of fun

Saturday, April 18th, 2009

Why do we listen to music? Sometimes it’s a way of associating ourselves with something cool or exclusive. Alternatively it can be purely for the pleasure of it. Often i suspect it falls somewhere in between. When a certain type of music is makes us happy, but posesses no inherent cool factor or arbitrary stamp of approval from the media and tastemakers, we are tempted to brand it  a “guilty pleasure”. But should there really be any guilt involved in something as simple as enjoying a piece of music?

Hot Leg’s Red Light Fever could never be accused of being hip. Shamelessly unreconstructed 80s hair metal with cheesy synths and twiddly guitar solos was never going to make them a critics’ favourite, and the too cool for school brigade left their affected and ironic love of rock behind a long time ago (although the ironic rock t shirt still lingers like a bad case of crabs  – case in point Agyness Deyn pictured in this week’s Heat wearing a Jethro Tull tour t shirt. Do you think she prefers Songs From The Wood or Heavy Horses?).

 

Great music. Great.

 

However, there are plenty of people who loved The Darkness for what they were, a great rock band that made brilliant pop records, to be out in force to appreciate Hot Leg’s particular brand of “Man Rock”. We went to see them at the Academy in my old stomping ground Sheffield (although I didn’t get to do a lot of stomping when I lived there – during The Indie Wars, y’see). Interestingly enough, because of The Academy’s policy of booking two bands to play on the same night (albeit in separate rooms) we nearly went to see T-Pain by accident. I don’t know him personally, but I think Mr Pain needs to turn the bass down when he performs live, because from what I heard between the songs in Hot Leg’s set, he’s going to suffer from terrible tinnitus in later life.

So anyway. If you find the idea of calling a song Cocktails, solely to allow you to repeat the first syllable over and over again amusing, then you’re likely to love a bit of The Leg. Similarly, the titles Trojan Guitar, Gay in the 80s and I’ve Met Jesus should let you in on the fact that Justin Hawkins isn’t one to take himself particularly seriously. Having said that I can’t think of many songwriters that have emerged in the last few years that have anything like his talent for melodic, hook laden tunes. Even the B Sides are fantastic

Chances are you’re not as cool as you’d like to be, and listening to MGMT sure as hell isn’t going to change that. So leave posing to the poseurs and check out Hot Leg. Your ears will love you for it.

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Why music reached perfection in 1974

Thursday, February 18th, 2010

Go to see a band play live and chances are you’ll get pretty much the same thing every time. A few songs from the new album, a few old favourites, and encores of the biggest hits. Occasionally you might get a cover, if you’re lucky. As a devotee of all things prog, and indeed ressive, I’ve recently become fascinated by Jethro Tull bootlegs from the early 70s, as it seems they were determined to be different.


1972’s Thick as a Brick was already a pretty left field proposition as an album. Ian Anderson now claims it’s a parody of overblown prog rock concept albums, but I’m not sure I’m convinced. Much of their work from that period revolves around the themes of religion, education, class and hypocrisy, and TAAB seems to be an examination of at least some of those themes, as one, album long song.

On stage, the band played (nearly) all of the album, interspersed with a few solos and (fairly interminable) jam sections (seemingly de rigeur for bands of that era that came out of the British blues scene). In addition to this there were interruptions by telephone calls, roadies in costume, musical commentary (suspiciously similar to a section of Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells which followed a year later) and a news and weather report (which related to the original album cover, a parody of a local newspaper). The influence of Monty Python lies heavy on all this stuff, and the band were definitely going for a “look at us wacky English eccentrics” vibe (as you can see…)

It’s not that Thick As A Brick has a story that needed to be acted out (like say, Genesis’ prog rock magnum opus surrealist mindfuck  The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway) but it clearly needed something other than a standard rock gig, just as the album had been packaged in a non standard cover. The follow up album A Passion Play is even more opaque, ostensibly following the deceased “Ronnie Pilgrim” through a peculiarly bureaucratic afterlife.

This time, they played the whole thing, start to finish, with less dicking around, but with a couple of films shown to augment the performance, including this amazing piece of creepy, none-more-English whimsy…

Yes famously ditched half of Tales From Topographic Oceans partway into the tour for that album, as audiences were (understandably) finding the unbroken string of lengthy pieces a bit indigestible. Similarly, later on the A Passion Play Tour, the Tull inserted an older song into the middle of the piece, My God from 1971’s Aqualung. Maybe this was to grab the attention of the audience whose interest may have been flagging in the middle of a long, unfamiliar piece, but another reason may have been that, as postulated here, My God was already conceptually linked to A Passion Play, so it became a legitimate part of the longer piece. They even played some unreleased songs such as No Rehearsal and Left Right which were lyrically connected to the concept, as they had been originally written for the album.

I like the idea of that. Plenty of bands have played specific albums in their entirety, (more recently many have done so as special, nostalgic or anniversary shows), but to put a concert together where every element plays into the concept seems to be a pretty rare occurrence. Take That may have an album called The Circus, and adorn their concerts with acrobats and fire eaters, but they’re still bashing out Relight My Fire and Shine, neither of which, to my knowledge, are about sad clowns or evil ringmasters. And how much cooler would it be if they were?

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Gig review: KISS, Manchester Evening News Arena, 10th May 2010

Friday, May 14th, 2010

My introduction to KISS was with their 1987 hit Crazy Crazy Nights. At the time I was getting into the finer points of high culture (Genesis, Iron Maiden, Middle Earth Role Playing), so I dismissed its cheesy glitziness and fake live whooping (“Here’s a little song for everyone out there!”). It was only later in life that I realised their importance – they were pivotal in (American) rock music and influenced pretty much every (American) band that followed them. I guess we never really “got” them over here. Why would we when we had Queen?

KISS have returned to their 70s roots (ie. wearing kabuki makeup and ridiculous comic book superhero style stage gear) and are touring the UK, so, obviously, we’re in attendance at Manchester’s cavernous MEN arena. Kicking off with their rather tasty new(ish) single Modern Day Delilah from the album Sonic Boom, they proceed to play a set of (mostly) classics. KISS made their reputation on the strength of their stage antics rather than their playing, but here they deliver a tight musical performance that’s worlds away from the clunky sound of live shows from their “heyday”. There’s also some blood spitting and fire breathing from Gene Simmons, which, while I realise it’s customary for a KISS show, is a little at odds with their songs, which are mostly good natured thumping party metal anthems.

In addition to that we get a solo from Tommy Thayer, which culminates in his launching flares from his guitar, and a drum solo, in which Eric Singer avoids the natural tedium that usually accompanies such things by producing a bazooka and blowing up part of the lighting rig. My wife pointed out that she enjoyed the show because there were “no lame ballads”, but if there had been you can bet something would have exploded halfway through.

The nearest thing we get is Paul Stanley flying across the arena to perform his party piece I Was Made For Lovin’ You, a bizarre disco rock hybrid, and an example of their talent for producing great pop records. Stanley, with his bare chest and glittery tassled stack heels flounces around the stage in a manner that Freddie Mercury would have considered a bit too camp. He’s the star(child) of the show, however, with his constant whoops of “Hey Man chest uh!! Man Chest Uh’s a Rock City! Let Me Hear You Man Chest Uh!”

During God Gave Rock ‘n Roll To You, another great single, the screens show shots of The Beatles, Zeppelin, Hendrix, The Stones et al. Okay, maybe they could have at least put Argent in there, but Kiss aren’t shy about giving some respect to their (mostly British) influences. They throw a bit of Won’t Get Fooled Again into Lick It Up, and play a brief version of  Whole Lotta Love. And while most critics would rather die than put them alongside such auspicious company, they’re true icons. Like Mickey Mouse, only badass.

Oh and Crazy Crazy Nights? Awesome!

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