Andy Frasco & The UN: Happy Bastards – album review

Album Cover
Andy Frasco & The UN

Happy Bastards (Ruf Records)

If I was organising a party and I wanted to make it a really good party I’d get Andy Frasco & The UN round to play a few tunes. I’m not sure that they’d all fit in my living room, (alongside core members Andrew Frasco (lead vocals & keys), Shawn Eckels (guitar & vocals), Ernie Chang (sax), Andee Avila (drums) and Supaman (bass), they have a large and eclectic rotating membership) but I’d put a few in the kitchen maybe and a couple on the stairs and people could just dance round them.

That’s what they are really, a fabulous band for dancing round.

Frasco’s style is a mixture of dirty blues and retro funk and soul, all given a modern makeover with plenty of horn thrown in. That’s an essential part of the mix. It’s almost impossible to imagine Andy Frasco and the UN without horn. Their music is all about happiness, sex, good times, sex, love, and being a free spirit. And horn.

And if at this point I’m giving you the impression that this album is the product of a one track mind, well let’s settle on two track. Because there’s a lot of great music in there as well. And music and lasciviousness have a long and honourable shared history. Frasco’s music is fun music. And who doesn’t like fun? Frasco calls it an adrenalin shot of pure escapism.

“We want people to be happy,” is his musical mission statement. “To smile at their faults, love life for what it is, and follow the beat of their own drum. We’re just trying to throw a party and get people to turn off their phones, leave their stress and complications at the door, live in the moment and just celebrate life for a few hours. If by the end of the night I see 90 per cent of the room laughing and smiling, then I know I did my job.”

Andy Travelling Light!

It’s also music that reconnects with that era before rock and soul split apart, when musicians of all races could share a stage without anyone even commenting. Frasco cites Wilson Pickett, Marvin Gaye, Buddy Guy, The Band, Samantha Fish and Houndmouth as blues players who inspire him and while it’s an unusual list, it’s a good one. This week of all weeks maybe we should add Prince and Beyonce in there too, people who can transcend artistic and cultural barriers as if they weren’t there, making music that speaks to everyone.

The band have spent the past few years living in vans and playing 250+ shows a year and according to Frasco this is the first of their CDs to really capture their unique live style. (Which is not to say that the others are bad by any means – check out 2007’s Half A Man for confirmation).

Album opener, Tie You Up, kicks off with a burst of deeply funky, loping bass that can’t help reminding you of Amy Winehouse (maybe she should be in that list too) and it’s almost a surprise when Frasco’s vocal kicks in rather than hers, but he’s got that same sly, knowing vocal thing going on, and the track builds into a great little rocker as does the second track You’re The Kind Of Crazy That I Like, a tribute to the manifold joys of being involved with mad women.

The scene once set the album keeps up a breakneck pace with tracks that range from 1970s slap bass funk on Doin’ It, evocations of Motown’s golden age on the snappily titled Blame It On the Pussy (seewhat they did there?), the Zutonesque (neologism alert) Good Ride, a madcap blues stomp on the superb Mature As Fuck, some whistling reggae on Here’s To Letting You Down and even a smutty Hawaiian torch ballad called Let’s Get Down To Business.

It’s certainly an album that lets the band show their versatility and there isn’t a track on there that would make you even think about skipping it. A fine thing for keeping in the CD player in the car, although probably not child friendly enough for the school run – parental advisory and all that you know.

~

Andy Frasco & The UN: Website | Facebook | Twitter

Marcella Detroit: Gray Matterz – album review

MI0003944606

Marcella Detroit
Gray Matterz (Make Zee Records)
Available April 22nd 2016

To many of us she’s best known as the edgy half of Shakepear’s Sister but Marcella Detroit has a enjoyed a distinguished career, working with the likes of Eric Clapton and Elton John and producing a series of fine soul/pop albums since the break up of the bardic sorority, including 1996’s Feeler which is my favourite of her works under the Detroit moniker.

She has also had success as a blues singer with the Marcy Levy Band (that’s her birth name) and been a star of reality TV. She’s a fine guitarist who is clearly happy in many genres but it’s the extraordinary quality of her voice, strong yet fragile, soaring but always threatening to break with emotion that marks her out as something really special and she’s at her best when she allows herself the freedom to really lean into the vocal and showcase her remarkable range and power.

Detroit’s new album is Gray Matterz and it’s a step back from the blues towards classic 80’s style synth pop, recorded by Detroit in her home studio and featuring the lady herself on vocals, computers and real instruments too, and remixed by Paul Drew of DWB Music. In a nutshell it’s electro dance music with proper songs and it’s an album which, given the current resurgence in interest in 80s music and if it gets enough traction, could easily generate some buzz on the retro club scene.

Turn Up The Volume On The Positive may not be the catchiest title ever but with its rapped verses and vocoded chorus, (and electronic hand claps – everbody say yay for electronic hndclaps), it could be a real dance floor filler. Home, an a uptempo tribute to domesticity is another dancer as is Not Just A Number which has the irresisible beat of an piece of early SAW HiNRG.
Lighthouse, a song about depression and being there for people, is the track which gives Detroit’s voice it’s best workout, and What’s The Time In Tokyo is another which gives her the opportunity to show how good she sounds. According to interviews Detroit herself is of the opinion that her voice has improved and got stronger over the last several years, and on this showing no-one is going to argue.

The first single from the album is Drag Queen – which has already proved to be a club favourite, so here it is ….

~

Marcella Detroit: Website | Facebook | Twitter

Sewer Rats EP Launch: The Matrix, Grimsby 01/08/15 – live review

Sewer Rats 016

Sewer Rats EP Launch

The Matrix, Grimsby

1st August 2015

Sewer Rats have been making quite a name for themselves lately. They’ve signed for Fluffer Records, played some well reviewed shows at the Shacklewell and other cool venues and now comes the release of their new EP Moneymaker. They’ve already had a London launch party but this is the local version at The Matrix in Grimsby, just down the road from their home town of Immingham.

There’s a great undercard including local favourites Ruby And The Knights, the unboxably vitreous See You In Tijuana, Darma and Cult Mentality and by the time Sewer Rats arrive the crowd is well stoked and up for the main event and they’re not dissapointed because Sewer Rats deliver a set of the dirtiest, heaviest, most psyched out stonerism that you’ve heard in a long time, songs that start slow and uncoil themselves with deliberate menace, loaded with feedback, searing guitar riffs, huge drums and basslines that set the room vibrating.

Luke Morris’s vocals are just about the rawest I’ve ever heard. Imagine the love child of Lemmy from Motorhead and a grizzly bear, kept in the dark for years, fed on broken glass and Scotch Bonnets and that particularly horrible cheap kebab meat that smells like sewage. Stub a few cigarettes out on it. Kick it occasionally. Give it a microphone and tell it to sing. It’s pure Ming.

Sewer Rats 023

The show that features considerable levels of raw energy and male torso. Granted it’s warm in The Matrix but there’s clearly something about Sewer Rats that’s best appreciated shirtless. They certainly have an impressive gallery of tatts to show off and their ink photographs rather well, especially since they are a band incapable of staying still for more than thirty seconds at a time. Luke Morris on guitar prowls his end of the stage like he’s looking for a gap in the fence while Iain Morrison spends most of the show getting stuck right in to an extremely boisterous hungry hippos kind of pit, crouched low over his bass, fending off incoming traffic or else climbing up the speaker stack to perch grinning while it threatens to topple down. Dean Robbins on drums is inevitably less peregrine but he looks like he’d be up and bouncing off people and walls given half a chance.

Sometimes words seem a bit small. This one of those times. The Sewer Rats sound like something being born, growing and crawling out of a primeval swamp, developing limbs and vocal chords, and of course acquiring guitars and drum kit along the way. They are very loud, but that doesn’t tell you much and they play with a sweat drenched frenzy that makes them gleam in the stage lights and rapidly infects everyone in the room. I spend most of the set hiding behind the speakers (except when they’re being used as a climbing wall), because I’m a coward and because I can’t afford to replace my cameras but when they finish I feel like I’ve been punched in the face with a music clad fist.

The new EP Moneymaker, whose entry into the world we are here to celebrate is an equally invigorating thing – five tracks of bile and blues, menace and caress, guaranteed to annoy the neighbours, damage the foundations of your house and make your eyeballs bleed. My favourite track is Devil’s Blues which has them paying homage to their heroes in Sabbath and Zeppelin but every cut is worth a listen – this is definitely a band that’s going places fast.

At the end of the show the band are mobbed by the assembled company and it’s pretty clear that they are now officially world famous in Grimsby. Just the rest of the planet to go then and that shouldn’t be too hard.

Sewer Rats 034

When I roll in at home with the remains of my chips and half a can of Vimto I’m just in time to catch the last half of The Meat Loaf Story on some channel I’ve never heard of before. Talk about serendipity. I switch on just as our hero, suffering one of his periodic outbreaks of bankruptcy, is laid across his bed with his two children, Vegetable Roll and Nut Cutlet.

“The trouble is,” he says to the adorable golden haired moppet angels, “nobody likes Daddy’s music.”

“I do” replies Nut Cutlet. “It’s loud.”

So there you go. I’m not going to take notes at gigs anymore. I’m just going to submit the first thing I hear on telly when I get home. Sorted.

Sewer Rats. I like them. You will too. They’re loud.

~

Sewer Rats: Facebook | Bandcamp

Beat-Herder 2015 – festival review

Beat-Herder 2015 001

A Ribble runs through it.

Just to be absolutely clear, the Ribble Valley is a real place. I did not make it up. It is not where the forebears of Officer Dibble lived before they crossed the Atlantic to constabulary glory. It’s north of Manchester and south of Scotland, with steep slopes on either side and wide pastures dotted with sheep and old fashioned looking black and white cows like the ones that lived on the toy farm you had when you were a child. It’s one of those places where you drive through it and think – “I should live here.” And it’s just about the perfect place to hold a music festival.

They’re having a traffic festival on the M62 and the fringe event is all the way up the M66 and A56. It’s a hundred and fifty miles from my house to Beat-Herder and it takes me four hours. I spend the last hour in a traffic jam behind a churlish looking llama. It peers disdainfully at me from the back of its horse box, chewing languidly and weighing up whether or not I am worth the effort of expectoration. It has a way of looking at me as if it had a second pair of eyes situated right up the back of its nostrils. I gaze back, trying not to look intimidated. ‘This is mental,’ I think. ‘I am in my car in a hard staring competition with a camelid. Beat-Herder will have to go it some to be madder than this …’

But Beat-Herder is madder than a hard staring llama, much, much madder.

Beat-Herder 2015 002

It’s the tenth anniversary of what started out as a rave in the woods for a few friends and all twelve thousand tickets are sold out in advance, which is not so surprising because Beat-Herder has acquired a reputation for being one of the best weekends in the festival calendar, a place where you’re always sure to see and hear something new. Impressive stuff considering that they resolutely refuse to accept corporate sponsorship and take pride in staying small but perfectly put together. As you drive up it looks as though it fills the whole valley for miles on either side, but that’s because they steer clear of that thing where the festival is just a big field ringed with tents. The site is laid out with considerable cunning, making the most of the natural contours and forestry to maximize the view of the main stage, and to hide other parts until you go seeking them out, so it’s constantly full of surprises.

There are so many stages and arenas that it’s hard to keep track. At the end of three days I still haven’t found them all. Where are the Scandinavian swimming pool and the underground bar? Maybe I’ll find out next time. There’s a Working Men’s Club with red velvet snug furniture, a doughnut shaped earth ring with huge slabs of ironstone forming henges at the entrance, a corrugated iron eastern fort guarded by a huge dog of foh and with walls surmounted by fire jets so fierce that I spend thirty minutes taking pictures and came away with half a beard. In the woods there’s a stage surrounded with light boxes that project moving patterns onto tree trunks, buildings and dancers. There’s also a manor house, with a stage in its colonnaded entrance that played host to two really rather creepy pole dancing automata. They have all the moves but I will admit to liking my Stepford Wives with a little more meat on them.

Levellers 001

The list could go on forever so I’ll be quick. There’s a funfair, a reggae tent, a comedy venue, a place called the Perfumed Garden that is probably neither but I never get there, a church with decks in the pulpit, a tattoo shop, a garage with cars for dancing on, a western bar, a teleport between two sylvan phone boxes (which I suspected was really a tunnel but I am too fat to investigate further), a funfair and more street food vendors than you can shake an authentic Tibetan goats meat curry at. Did I mention the funfair? I like funfairs.

You have to take a wander at night to appreciate the place in it full glory. The forest is hung with illuminated globes, strange waxy colour patterns rotate across the manor, the trees are lit with pulsating circles and squares of light and shadow, the fortress glows like a huge fire pit. It’s a bizarre and magical experience, like falling down the rabbit hole and coming out in a world filled with people whose controls are set permanently to “dance and have good time”. It wouldn’t be entirely surprising to find a team of anthropologists hiding in the trees doing some observational research, or David Attenborough leading a camera crew softly through the undergrowth. It makes an hour spent eye to nostril with a llama seem like the most natural thing in the world.

Beat-Herder 2015 094

There’s plenty of fancy dress of course. The theme for the year is the letter E, which might be asking for trouble, but there are lots of elephants, Egyptians, elderly people and even a six person emergency ambulance whose attempts to enter an already packed out circle pit provide one of the most bizarre spectacles of the weekend. There are also a lot of people who either haven’t got the E message or who can’t spell. As I walk past a man wearing black plastic overcoat a woman accosts him and asks loudly, “Why are you here in that attire?” “It’s not a tyre,” he replies, “It’s a rain mac.”

And there’s music, of course. Where do we start? Perhaps by saying that what I know about dance music could be engraved in large letters along the side of a perforated eardrum. So don’t expect anything clever here, and I’m not going to attempt any kind of judgement on anybody’s DJing or MCing skills. Suffice it to say that almost every venue that I visit has some thumpingly huge beat filled music banging out, the iron of the fortress rattles like a proverbial door in a storm and the earth circle is packed so tight with moving bodies that it seems that the crowd has actually blended into a single rhythmic organism. Sometimes the bass is so heavy the whole field seemed to be shaking (yeah, I know, I sound like your granny) …, and it imparts a curiously reverberative sensation to the seats of the backstage portaloos, which could possibly catch on, like those clockwork motel beds you see in films.

Beat-Herder 2015 163

It seems only right that Beat-Herder should have a unique stage and of course it has indeed, being equipped with a large herbaceous border at the front of the apron that adds a whole new level of complexity to shooting music photos, because it is necessary to stalk views of the stage between fronds of lupin and loosestrife while the autofocus on the camera goes into meltdown as it switches between the performer and the intervening foliage. There’s also a smoke machine right at the front that blows huge casts of fog right across the pit, rendering the action all but invisible most of the time. Its like shooting stills for a jungle warfare documentary and it’s noticeable how quickly many of the photographers just give up on visiting the main stage, which is a shame because there are some great performances there, as we can hear and intermittently see.

There’s so much going on it’s almost impossible to catch whole sets, but I make sure I see Martha Reeves & The Vandellas’ because, well, because it’s Martha Reeves & The Vandellas. What more reason could you want? She’s still got plenty of vocal power and bucket loads of charisma and she really knows how to play and audience. “I am a mature woman,” she announces, “And I am not leaving this stage until I am good and ready.” Whether anyone is really trying to get her off stage, and why they might have been doing so, remains a mystery, but whatever the background it’s pretty clear that the lady is not going anywhere until she decides to. Her set is full of hits from the golden age when rock and soul were two sides of the same coin – Jimmy Mack, Live Wire, Nowhere To Run and of course Dancing In the Street. Back catalogues don’t get much better than that.

Martha Reeves 005

There’s plenty of variety on the main stage with Leeds based trip hop outfit Nightmares On Wax showing that they can really do it live on the Friday night prior to a storming set from Basement Jaxx, whose career spanning set includes material from their latest dancing robot inspired offering Junto, although it’s old favourites like closer Bingo Bango that really get the crowd dancing. Saturday night sees an uproarious show from The Levellers and a fine music and light display from Leftfield, but the main stage highlight of the weekend is Saturday night’s closing set from The Parov Stelar Band, all the way from upper Austria. Stelar is usually credited with inventing the electro-swing genre and it’s pretty clear that he is thoroughly steeped in in the jazz and swing music of the 1920s and ‘30s, which he combines with electro beats and effects to astonishing effect. My personal favourite, Booty Swing, arrives early but it’s a great performance throughout. Elsewhere there were pictures of people dancing while dressed as Scrabble tiles to be taken, but I was happy just sit down and enjoy.

Add in some great dub punk from Dub Pistols, disco house from Crazy P, wry northerness from the Lancashire Hotpots and soulful funk pop from Grinny Grandad and you should have the idea that there’s something for everyone and all of it very good. Away from the main stage my highlights are Mr Wilson’s Second Liners, who combine Dixieland musical stylings and Sergeant Pepper tailoring with all your favourite club classics, Dream Themes whose high kicking, arm punching stadium rock set is comprised entirely of TV theme tunes including Star Trek and The Good Life, and my favourite band of the weekend, the punky, folky, rockish Faux Foxes. Definitely one to watch out for.

So there you go. If you missed it you missed a weekend of inspired madness and you should try and get there next year when the woods and fields of the Ribble Valley will once again echo to the sound of people staying up well past their bedtimes to enjoy great music in some of the strangest and wildest venues you’ll ever see. You’ve got fifty one weeks to try and figure out what big surprises are in store. My guess is a guanaco.

~

Beat-Herder: Website | Facebook | Twitter

Status Quo | Terry And Gerry: Sheffield City Hall – live review

Status Quo 007

Status Quo | Terry And Gerry

Sheffield City Hall

April 21st 2015

The Quo roll into town and Sheffield takes a break from the snooker to welcome the legendary (and of course mighty) rockers who played the second night of their 2015 Aquostic Tour to a packed house at the City Hall on Tuesday.

Status Quo go acoustic? It seems like an odd premise but the album of the same name, featuring twenty one acoustic covers of Quo classics performed in chronological order reached number 5 in the UK charts in 2013, their highest chart position since 1996’s 30th Anniversary album and a concert from The Roundhouse was broadcast on the Beeb and issued as a live album. Empty seats are few and far between. So even if the idea of acoustic Quo seems a little odd to me there’s no doubt the fans are on side already.

The acoustic album is an established part of the modern music business, right up there with the full album live performance and the special collector’s edition CD in a tin stuffed with imitation tickets and loads of outtakes that didn’t make the cut because they weren’t good enough. To some bands it might seem like an opportunity to cut costs and save some cash but Status Quo don’t do things that way. Apart from the five band members there is a six piece string section, two backing singers, and bass player John Edward’s son Freddie, (who has a considerable and vocal following among the Quo faithful). I think that’s everybody but there may be one or two more I missed.

Terry and Gerry 002

Acoustic reversioning is nothing new of course, you only have to look at the enduring success of MTV’s Unplugged sessions to realise that. I honestly thought it had died off in the late 90s (we only have free to air TV in our house) but it’s still going strong apparently, with Miley Cyrus the latest victim. Despite some remarkable performances, (Nirvana and Clapton being among the most obvious) there’s always something unedifying about the format however, an unspoken assumption that the performers in question need to stop hiding behind all that noise and play acoustically in order to prove their worth as musicians. With more than fifty years as a band Quo don’t appear to be in need of that kind of validation.

So if they’re not saving money and not seeking artistic credibility just what are Status Quo doing playing acoustically? The answer would appear to be that they are having a good time, sitting in a row, playing some favourite songs and cracking a few jokes. And why not?

First up are Terry and Gerry, Louder Than War’s favourite 80’s cow punk skiffle band complete with long black coats, shoestring ties, a washboard with one of those bits on it that sounds like the death rattle of your favourite clockwork railway engine and a ton of great little songs. Little being the operative word. Terry And Gerry seem to think that the phrase “three minute pop song” represents some kind of extreme upper limit on duration. I shoot the shortest three songs worth of pictures in history.

Terry and Gerry 003

They’re masters of the art of creative anachronism, starting out in the early 80s (which wasn’t a skiffle boom period), appearing on The Tube and doing several Peel sessions back in the day when peel favourite was just a preparatory instruction in the post Grand National barbecue cookbook. Having been on hiatus for several years they reformed for a 2014 Peel celebration tour. They are bursting with energy and enthusiasm, apparently overwhelmed with their reception and the fact that people haven’t left by the end of their set, and seemingly on the verge of going into a full on Gwyneth Paltrow between songs.

Their exuberance certainly strikes a chord with the audience and by the end of their set contains lashings of community singing, organised waving (some of it bimanual) and some great tunes, among them Kennedy Says, which features benedictions from a place in the sky above the White House and a posthumous pardon for the whole Bay Of Pigs thing, Clothes Shop, a hymn to the loneliness of sartorial elegance and teenage individualism.
I will confess that this was the first time I’d heard Terry and Gerry but it won’t be the last – great stuff.

Status Quo take to the stage in 5-2-6-2 formation with the flat forward line of guitar and bass, the big guys in the centre, backing singers in midfield, and the strings on the left of the defence. The songs adapt well to the new instrumentation and they the size and quality of the band mean that no two numbers sound the same, so there’s no danger of the set getting stale. Paper Plane is embellished with zydeco accordion, Rock’n’Roll is a delicate memento to the band’s heyday, Caroline is an up tempo stomp.

Of course the hits go down a storm and in this new format they sound thoroughly refreshed. Rocking All Over The World has a barrelhouse piano that transforms it into pure Rockney, Down, Down is up tempo concertina driven skiffle and Caroline has an streetwise boogie that belongs to the heyday of pub rock. It’s the less well known songs that benefit most from their new clothes however. (That of course means songs that are less well known to me – I suspect I’m the only person present who doesn’t know all the words to everything). My favourites are Rain, which fairly chugs along with a steam engine percussion and some hobo harmonica, and Don’t Drive My Car, possibly a riposte to The Beatles free and easy attitude to key sharing, with the rhythm picked out by the strings, some great backing vocals and guitar and a sort of Cossack soul vibe going on.

Status Quo 014

If there’s any fault to be found it probably lies with the choice of venue. With the best will in the world this is music for dancing to, (not by me I hasten to add, but by others), not for staying in your seat and listening to quietly but the stewards are polite but firm, there is no stage rush and people who get up and block the view are politely asked to replant themselves. Hats off to the brave few that just ignore them – it’s a fine show but the dancers are the ones who enjoy it most.

~

Status Quo are on the web at statusquo.co.uk. They are also on Facebook.

Terry And Gerry are together at terryandgerry.com and Gerry Colvin is on his own here – gerrycolvin.co.uk. They are also on Facebook and tweet as @TerryandGerry.

Sewer Rats: Waves Bar, Cleethorpes – live review

IMG_0170 (1)

Sewer Rats

Waves Bar, Cleethorpes

April 4th 2014

Sewer Rats make rock music that’s full of huge riffs that emerge from apromordial soup of drums and bass. idp catches them for a chat in sunny Meggies.

Sewer Rats are Dean Robbins (drums), Iain Morrison (bass) and Luke Morris (guitar and vocals). They hail from the mighty city of Immingham, aka Ming or even Ming Ming to its friends, and they’ve all been playing in bands since they were in shortish trousers and now along with fellow Mingsters the Ming City Rockers and Grimsby bands like Electric Priestess, Zak Rashid, Ruby And The Knights and plenty of others they’re sitting pretty in the upper reaches of a thriving local music scene which seems to produce quality new bands at every turn.

According to their social media Sewer Rats are a stoner rock band, but that’s a label that has been put on them and to which they have acquiesced rather than one they chose for themselves. If they are stoner then they’re a new and peculiarly British offshoot, taking their lead not from the leaders of the US genre like Sleep and Kyuss (although the trio do admit to a fondness for the melodic psych of stoners Dead Meadow) but from the bands of the late 70s who provided their inspiration, the likes of Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and Blue Oyster Cult.

IMG_0163 (1)

The result is a heavy slow rock sound, at times almost industrial, heavy with lethargic distortion, at times showing signs of cross fertilisation with the spirit of punk, full of threat and menace and songs which start slowly and build inexorably into testaments of anger and rebellion.

Is there any political content?

“No. We think it’s best to steer clear of all of that. It’s just the three of us on a stage having fun and taking it seriously at the same time.”

They’ve been gathering a head of steam for some time now. After being invited to the smoke by Love Buzzards with whom they shared a bill in Sheffield they were signed by Fluffer Records of Whitechapel and they’ve become regulars at some of the sceniest venues in the capital, like The Shacklewell, The Finsbury and The Fiddler’s. Fluffer will release their new vinyl ep Moneymaker in the near future. Clearly London likes Sewer Rats.

So are they going to move down to Hoxton and leave the Humber behind them?

“Well hopefully. Or rather it’s possible, anything’s possible. And London is the best place for making music, there’s no doubt about it.”

So it seems to be mutual. A European tour may be on the cards as well.

I go to meet them at Waves in Cleethorpes on the day of the BOG Fest (that’s Best Of Grimsby to you) where they’re on the bill with many of the best bands and solo performers from the local scene at an event organised by Phil Stocks of Avenue 44 Music to raise money for Alopecia UK. By the end of the day the festival has raked in over £800 for the charity so well dones all round are in order.

Sewer Rats take the stage after a storming set from Zak Rashid and they do it so unceremoniously that when they start their first song, We Were Never The Same, many of the audience still think that they’re sound checking. It’s a great number, one of the finest pieces of minimalist rock you’ll ever encounter, kicking off with an ambling bass line which continues for a while, seemingly almost directionless, never giving any indication of the trouble brooding just below the surface. Eventually it is joined by some smudges of fuzzy guitar. At length the drums kick in and from out of the primordial soup of noise a riff emerges, uncoiling itself slowly, sometimes falling back but always finding itself again, heavy, dirty and enthralling. The crowd are all watching now. Nobody is under the impression that this is a sound check any more. We are no longer in Kansas.

And then a single burst or vocals, guttural and at times almost incomprehensible, are laid across the top of the mix. “We were never the same, me and you.” The guitar continues, on a new track now, lighter and more melodic, as if it feels that there is still further work for evolution to perform but with this simple statement the track has served its function and it seems to cave in onto itself as it peters out, dying in the mix, possibly to be found by archaeologists with trowels and brushes millions of years later.

Next up is Black Label Serotonin, one of my favourite songs to a neurotransmitter and an altogether lighter affair, it’s an extended jam with a distinct desert feel to it and an laid back guitar sound that evokes memories of the great bluesmen of the fifties, John Lee Hooker maybe or Lightnin’ Hopkins.

So Far Away ramps the volume back up, a frenzy of drums and guitar, staccato and brutal, it’s one of those songs where the central riff repeats itself so rapidly it fills the room like a huge electric heartbeat. “I tried so hard to love you, but you’re so far away” someone is singing but no one really cares because it’s not about the vocal, it’s about the riff that makes the whole room beat time with it.

I Don’t Know Where You’ve Been is the song where the band reveal their roots in seventies rock most clearly, with its driving riff and guitar this could be a lost track from the days of the bell bottomed mullet, cut up and distorted, hung from a nail in the garage and punched for a while. It’s callous and unsentimental and as it winds through the room you can sense heads starting to bang. A few more minutes of this and there’s gonna be brain matter on the carpet.

There’s no big fanfare for the closer. Luke just mumbles “Last” into the microphone and they’re straight into Skint (No Money) which opens with a fine seventies riff that gets faster and faster until it threatens to spin off and form its own band. Somehow they manage to tame it and turn it into a rapid fire blues about the joys of poverty.

And at the end they just stop dead. So there.

~

Sewer rats are on Facebook and BandCamp

Simple Minds @ Grimsby Auditorium – live review

Simple Minds 017

 

Simple Minds

Grimsby Auditorium

27th March 2015

Simple Minds are on great form, providing a timely reminder of their arena packing heyday as they open their UK tour to a packed house in Grimsby. idp reports.

We can be a mardy lot up in here in Grimsby. We think nobody loves us. We feel neglected. Apart from having Channel 5 poverty porn film crews on every street corner we don’t feature much in the mainstream media, unless we’re a key marginal with at least one candidate with alleged links to the far right. (Mentioning no names.)

We don’t get many visits from big name bands either and when we do it sometimes feels like they only bring half their kit and only really give it half their usual effort. “It’s only Grimsby lads, save some energy for Wolverhampton,” we can almost hear them say as they wait in the wings.

So when a band of the calibre of Simple Minds decide to open their UK tour here it’s a big deal and the Auditorium is appropriately packed for the show well before kick off. From the moment Jim Kerr struts onto the stage in a bright red tartan frock coat (apparently he’s Scottish) it’s clear that there aren’t going to be any half measures at this show. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anybody look more pleased to be on a stage and he seems to be genuinely impressed with the response from the packed house, as well he might be because the crowd are cheering and singing along right from the start.

Simple Minds 001

With a back catalogue as long as your arm and a well received new album (last year’s Big Music) to boot Simple Minds are never going to be short of tunes to play but they do their best to pack as many as possible into the set, which allowing for the break runs to over two and a half hours of high intensity performance. Nobody leaves complaining that they didn’t get good value.

It seems to have been fashionable among reviewers of Big Music to praise the parts of the album that hark back to the band’s early output and to be slightly dismissive of songs, like the title track, that evoke the stadium filling sounds of the late eighties onwards. But if we’re being honest here then for me, (and for lots of others judging by the reactions of the crowd on the night), then it was from Sparkle In The Rain that Simple Minds really made an impact on me and I have no problem with them revisiting that era.

With Mel Gaynor’s insistently snary percussion and Andy Gillespie’s keyboards providing the underpinning for the anthemic expansiveness which nowadays characterises the Simple Minds sound, the band seem to sound even more eighties today than they did in the eighties and the new songs blend seamlessly in with the classics. I won’t claim to be a Simple Minds expert and there are plenty of occasions when I can’t decide whether we’re listening to 20th or 21st century vintage but in this relatively small venue, which has a remarkably good acoustic for bands that can crank the volume up a little, it feels that we could almost be at Wembley or The Shea with Thatcher and Reagan chatting over coffee and looking deep into each other’s eyes just down the road.

Simple Minds 002

Good though the band are, with Ged Grimes unerring on bass and of course co-founder member Charlie Burchill laying down his trademark flickering guitar alongside those already mentioned, it’s Kerr who is the undoubted star of the show, grinning like a Cheshire and constantly in motion, leaning out across the pit to hold the microphone towards the audience, bounding around the stage twirling the mic stand like a dandy with a long cane, or doing what would probably be dad dancing if I did it but which looks rather cool when he does it , he’s a non stop ball of energy chatting with front row, discussing football or waving to people in the balconies. I read in an interview that he hung out for a while with Springsteen in New York and it’s the Boss’s kind of boundless energy and inclusiveness that he displays here. At the end of the gig half the people present will feel like they have had a momentary intimacy with the star of the show, and that’s quite a skill.

The first half of the set is predominantly rock and acoustic tracks (for which the band are joined by Welsh multi-instrumentalist Catherine AD who stars when she switches to keyboards for a stately Rivers Of Ice) and the second featuring soul vocalist Sarah Brown who takes a solo on Book Of Beautiful Things and backs up magnificently on Sanctify Yourself, on which Kerr is so convincing in his role as a revivalist preacher that you wouldn’t be surprised if he pulled a handful of rattlesnakes from the pocket of his black jacket (costume change during half time interval).

Highlights of the show? That’s a tough call and it’s always tempting at this point to pick an obscure track and say how nice it is to see it getting dusted off for the first time in twenty odd years and how you’ve always loved it and felt it was under appreciated but actually on the night it’s Don’t You Forget About Me which starts as a booming monster delivered across a sea of waving arms and mobile phones and gradually morphs into something small and intimate as Kerr lead a call and response singalong from a seated position at the front of the stage.

Simple Minds 006

From pure eighties over the top stadium rock to delicate and emotional choristry in two minutes or less – it’s some trick and serves to prove that for this tour Simple Minds are a band back on the top of their game. The encores end with Riders On The Storm, as dark and malevolent as the original, and finally Alive And Kicking. As we file out and wait for twenty or thirty minutes to get out of the car park I can hear a lot of people singing tunelessly in their stationary cars and the town seems quite cheerful, almost. But don’t let it fool you.

~

Simple Mind’s website : simpleminds.com and they’re on Facebook and tweet as @simplemindscom

All words by idp. More work by idp can be found in his Louder Than War archive. His photography website is here and his photo blog is here.

Bingley Music Live 2014

A

Bingley Music Live 2014
Myrtle Park, Bingley
29th – 31st August 2014

One of the best weekends of the year, family atmosphere, great music, warm beer – it’s Bingley time!

Bingley always seems like an unlikely place to hold a music festival. For those scrabbling for their atlases it’s on the River Aire, just north of Bradford, with a skyline that bears witness to both its roots as a mill town and its status as the home of the Bradford and Bingley Building Society whose epic brutalist head office squats like a brown concrete toad in the town centre. It also boasts a curious tower with a pergola on top which looks like it could have been the inspiration for the hiding places in Assassin’s Creed.

Bingley Music Live, sponsored by Bradford Council and held annually at Myrtle Park is a proper old fashioned pop festival which since 2008 has offered three days (originally two) of quality music at ridiculously good value prices. There are no pretensions to high art here. It isn’t full of bearded hipsters or street performers reciting fragments of Shakespeare at bemused passers by or aging hippies or crazy retro people with staring eyes, it’s just families looking for a great day out listening to music in the company of their children and some warm beer.

Image gallery

QRO review and images

R’n’B

Bingley 2014030

This year’s line up was a little more chart orientated then previously which meant doing a bit of research in advance (no bad thing for us aging photographers desperately trying to be down with the kids) but the crowds loved it all, or almost all anyway.

My previous experiences with contemporary R’n’B had led me to think that it chiefly consisted of a man pretending to be working some sort of sound desk while another man (or woman) shouted “Come on now (insert name of venue here) make some noise” and then jumping up and down in a very silly way and clapping. For extra emphasis the phrase could be varied by the addition of adjectives, for example “Come on now (insert name of venue here) make some fucking noise”. For even more emphasis the jumping and clapping could be made very silly indeed.

Excellent sets from MNEK, Jess Glynne and Chloe Howl went some way towards dispelling that view although there were outbreaks of clappy, shouty dancey stuff at other times through the weekend, but I won’t dwell on them. There was a lot of great music on offer and I’ll concentrate on that instead.

Bingley 2014043

Discoveries of the weekend

The Strypes have been blazing a trail through the music scene for the past couple of years and gathering reviews so good that I’d started getting a bit suspicious and thinking that they couldn’t possibly be that wonderful, but of course they are that wonderful. I had intended to listen for ten minutes and then go take some photos on the other stage but I didn’t because their reinvented 60s rock pop just grabs you. Judging by the squeals in the crowd it works on girls too. It doesn’t matter who you say they remind you of because they’ve clearly done their homework and they sound like a whole generation but it’s between The Who and the Beatles and Bo Diddley and The Yardbirds and all the rest. Hailing from Cavan in Northern Ireland they are simply ridiculously good and they’re all younger than my car.

Bingley 2014002

Less well known as yet but equally good was Emma Garrett and her band on the top stage. In a fortnight when I have spent hours listening to my Kate Bush albums and seen St Vincent live at Leeds the last thing I expected on the small stage at Bingley was a female vocal that threatened to make them other two seem just a little bit ordinary. Emma has been compared to both the aforementioned singers and to Florence Welch and lots of others and she can mix rock, soul, jazz and folk into one song with just a hint of musical theatre showmanship and it sounds just perfect. Check out her SoundCloud immediately.

And an outside pick. It’s not often anyone gets booed at Bingley but Etta Bond appeared to misjudge what was required from her at a family festival and delivered a set loaded with sexual detail and other varieties of bad language and the crowd hated her and let her know about it. That’s Yorkshire for ya. Her performance and on stage demeanour didn’t do her any favours either – whether it was the fault of the sound system or whatever she sounded as flat as a pancake. Since getting home I’ve spent a couple of hours listening to her stuff and she’s a talented writer and performer who I’ve no doubt we’ll hear more of in future and in fairness to her the booking people might have figured out that a woman who tweets as C.U.N.T. is probably not going to go down well with the mums and dads.

Bingley 2014025

Bingley 2014041

Old friends of the weekend

Not friends in the sense that I’ve been round their house for tea or anything but among the bands that I was already familiar with there were two standouts.

Firstly The Selecter who, legal difficulties with rivals having been dealt with are now entitled to use that name. They have original vocalists Pauline Black and Arthur Gaps Hendrickson and they delivered a set that sounded as streetwise and energetic as if it was a teenage tribute band and not the real thing at all, finishing with On My Radio and Too Much Pressure/Pressure Drop – one of the major highlights of the weekend.

As were the opening songs of the set by The South. It’s no secret that I have a fondness for elegantly witty pop and at their best The Beautiful South could deliver that in spades. They are now fronted by Alison Wheeler and Dave Hemingway and I had everything planned so I could catch the whole of their set but difficulties with the sound meant that I only got the first few songs, (which sounded wonderful). They’re on tour this autumn however so watch this space.

Bingley 2014003

Headliners

Friday night saw Shed Seven make the journey all the way from York for a set of their greatest hits that served to remind us that even if the whole Britpop thing is now seen as a cultural disaster on an epic scale there were good bands around at the time who never quite got the recognition they deserved. Shed Seven were a lot smarter than some of their more illustrious contemporaries and the dry wit of frontman Rick Witters was much in evidence during their set. They also played the most energetic set of the weekend and no sooner had they taken the stage than Witter’s natural exuberance saw him almost disappear into the crowd over the barriers. Their set featured classics like Dolphin, Disco Down and Rainbows as well as a storming cover of Born To Run, a song by former rock god and now Butlin’s redcoat Bruce Springsteen.

It was the turn of rnb to take centre stage on Saturday with Example heading the bill. There’s not much point in me pretending to comment on his set except to say that the multitude loved it, there was lots of audience participation – “Come on now Bingley make some noise, jump, clap – and it culminated in a spectacular light show.

Bingley 2014034

Rounding off the weekend were Sunday night’s headliners The Pet Shop Boys who brought their Electric World Tour show to the Bingley stage complete with spectacular lights, a whole stage projection screen, dancing orange minotaurs (my favourite flavour of minotaur as it happens), massive feathered power shoulders, projection beds (really), and pzazz and razzamatazz than you can shake the z key on your keyboard at. It was a show that walked the finest of lines between superlative showmanship and embarrassing nonsense and always stayed exactly on the right side. If any greatest hits were missing I didn’t notice and nobody seemed to care and the explosion of confetti that accompanied It’s A Sin brought the festival to a fittingly spectacular close.

Same time next year?

Yes please.

Life: A Listener’s Manual

Life are from Hull.

They’re brash and punky, full of attitude but also possessed of a lyrical and melodic authority and composure that marks them out as being something a bit special.

Since forming a year ago they’ve had radio play from Steve Lamacq, John Kennedy, and Zane Lowe on Radio 1 and playlistings on XFM and Amazing Radio. They’ve also made a splash on the urban festival scene.

I’ve been trying to catch up with them for a while but they’ve been all over the country so when I heard they were planning a single launch at The Adelphi in Hull that sounded too good to miss.

The line up is Mick (guitars), Mez (vocals), Loz (bass) and Rich (drums). Mick and Mez are the mandatory brothers who provide the lyrical core of the band and whose sibling rivalry and petulance will someday rip the project asunder but for now they’re mates and they sit and chat and answer some questions before the show. On my recording I can’t tell them apart so I shall attribute their answers to LIFE.

LTW review and pictures

Image gallery

Louder Than War: You’ve all been in bands before – most of you were in The Neat.

LIFE: The Neat was Mez, Loz and Rich, but without Mick. The rest of us are older than him and we’ve been in a few bands. He’s only nineteen.

LTW: You’ve been together about a year and it’s been pretty busy. Is it all a bit of a blur or do you feel in control?

LIFE: It’s gone real fast but I think we’re one of those bands that will always want to stay in control. Partly because of who we are. Partly because of coming from Hull. If we were in the East End of London and waltzing about getting pissed all day maybe we’d be less in control but we’re from Hull and we all have full time jobs and we like to stay in charge of things. We all have to balance our day jobs and the band but at the moment the music is our main aim. We’ve had some fantastic gigs – Great Escape, Liverpool Sound City, Live At Leeds, Dot To Dot Festival, Camden Rocks.

LTW: I saw the videos of you at Live At Leeds. How did it feel playing in front of what looks like a full house at the Academy? You don’t look phased by it.

LIFE: There were two thousand three hundred people there! Obviously they weren’t all there for us but you’ve got to go out there and enjoy it. We were really surprised when we saw how full it was. Kodaline were the headliners, we were first band up. We were expecting people to come in in dribs and drabs and we’d have to try to get them to come to the front but we went out and the place was at capacity almost.

LTW: All the press materials I get through from your management begin with the words “Hull punks Life” but you don’t seem to be a band that’s that too bothered about genre.

LIFE: I think if you stick to one genre you’re limiting yourself as to what you can do. We all contribute equally to the band’s sound and we’re all influenced by different things. We get called punks and we do have some of the punk ethos about us. We grew up listening to a lot of music with punk at its heart (because our Dad was in new wave bands and we listened to his record collection but we listened to a lot of other stuff too. Still do.

LTW: Your songs sound like you put some effort into creating them. They’re not just chucked together like some. The new single Take Off With You sounds almost like three songs in one. Did it grow organically from a single idea of are you more deliberate than that when you’re writing new material?

LIFE: It’s actually one of our most spontaneous songs. I had this riff that I had had knocking around for a while and I was playing it and Mez heard it and then we got a lyric on it and it just took off from there. We put a lot of work into it though because it had this vibe that felt like if we tweak this we can build it up nicely into something special. It felt like it had potential. We’re pretty happy with it, especially the big chorus, because a lot of choruses can be a bit wet and we wanted it to have some power and emotion.

LTW: Your single Money sounds quite political. Are you a political band?

LIFE: We do take an interest in politics. I don’t think that lyric is political in the sense that it’s about the government but it is a bit of a tirade against moneyed people, people who don’t have to give a fuck because they’ve got silver spoons in their mouths.

LTW: Your PR mentions an interest in pop culture. Anything from Steinbeck to Breaking Bad it says, which is the high end of low culture. Who’s the culture fan?

LIFE: That would be both of us because we write the lyrics. We both read a lot. At the moment we’re reading a lot of the beat poets and writers who hung out with them. We like Ferlinghetti and Bukowksi and we try and work little references to what we’ve been reading into our songs. We try not to be pretentious though, we just like a bit of wordplay. We’ve got a song called Ginsberger for example. And a line that mentions Kerouac. We try to give it a modern twist.

LTW: Can your drummer really rip an apple in two?

LIFE: He can. Yeah. We don’t know how he does it.

LTW: You’ve been working with Nick Hodgson from the Kaiser Chiefs.

LIFE: Well we go back quite far with him, over five years. He helped us with The Neat and we connect. He’s a Leeds guy and he saw something in us. He likens us to the Kaiser Chiefs when they were raw and touring the clubs. He’s great to work with because he knows his stuff and when he’s excited by what you’re doing that’s a great feeling. People in bands are always excited by what they’re doing but to have someone like Nick excited too, that validates what you’re feeling yourselves.

LTW: Steve Lamacq said last year that the music business is too metropolitan and that bands from the provinces, he specifically mentioned Hull bands, tend to get ignored.

LIFE: I think it’s definitely the case. There’s a lot more going on here than you might think. There are a lot of good bands in Hull. Daze and Babies who are playing tonight to start with, and Mother and The Talks. The drummer from Drowners is from Hull too. If you read the papers and listen to the radio you’d think there were only two cities in Britain – London and Birmingham. And the industry can become lazy. A lot of rich kids in London start up bands in Dalston and that’s where the record companies are. When we go to London we have A&R men come in and we’ve had some interest. But try and get an A&R man to come to Hull for a little gig. Different matter. We always get asked when are you moving to London.

LTW: So you’re Hull through and through.

LIFE: It’s an underdog city. We won’t let it get ignored.

LTW: How do you go about finding the things you need? Management, studios, rehearsal space, venues? Is Hull good for music making?

LIFE: Pretty good. There’s a music place in town called the Warren, they’ve just started Warren Records there, they support a lot of bands and then there’s this place, The Adelphi, and there’s Mark who’s done wonders with the Humber Street Sess. He’s been nominated for a festival award now, and of course Hull being 2017 City of Culture, that’s going to make a difference. It’s bound to bring people in – the fruit market area is buzzing. So long as it’s not just a fad, it’s got to spread out into the rest of the city. You can still walk down Whitefriargate and every shop is boarded up.

LTW: You played the main stage at the Freedom Festival. It was your eighth gig. How did that feel?

LIFE: It was a proud moment – in front of our home crowd. It was our first time on a big stage. We were on early but it was still good. It feels very different on a big stage. Some gigs we’ve played in London have been tiny rooms up three flights of stairs over pubs. The Dot To Dot Festival gig was tiny too. Capacity sixty, there were people on the stage with us.

LTW: You’ve been touring pretty hard lately. You played London on March 19th and Dundee on the 20th. That’s a good stretch. And there was a band there that really hated you? Like a big rivalry?

LIFE: Yeah we made it but we were exhausted. The rivalry thing was because Dundee and Hull were both up for City of Culture and Hull won. It wasn’t a real rivalry, just a bit of fun.

LTW: Did you enjoy touring? Could you get used to it?

LIFE: Yeah we loved it. That was our first experience of back to back gigs and that’s very different to playing spread out gigs. Playing. Sleeping in the van while someone drives. Playing again. It starts to feel like doing a job.

LTW: And what’s next for Life?

LIFE: We’ve got some good festivals coming up. Wicker Man, Kendall Calling, Boardmasters. And then a big tour in October. And we’ll be recording for a potential release in 2015.

LTW: Thanks guys. I’ll let you get on now.

So I let them carry on getting ready for the show and go for a wander. Outside the venue people are beginning to gather and when I get back there’s getting to be a bit of a buzz about the place.

First up are Daze who describe themselves as shoe gaze psychedelic rock and whose fuzz heavy riffs unwind echoing and powerful across the room, full of desert atmospherics and poppy choruses. They’re followed by Babies who by way of contrast give us a set of booming surfer punk proof, if it were needed, that there is a lot of talent in this city and a lot of diversity too.

By the time Life take the stage the place is packed – they’ve clearly got a local following building up. The set opens with In Citrus, a big slab of straight up and down rock, not subtle but brutal and very effective. It’s a great opener, sending out a message that this is a night when few if any prisoners will be taken.

The set list contains all the singles that I have been playing now for weeks and which have become part of my personal soundtrack – the vindictive Money, and Crawling which sounds like a piece of classic Pub Rock. There’s also I Wanna Forget which starts slow and build to a chorus which could come straight out of The Ramones songbook.

The band are as tight as you could wish and Mez, when he’s not reading poetry is an utterly compelling vocalist, part strutting Jagger, part vulnerable Doherty, part confrontational Jesson, a mixture of feral restlessness and sly intensity and old fashioned showmanship. He’s not easy to photograph because one minute he’s deep in the crowd on the floor, the next he’s climbing the drum kit and finding out just how low those beams in the roof at the Adelphi really are, but through it all you get the impression that there’s a lot of skilful image management going on here.

I remember what they said in the interview about being in control. The band have the happy knack of looking spontaneous and transgressive while staying firmly in charge of what they do. It’s a good trick that will carry them far. Don’t doubt that for a moment.

Of course the climax to the show is new single Take Off With You and it’s a blinder. I’m not going to try and put a label on it. You listen to it. It reminds me of a long lost Talking Heads track but you may hear something else completely. Whatever it is, it’s great and Life are a band on the way up, there’s not much doubt of it.

Watch this space.

Even if it’s a space in Hull.

~

Daze are on Facebook, Twitter and SoundCloud. Babies are on Facebook, Twitter and SoundCloud

Life’s website is here. They are also on Facebook and Twitter

All words by idp. More work by idp can be found in his Louder Than War archive. His photography website is here and his photo blog is here.

Mark Lanegan: Leeds – live review

Mark-Lanegan-005

Mark Lanegan
Leeds College Of Music
3rd November 2013

A night of gravel voiced alt country blues in leeds with Mark Lanegan and Duke Garwood

It’s an unusual arrangement for a convert venue, The Leeds College of Music. After climbing several flights of stairs I expected to be somewhere up in the gods looking down on the performers on a distant stage way down below. To enter the auditorium on the same level as the performance area, (there’s no raised stage), came as a bit of a shock. It’s a very serious venue too, plain and austere with high ceiling and white walls and as it happened that was well suited to an evening with Mark Lanegan, supported by Duke Garwood and Lyenn, which at times resembled a recital as much as a gig and was none the worse for that.

Mark-Lanegan-001

If there was any doubt that the focus was on the music and not the personalities of the performers it was dispelled from the outset by some of the darkest lighting I’ve ever seen at a gig. A handful of red spots high up in the rigging, a couple of scarlet leds on the stage and that was it. It would be nice to be poetic, given the sombre tone of the material, and say that the stage looked as though it was drenched in blood but in fact what it resembled most was a performance at the bottom of a tank of cherryade.

QRO review and images

Opener for the night was Lyenn whose songs, performed with guitar, are fragile things, referencing folk motifs and they heyday of prog. He may have been an unknown quantity to most of the audience at the start and have ended his set with a song which seemed to consist mostly of shouting but he had certainly won people over by the end of his short set and there were plenty of people checking out his stuff at the merch desk afterwards.

Neither Lanegan nor Duke Garwood the English blues musician with whom he collaborated on this year’s Black Pudding album are given to banter or chit chat with the audience or outlandish showmanship. They both stand very still and deliver their songs with great calm, Lanegan clutching the microphone and stand two handed and arching his body slightly towards it lending him (in a darkened room) a slight resemblance to Jarvis Cocker.

Mark-Lanegan-002

And the material is portentous and menacing. Dominated by tracks from Black Pudding, the effect accentuated by the darkness of the auditorium, it was powerful stuff. The audience was as silent as the crowd at any classical gig I’ve ever been to, on the edge of their seats at times. At one point I heard a boiled sweet being unwrapped about five rows away and I half expected someone to say shhhh, but they made enough noise between songs to dispel any impression that the gig was in any way a disappointment.

Duke Garwood performed solo, his voice quiet, guitar sometimes bluesy and disorted, sometimes crystal clear, laying delicate fills over deeply reverberative bass notes, songs whose simple melodies recalled Leonard Cohen’s Recent Songs. He picked up a big silver resonator for Manchester Special.

Mark Lanegan opened with five straight songs from Black Pudding, making them each more doom laden and intense than the last, but it was clear that he was enjoying himself, smiling occasionally between lines as he rocked gently at the mike. His voice was at times almost impossibly deep. It is conventional to reference Tom Waits or Nick Cave in this context but it was Kris Kristofferson that came to mind on the night. Cold Molly in particular benefitted from live performance. On the album it’s a fairly light weight number but live and with the addition of some funky bass it was transformed into a powerful and unsettling invocation to an unresponsive mistress.

The band was versatile, with Garwood on saxophone, Lyenn on bass, plus guitar and a cello and violin section that doubled up when occasion demanded on percussion and harmony. The addition of the cello was particularly apt – it added a depth and colour to the music which complemented the roughness of Lanegan’s delivery especially on a gorgeous Phantasmagoria Blues, which together with it’s Blues Funeral partner The Gravedigger’s Song formed the dark heart of the show before a run of covers taken from the recent Imitations album.

Mark-Lanegan-003

There’s something very appealing about listening to Lanegan singing other people’s songs. With his own material he can compose melodies to suit his own capabilities and limitations but with covers he has to make that bit more effort and lean into the lyric just a little. The traditional Cherry Tree Carol is a simple song onto which Lanegan loaded a great deal of emotional content – it threatened to topple but held up. Mack The Knife was delivered with just guitar accompaniment and fittingly included the rarely performed final verse – “There are some who are in darkness and the others are in light, and you see the ones in brightness, those in darkness drop from sight” but the revelation of the night was You Only Live Twice, the Barry and Bricusse number which has always seemed like the lightest and least significant of Bond themes until Lanegan invested it with a menace and caress that few could have imagined it would be capable of sustaining. It was followed by Solitaire, a deadweight song whose base metal heart even Lanegan could not alchemise into gold.

A version of Satellite Of Love in tribute to Lou Reed followed, made the more poignant for me by the fact that the last time I heard the song performed live, by Reed himself, was in another hall primarily designed for classical music, the Liverpool Philharmonic. That was a great night with Reed an hour late and in a foul mood and furious at the audience for slow hand clapping. “I waited years for you” he said before launching into an unidentifiable twenty minute jam as a punishment for our temerity.

Lanegan’s main set ended with one of the highlights of the night – a bluesy version of OV Wright’s Southern Soul classic On Jesus Program and after leaving the stage briefly he returned with just his guitarist for a fine version of The Screaming Trees’ Halo Of Ashes which drew a huge cheer from an audience who had clearly enjoyed an excellent show.

Grimsby Tri Club

Swimming, Cycling & Running in North East Lincolnshire

She Blogs About Music

Sweet, sweet pages of blissful music

The Daily Post

The Art and Craft of Blogging

The WordPress.com Blog

The latest news on WordPress.com and the WordPress community.

%d bloggers like this: