on Thursday evening, I accompanied my wife to see one of here favourite bands in the big town, 4 Canadian middle-aged men in a band called Barenaked Ladies. The gig was great fun with plenty of crowd interaction and making everyone laugh. It was a good show. they played a good range of new and old stuff and people generally seemed to be having fun.
musically the change from a 5 to a four piece has taken a while to settle down. the shows have been good and fun, but this time it felt more confident as a four piece. maybe confident is the wrong word, perhaps comfortable is closer description, in many ways it felt stronger than it had before.
perhaps this feeling has to do with the songs on the new album Silverball. It simple when you know that as a band you will be getting royalties from airplay of “One week” or other american chart single successes, or of course the royalties from the theme tune of TV series “the Big Bang theory”. Yet the writing on the 3 albums since 2010 have been getting stronger, 2010’s All in Good Time is a good album, “Grinning Streak” from 2013 is a very good album, and the current album Silverball is also a very good album. and part of the comfortableness I think I detected was a band who were confident with who they were and how they were doing things and that came across well.
anyway a really good show with Colin Hay of off Men at Work as the support act.
In my round-up of 2014, two of my top 10 favourite albums were “Goliath” by Steve Taylor & the Perfect Foil, and “Solid Gold Heart” by Jad Fair & Danielson. I recently had the opportunity to go to New York and by an extreme coincidence I managed to get tickets to see both Danielson and Steve Taylor & the Perfect Foil live, together, in New York people, (thanks my wife for her significant birthday, and subsequent surprise trip to NYC that I organised).
The gig was down on 12th street at Webster hall, the studio room, (think king tuts wah wah hut in Glasgow and you’re not too far off.) We took the subway down and found something to eat before heading to the venue. Where we caught the last two songs of the opening band, who sounded very similar to Franz Ferdinand.
Danielson was advertised as appearing in his 9 fruit tree. Having followed Daniel Smith through his Danielson Famile, Brother Danielson, Danielsonship and Danielson guises I knew what to expect. Danielson Famile started as a masters thesis project in which Daniel wrote some songs and played them live with his family as a performance piece. From that had come an avant-garde series of albums, featuring falsetto vocals, hand-made matching costumes and songs about dragons and the Holy Spirit, and struggle in how to be an artist and christian. You can see the trailer to the 2006 movie about him here (Danielson Movie Trailer). The Danielson experience is creative, otherworldly, polarizing, beautiful and like all the best art in the world, great fun.
They put up the 9 fruit tree, representing the 9 fruits of the Holy Spirit, it was so big it was hit the roof from its stage performance and required two tree technicians to assemble. With a guitar attached to the tree, Daniel stands in the tree and sings his songs. The audience participate in this with clap alongs, snap alongs, and during the song “Don’t You Be the Judge”, from the Tri-Danielson-Omega album, we had the audience making up verses and shout/singing them as part of the song. Having seen Danielson hit an unsuspecting audience before (in Glasgow on a UK Tour) I have seen this go not so well. In NYC on a Tuesday evening, it went brilliantly with every verse shouted/sung with vigour, leaving Daniel happy and slightly bemused while the room smiled, laughed, and sung along. This was emblematic of the role Danielson played in setting the right temperature of the room for the next act.
Steve Taylor and the Perfect Foil took the stage and started to rock out and room caught it. The band, Steve Taylor (Lead Vocals) Jimmy Abegg (Guitar) John Mark Painter (Bass) and Peter Furler (Drums), are set up as a simple, lean, rock’n’roll band, with drums, bass, guitar and a tall thin singing besuited gentleman. This wasn’t fancy big stadium stuff, it was more a was a grab for the heart of american modern rock. The band sounded great, tight as you would expect from these performers, Steve’s singing is consistently on the money with a great delivery. The songs are mostly straight rock with the odd bit of disco, reggae and a beautiful cover version which perfectly morphs into a live version of “Cash Cow” from the Squint album. it is a thing of beauty and joy. The live version of songs from 2014’s Goliath are awesome, and the songs from the back catalogue are handled brilliantly, Stand outs in the live contact were, “Comedian”, “Moonshot”, “Double Negative” from Goliath and “Easy Listening” and “Hero” also stood out significantly. NB I am pretty sure they played “sympathy vote” and I liked it, but the song kicks set list says they didn’t, so who knows?
As a concert experience it is impossible to ignore the manic, energetic, stage performance of Steve Taylor. Its is a remarkable piece of stage craft which dominated the performance. The Webster Hall studio stage isn’t the biggest in the world, he covered every inch of it several times. This energy complimented the attitude on stage with a real sense of the band enjoying being a band together. It was noticeable that this wasn’t Steve Taylor with some backing musicians, but it seemed like there was a real enjoyment of being together, and working with each other. Creating a space where the songs could flourish grow arms, and grab you into them. It really was a great show, with great music bringing a great big smile for everyone.
Anyway I came away singing “Man makes plans, God Laughs.” from Comedian. My wife came away thinking “Why didn’t he either put a hip out, or fall over from being dizzy?” Both true, both provoked by a fantastic evening.
The discussion I have been having, with myself, about being artist has been closely linked with the issue of beauty, beauty is partly about power and emotion. It is also something about attainaility. Eddi Reader has a brilliant voice. stunning, quite stunning to be honest. She can sell a song with confidence power and a tune to it. But somehow she manages to create something of beauty.
The songs were created by a live band of some very interesting players, but the key here is the tunes and the delivery of the lyrics which Eddi Reader does magnificantly. Her voice just delivers every song and every note it delivers.
Now folk music isn’t really the coolest thing to be into. Andrew Bird’s indie credentials are impeccable. liking cool beauty is easy. Yet Eddi Reader makes liking the songs of Burns a thing of wonder and amazement. Each song revealing something about the reality of normal life, in its glorious, wonder and amazment through each song.
If you get the chance to see Eddi Reader. It is a great show you would be annoyed to miss.
I have been thinking alot about the language of artist. what makes one an artist, where artistry ends. what should an artist do. Can anything be an art form and by necessity can anything then be done by an artist.
Surgery, is it an art form?
Speaking, is it an art form?
Podiatry, is it an art form?
One of the things not in doubt about Andrew Bird is he is an artist. Described as a multi-instrumentalist, a classically trained violinst, and one of the worlds best whistlers, his songs are a riot of sounds, textures, humour and beauty.
Lynzy, Karen, Rich and I were transported vicariously to different worlds. spaces where things happen and the world just seems right. songs of life, but each built individually and slightly differently. It was being in the presence of an artist who is creating as you watch.
For one hour and a halfhours we watched one man play every part, to every song using only a violin, a guitar and himself. each song performcane was a thing of majesty. For most of the concert it would be fair to say that that Oran Mor was the quietest i have heard it at any gig I have been at. It was almost surreal watching each song be made, played, controled and ended by one man and a wall of sound.
did it cause an emotional response, yes.
It was art, and Andrew Bird is a top notch artist!
So the holy grail really is free legal music.
something you can downlaod and own just because the other person is giviging it away. something which some artists are trying, some thing which can work well.
Anyway two live concert recordings are currently available for download by two of my favourite bands.
On the “pop”ier side of things, Barenaked Ladies have been long term loves of mine. they have a turn of phrase, an ability to make you laugh with simple yet effective humour, and a great line in pop/rock tunes. And they are Canadian. nice. ever since i heard “If i had$1,000,000” i have followed them. anyway things have been a bit shaky for them. They left their label, formed their own record company, released 2 albums and 1 children’s album, Lead singer Steven Page was arrested for drugs offenses, declare to prove himself innocent, the band canceled a tour with Disney.
No real surprise then that the band announced that band Steven Page had left the band amicably to pursue solo projects, causing the band to go from a 5 piece to a 4piece.
So what would it sound like?
Would it be any good?
one of the key points of the band had been the vocal interplay between ed’s straighter rock vocals and Steven’s more theatrical vocals. The other thing which really made them stand out were the intricate five part harmonies which the band preformed live. well, a week or so ago as part of a mardi gras celebration the and played live as a four piece. They recorded the live front of house mix and have released the whole concert live as a free give away.
and would you believe that apart from a few ropy harmonies which i think can be mostly forgiven they sound not half bad.
(I particularly love “the Big Bang Theory” theme tune) yeah, we built the pyramids!
Perhaps I just have a love of wordsmiths. The second live offering is the first live performance of the album “The Hazard of Love” by The Decemberists. The album is described in a press release as, “a 17-song suite that tells the tale of a woman named Margaret who is ravaged by a shape-shifting animal; her lover, William; a forest queen; and a cold-blooded, lascivious rake.” yeah rock on! not really spinal tap i suppose but to be honest. it is quite wonderful.
Is it any good?
A live 17 song suite, isn’t that just a return to prog?
I have only got through the first 10 songs but think that a long drive to Edinburgh this evening may provide me with the opportunity to hear the whole thing. What’s that? how can I listen to the whole concert. well i will tell you. The good people at NPR recorded the whole thing, broadcasted it live on the web and on American radio and have made it a live concert podcast. Click here to access the live stream or the podcast.
sometimes. I really love live free music, don’t you?
Last Wednesday we went to go see howling bells. I quite liked their first album but didn’t get a chance to hear the new album until the day of the concert. it seemed less rocky/grungy than I remembered. But I did like the album. It reminded me of Franz Ferdinand. Rock music influenced by angular dance music. I went with my friends Rich and lynzy
Venue – Classic Grand
the queue for the bar took up over half of the main standing area.
The smoke machines periodically obscured any view of the stage.
felt vaguely gladiatorial with the raised areas around the side.
It was my first time in there as a venue. Not sure i would be in a hurry to go back.
Support – The Joy Formidable.
seemed to be trying to hard. I realise being a support band is a thankless task, but the task is made hard when the lead singer reminds you of the receptionist/admin worker at your wives company. Only with slightly jerkier movements
didn’t really get the crowd ready for anything.
Sound & lighting
Decent, but the system seemed to be lacking headroom around the high mid range frequencies. it was sounding undefined around there. i could see most things but the constant smoke was a real problem.
Main Band – Howling bells
They came out and opened with some stuff from the new album.
it didn’t seem to be met with a rapturous reception. I am not sure the audience then actually went with the band after that. the songs in my short term memory sounded good, and reasonably close to the versions on the album.but the people in the room didn’t seem to be getting it, the crowd noise increased. the band seemed quite tight. the songs sounded good. but the audience generally seemed reticent to go with it.
the album has received mixed reviews with a pretty equal split to be found on any internet search. I wondered if that indifference had influenced the attitude of the (noisy) crowd. I also wondered how many people had actually heard the album rather than as the man I overheard in the toilet, while talking on his phone,
“I saw a picture of this burd in a magazine and i thought she looked hot so I am here to see her and her band…yeah hopefully i’ll be banging her later” I think he was being optimistic slightly.
The only point where things changed was during the song Golden Web, when singer Juanita Stein waltzed out into the middle of the crowd and started dancing. she just disappeared and the appeared about 1 meter from us in the middle of the main standing area. The atmosphere did change and people seemed to respond to that genuinely.
Conclusion – mixed
I really enjoyed hearing the songs live, but it was held back from being a great gig by the lack of headroom in the sound stuff and the strange crowd atmosphere. anyway enough of my random witterings.
Her voice is great and the folky/country musical stylings of her solo work are good and fun. I particular I have enjoyed the Rabbit Fur Coat album. I got her latest album Acid Tongue a couple of weeks ago and had heard songs on random as the time had passed. they were good but I didn’t know them intimately yet.
This saturday evening gig was at the Queen Margaret Union of Glasgow University. in glasgows trendy west end. I had been in the QMU for various things over the years but not for a gig. after meeting with my compadre’s – Rich,Lynzy, and Aileen we headed for the venue.
First up Lynzy seemed particularly happy to be going to the gig. I have never seen anyone so excited to see a tour bus! the queue in was a sign as to how busy the concert was going to be. The small room was absolutely rammed with people. it was suggested that we go upstairs. Up stairs is a seated space with room ofr standing behind the seating and at the sides of the venue. we sat in the back row just to the right of the centre of stage.
All this detail is important for two reasons. one where you are affects the way you experieince the show. the second reason is that I think it did affect the way I saw the show.
The show was good. Jenny sang well the band was tight, the songs sounded good. i could here very well had good sight lines of what was going on… but…something didn’t sit well. I enjoyed it, in particular ‘Carpetbaggers’, ‘Godspeed’ and ‘Fernando’ from Acid Tongue, were stand out songs…but even so I felt it lacked something.
So what was missing. I dunno. My initial reaction was that it was an element of stagecraft.The band were good and instuments filled that stage but their just seemed a reticence on behalf of the band to go with it, or to interact outwith their own parts. I thought it was that jenny didn’t really have anything beyond singing and walking around. at one peoint she stood on her piano stool, another point she kicked it over.
When I voiced these thoughts after the gig, Lynzy thought that she had been captivating and had seen the gig entirely different, loving the way she was sashaying accross the stage to get her water in time with the music. I was unconvinced, but began to wonder if it was just sitting down upstairs near the back of the venue which had led me to those thoughts.
With a couple of days reflection I am still unsure. I contrast the show we saw with the ‘Oooh Baby, Baby’ advert from Budweiser. I think we saw a good band play good songs with a great singer but I am not sure we saw a great show.
also, Jenny Lewis is tiny, andthe gig was slightly on the short side at around 75minutes. but hey those are facts the rest of this is opinionated wonderings
What a gig! They played a short (ish) set, about 1hour 15mins. but managed to get through the whole of “This is Alphabeat” album and also a deliciously awesome cover version of Sugababes, “Push the button”.
anyway the review…
The Alphabeat gig has been posponed since June. We turned up with some wonder about the gig. Upon turning up to the door we were age checked. I am 31 and the bouncer did ask me if I was over 18. This was unexpected but delightful. I was worried that this would be an omen for the age of the concert goers inside but I need not have worried. Inside the venue was filled with a variety of ages and was about half to three quarters full.
As I have previously noted Oran Mor suffers from two main issues, an 11pm strict curfew, and conversation noise. The crowd can be made of people wanting to chat through a concert to their friends rather than listening to music. using this knowledge positioning within the venue is key to enjoyment of the gig. We got a good position, next to a piller about 5m. from the stage and waited.
The Support band Alto Elite were okay. They had a good pop/rock vibe but ultimately were lacking something to take it beyond a decend to a memorable. Lacking real hooks, strong melody. The problem was I cannot remeber anything about their set with two notable exceptions. The drummer was a lefty playing a right handed drum set up and was clearly the best inividual player with the band. The keyboard player felt a bit like an add on. At one point he was playing possibly the worst keyboard solo every. He felt like an add on to the band, so lose the keyboard player (or get him lessons). In short, write some memorable and catchy pop songs and make sure everyone can see the drummer then you guys have a reciepe to go places.
The crowd swelled to be about three quaters full. The toilets were still remarkably clean. lots of boys with modern straightened hair!
Alphabeat The band came out and blasted us into a pop universe. No really it is quite unreal, Anders SG (vocals), Stine (vocals), are the main focus of the gig, by virtue of being up front really. The energy from these two is quite remarkable. Anders is all over the stage dancing, (kinda reminicent of Ian Curtis and Tim Booth mixed with Bez). Meanwhile Stine has this kinda fifties dress sense and dance thing going on, kinda cute, cool and sorted.
As for the band, as a whole they groove in an excellent pop way – Anders B (guitar), Rasmus (keyboard), Anders R (bass), and Troels (drums), are a remarkably solid unit with a groove. Alphabeat didn’t stray to far from the album versions, but they added a few twists and turns to move from a pop show to a rock show. Firstsong they played has become my favourite song – Fantastic 6, check it out. The album version builds but live it is totally transformed to a song of euphoric proportions.
notable things from the gig include + That Anders B (guitars) plays a three quarter length guitar. wow haven’t seen any band use one of them for a while as a primary instrument. (perhaps that is the secret of alphabeats pop sound?) + This was probably the loudest gig i have been at, in oran mor. it was blasting. + Rasmus on keyboards hair is worth a mention as well (Flock of seagulls anybody). + Free badges on the way in. Nice one! + Lots of camera but nothing on flickr yet?
I would like to know why no encore? I know they had played the entire album and one cover version but it did seem quite weird. I noted the tour van had left the venue sharpish so i wonder if they had to catch the last plane for the airport and had to leave, but it did seem weird exspecially as the lights and music came up before the band had fully left the stage?
Anyway the gig was great. It makes you smile, sing, dance and generally have a swell time. just a quality evening of music, again! (This is becoming a habit)