|Live Reviews May/June 2009|
Quick-links to sub-sections:
Gurf Morlix - Harpur Suite, Bedford - 2nd May 2009
The Handsome Family - The Tron, Glasgow - 17th May 2009
The Stairwell Sisters - Glasgow Americana, Royal Concert Hall - 23rd May, 2009
Mark Olson And Gary Louris - Darvel Town Hall - 9th May 2009
Solas -The Stables, Wavendon - 14th May 2009
Handsome Family - Phoenix, Exeter - 31st May 2009
The Duke & The King - Bush Hall, Shepherds Bush, London - 26th May 2009
Christy Moore - Sage, Gateshead - 31st May 2009
Steve Forbert - Bush Hall, London - 8th June 2009
Genticorum - The Queens Hall, Edinburgh - 28th May 2009
Drew Nelson - The Village, Edinburgh - 23rd June 2009
Neil Young - Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre - 24th June 2009
Neil Young - Trent FM, Arena Nottingham - 23rd June 2009
The Dead Weather - the Forum, London - 24th June 2009
Roger McGuinn - The Stables Wavendon - 25th June 2009
Roger McGuinn - The Cadogan Hall, London - 26th June 2009
Jason Lytle - Islington Academy, London - 28th May 2009
Roger McGuinn - Cadogan Hall, London - 26th June 2009
|Reviews this month for Gurf Morlix, the Handsome Family, the Stairwell Sisters, Mark Olson And Gary Louris, Solas, the Handsome Family, The Duke & The King, Steve Forbert, Christy Moore, Genticorum, Drew Nelson, Neil Young (twice over), the Dead Weather, Roger McGuinn (again, twice) and Jason Lytle.|
|Gurf Morlix - Harpur Suite, Bedford - 2nd May 2009|
Review by Phil Edwards
Opening for Venice, Morlix stole the show. Unlike the headliners his set wasn’t contrived, over rehearsed or suited to a cruise ship.
Featuring mainly songs from his latest album “Last Exit To Happyland”, Morlix isn’t a particularly confident performer, but he needn’t have worried. Whilst the majority of the crowd were primarily there to see Venice, he won them over with his songs of love, death, murder, revenge and New Orleans.
The Harpur Suite is an interesting place to hold gigs. It looks like it’s more suited to wedding receptions or council meetings, with its statues and cherubs dotted around the place. And I’m not referring to the audience, although they were of a certain age.
Opening with “She’s A River”, Morlix quickly made his presence felt. Just him and his trusty guitar he got a beat going by using his foot to stamp on something that sounded like a beat box. He didn’t have enough time before the show started to do a decent sound-check so sought reassurance from the crowd that the sound was OK. It sure was Gurf.
His chugging blues guitar on “Walkin’ To New Orleans”, sums up his current approach to his music. Rough and ready, but also well produced, his latest album ably demonstrates not only his dexterity at writing thoughtful songs, but his gruff voice matches them perfectly. “I Got Nothin’” was spat out with venom and it’s forcefulness nearly toppled one of the onstage speakers, which would have startled the rude teenagers chatting amongst themselves in the front row.
His paen to his friends Ian MacLagen’s loss, was one of the stand out tracks. “Voice Of Midnight” tells the story of their love of 24 years, that was so tragically ended when Mac’s wife was killed in a car accident a couple of years ago. Written in 15 minutes, Morlix couldn’t sing it until the following day when he recorded it.
“Madalyn’s Bones” wryly outlined how the founder of the “American Atheists” and “The most hated woman in America”, Madalyn Murray O’Hair, ironically ended up being reinterred in a Christian ceremony, after being murdered and chopped up by the organisations office manager. How true this is, is open to conjecture, but it makes for a good story. “And the hip bone was next to the shoulder bone”.
Morlix sung a couple of songs about his deceased buddy, Blaze Foley, “Cold Cold World” and “Music You Mighta Made” and told a couple of stories about how Blaze infuriated him with his continual surly behaviour, but they remained true friends.
Finishing with his version of The Five Blind Boys of Alabama’s “This May Be The Last Time”, it yet again demonstrated how versatile he is, turning his hand to some fine picking on this wonderful gospel song. Let’s hope this isn’t the last time, as Morlix intimated that he’ll be back in the Autumn. You’d be wise to see him.
|The Handsome Family - The Tron, Glasgow - 17th May 2009|
Review By Mike Ritchie
There’s a lot of smiling at this gig, on and off stage. That might surprise many people who have only read about the duo’s penchant for songs riddled with darkness, death and the macabre. But Rennie Sparks and her husband, Brett are funny live (well, they wouldn’t be if dead, I suppose) through their chit-chat, the song introductions and the banter with the audience. It’s desert dry humour as they introduce their offerings. “This is a song about insects,” said lyricist, Rennie, giggling. “Not incest, I’m not interested in that – you haven’t seen my side of the family.” The smiling continues with every opening verse in their songs, prised from an intriguing and beguiling bank of CD releases.
This sell-out show, part of the excellent Glasgow Americana Festival, was a knockabout celebration of the deadpan, a real joy. You can imagine the Sparks sitting by the entrance to a fairground ghost train ride singing tracks from their earlier albums to unsettle thrill seekers. Their eighth release “Honey Moon” is their wayward and out of kilter take on romance, togetherness and lurve so maybe their carnival pitch would be beside the tunnel of love, who knows? However, in the conventional setting here their rich and finely-honed repertoire is hugely enjoyable with superb accompaniment from guitarist/fiddler Stephen Dorcke and the gentle flourishes of Jason Toth on drums. Rennie’s words plus Brett’s music and strong, mellow vocals create a magical potion of grim fairytales in a rock and blues pot with grinning unavoidable.
We were treated to songs abut cement mixers, giants, bottomless holes, airports and booze sessions at Christmas time all from Rennie’s skewed and wonderful lyrics’ cupboard or deep, dark forest den, wherever she stores them. It’s a merry musical ride that’s hypnotic as it is colourful, playfully penetrating in a “you’d better watch out” kinda way. Fun and gothic intrigue combined. Just terrific.
|The Stairwell Sisters - Glasgow Americana, Royal Concert Hall - 23rd May, 2009|
Review by Paul Kerr
It seemed somewhat fitting that this, the closing concert in this years Glasgow Americana festival, took place in the auspicious surroundings of the Glasgow Concert Hall. From a three gig weekend only three years ago, promoter Kevin Morris has seen his baby grow to encompass a full week of class acts and tonight was hopefully a portent of things to come.
The Stairwell Sisters, a huge hit here when they appeared on the Celtic Connections bill a few years back, have been around Scotland, supported by a grant from the Scottish arts Council, and have been busy exploring the shared roots of our folk music and culture. To this end there was a surprise in store tonight when midway through their first set, Scottish step dancer, Frank McConnell, wandered on to the stage. Looking for the entire world like a member of the audience who had lost his way to the loo. When he started to dance however all was clear. The evening had started with the Stairwells showcasing Evie Ladin’s Appalachian clog dancing skills and when she and McConnell joined up to perform a duet dance there were gasps at the intricacy of their steps. A veritable Fred and Ginger of roots type hoofing.
Throughout the show McConnell and his buddy, fiddle maestro, Watty Robson came on and went off, playing jigs and reels. Accompanied by Stairwell bassist Martha Longhorne and honorary sister Erik Pearson (depping in on excellent dobro for new mum Lisa Berman) this was an exemplary class in transatlantic connections.
For the main part of the show the sisters were effusive and gushing, obviously enjoying their stay in the land of haggis and castles. As for the music they are a tremendously lively crew, in love with their heritage as they played old songs written by the likes of Dock Boggs and Woody Guthrie and added some of their own. For all the vigour invested in full blown string band hoe-downs however they really only excelled when they allowed their harmonies to shine on some spine chilling Appalachian ballads such as Boggs' “Drunkard's Love Child” and “In my Time of Dying” (which they call “Dying Bed”). By the end they were all on stage, fiddlin’, pluckin, dancin, and the crowd were all having a great old time. Invigorating and educational, what more can you ask for?
|Mark Olson And Gary Louris - Darvel Town Hall - 9th May 2009|
Review By Mike Ritchie
No-one doubted that the founding members of The Jayhawks would leave a full house delighted on what turned out to be a truly memorable night in this small Ayrshire town. Their performance, aglow with featherlight acoustic guitars and over flowing with gilt-edged vocals, proved a real highlight of the Darvel “Homecoming” Festival. Neil and Sheila McKenna and the diligent Festival organising team really do have the knack of attracting great Americana acts to this venue just a short walk from their front doors as Olson and Louris were treading the boards previously graced by the likes of Richmond Fontaine, Hayden and The Deadstring Brothers among others.
The 75-minute set floated pleasingly by. Wafting our way came a fair selection from the duo’s current release “Ready for The Flood” and a few back catalogue offerings. But, immediately their instinctive, tight-as-a-padlock harmonies offered the comfort and joy you get when old and valued friends drop by. Actually, to describe their harmonies as flawless is a bit like saying Placido Domingo can hold a tune or MPs enjoy cash troughs with their noses in them. It is really uncanny how their voices blend beautifully as they sing their bittersweet songs. Two voices, one unique sound.
They will never shake off their Jayhawks’ tag – and why should they? – but it’s clear they are determined to look ahead, to recognise they are older, perhaps musically wiser, without the need to turn up exclusively with a band reunion set list, although some might argue that would be no bad thing. The tracks from “Ready for the Flood” have desert dust on them and a bare intensity that celebrate a revived friendship, a renewed and confident vigour to make damn fine music together. Smooth and warm, mellow and languid, as you would expect, the songs were supported by delicate percussion from Ingunn Ringvold. As the tales unfolded thoughts of Gram Parsons, Simon and Garfunkel, The Everley Brothers and The Byrds were never far away through tracks such as The Rose Society, Turn Your Pretty Name Around or Saturday Morning on Sunday Street. Olson and Louris intuitively performed, united like brothers in arms, neither hogging the limelight, both determined to play as one. This was sheer class, pure and simple.
Scots boys, The Endrick Brothers, Eileen Rose and The Holy Wreck plus Hey Negrita were all worthy support acts. I’m no A&R man but just why The Endricks are not a bigger name defies belief. They rock, they harmonise, they are red hot musicians with a selection of songs as good as you’re likely to hear. This website rates them and so does Gary Louris who asked them to play another song before he took to the stage as he was so impressed by what he’d heard. What have they got to do to reach a bigger audience?
|Solas -The Stables, Wavendon - 14th May 2009|
Review by Jonathan Aird
Solas are an American/Irish band playing traditional and traditionalesque songs and tunes on a variety of instruments - guitar, tenor banjo, flute, keyboards, fiddle, accordian. They rarely take the stage all together and so are constantly wandering on and off and changing instruments as they become a duo, a trio, a quartet and just occasionally the full quintet. On this night they were concentrating on music from their latest album "For Love and Laughter". The strong heart of the band is Seamus Egan, Mick McCauley and Winifred Horan (ex-cherish the ladies who mentioned she'd played at The Stables many years ago when it really was a stable), who provide the instrumental virtuosity; whilst Eamon Mcelholm fills rhythm guitar duties and Mairead Phelan provides the vocal work.
A couple of times I felt that Solas had a tendency to be too well mannered - for example their version of The Gallant Hussar is a gentle folk song, which pales against, say, Eliza Carthy & The Ratcatchers version which is belted out with a gutsy earthiness which seems to better catch the song's place in the world. They do let rip more on sets of tunes - with Horan's fiddle bow shedding hairs at an alarming rate as the pace speeds up, and they are very good at what they do. Slowly I am being brought round to thinking the Tenor Banjo is not the abomination against nature I have always regarded it as, so good is Egan's playing. And Phelan does an excellent job on Seven Curses (which some may be familiar with from Dylan's version), a song I seem to be hearing a lot this year - Judy Collins also does a good version. Her unaccompanied version of Bonny Prince Billy's "Ohio River Boat Song" however was a rather breathless encore.
Overall not a bad night out, not one I walked away from raving about, but certainly I wasn't disappointed.
|Handsome Family - Phoenix, Exeter - 31st May 2009|
Review by Kayleigh O’Reilly
On a gloriously hot Friday night the gothic duo, Brett and Rennie Spark, better know as ‘The Handsome Family’ performed their bluegrass, country style murder ballads to a packed Exeter Phoenix theatre. The Chicago based band was supported by the wonderfully ethereal, brooding blues music of ‘The Smoke Fairies’.
‘American Gothic’ is a term that perfectly encapsulates the haunting melodies of ‘The Handsome Family’. Their songs spring from the murder ballads and folk law tradition of Puritan America; however Rennie has twisted this sense of the traditional around the themes of modern American life. ‘The Handsome Family’ are the musical alternative to David Lynch; if you enjoyed ‘Twin Peaks’ then Spark’s tales of Byronically destructive lovers, deadly pits, road kill, suicidal fishermen, twisted car wrecks and cerement mixers may just set your spine tingling. Their seductively sinister songs could almost have sprung straight from the pages of an Edgar Allen Poe novel; however these are songs which are also rich with dark humour. The black humour of The Handsome Family is particularly delicious, the audience seizes upon these moments of relief with giddy eagerness that creates the sensation of enjoyable terror.
Brett Spark, in his Teddy boy attire, offers a pretty good idea of how Buddy Holly would have looked if he’d survived into his 50’s. Rennie Spark, dressed in black with long dark hair and horn rimmed glasses places me in mind of a matured Edin from ‘Ghost World’. The couple in reality however are much more charming than their supernatural creations; happily chatting to their audience with disarming ease. On stage the pair creates an air of comic banter; married for over 20 years they hold such obvious affection for one another that they cannot fail to endear the audience. The welcoming, even light hearted, nature of the couple creates a surprising contrast to their music, adding yet another bizarre, comic dimension to their tortured lyrics.
Nick Cave’s wonderful ‘Murder Ballads’ seems like mere child’s play in the quest for creepiness when compared with the songs of this compelling pair. Guaranteed to provoke a reaction, ‘The Handsome Family’ are a fantastic live act. Judging by the rapturous demand for an encore I was not alone in my admiration for this truly unique, delightfully twisted couple.
|The Duke & The King - Bush Hall, Shepherds Bush, London - 26th May 2009|
Review by Alan J Taylor
With the Felice Brothers in the middle of a major US tour, at the height of their success and playing to packed houses wherever they appear. It comes as some surprise therefore, to find Simone Felice their trademark ‘nasty’ drummer, co-writer and occasional wild eyed guitarist playing to two hundred at the three-quarter full, Bush Hall. It’s a long story, but it seems that after a winter of personal tragedy, detailed on the bands myspace ‘open letter’ which culminated in the loss of his unborn child, that he needed to break free and find his own personal artistic outlet. So were we to expect something special from this natural showman, who at times during Felice Brother’s live shows, would enter centre stage spectacularly? Often to be found standing on or clambering over the drum set and monitors, climbing up into the rafters or performing a particularly devilish version of Mercy teetering quixotically, on the edge of the stage. This was the The Duke & The King’s first outing in the UK, one of only two gigs in Europe and their third gig together. This was a kind of pre-tour taster, for the media and those lucky few with their finger on the pulse.
The Duke & The King take their name from two adventuring rapscallions in Mark Twains book - Huckleberry Finn, who float on a raft from town to town giving ‘shows’ occasionally almost getting lynched or tarred and feathered in the process. With the ‘King’ - Rob ‘Chicken’ Burke on drums, and soulster Nowell Haskin on percussion and voice, plus a bassist and extra guitars things were looking interesting. The opening song was a somewhat nervous rendition (this was only their third live show together) of Felice classic, the incredible Don’t Wake The Scarecrow, a torrid tale of a hooker and her sad drug addled life. It soon became clear that the tar and feathers would not be required, as most of the Felice friendly audience were already onside. Playing a battered old Telecaster the ‘Duke ‘took centre stage and warmed to his task moving into the new material from the forthcoming debut album NOTHING GOLD CAN STAY with ease. If ever a song had a touch of the autobiography about it, it has to be the delightful If You Ever Get Famous where Felice sings out the lines “If you ever get famous// don’t forget about me // I hope it’s everything that you thought it would be” with more than a little irony. There’s hardly a dry eye in the house though, when in the light of his recent experiences, he performs a super emotional Your Belly In My Arms. This is followed by a characteristically demonic version of The Devil Is Real, during which, the front row steps back a little, as he delivers with bulging eyes the line, “Pharaoh my Pharaoh, mi bonnie is dead // She’s in my Camaro, with a tear in her dress.”
As the set moves on we see the regal harmonising drummer Burke, moving to centre stage for a song or two and Felice getting back into that distinctive and characteristic lazy drum sound. Haskins meanwhile amazes with his soulful backing, which in turn becomes lead as the night moves into a frenzy. Felice swapping comfortably between guitar, drums to backing and lead vocal is exuberant, exuding energy, volleying the drums with his feet and kneeling prostrate in front of Haskins as his voice soars upwards to the ornate ceiling. The crowd absorb the energy and are soon singing away to songs that they don’t even know the words to, as mass automatic verbal osmosis sets in. The ‘Duke’ is soon leaping madly into the middle of the crowd in his frenzy, it was simply a matter of time really.
This is soulful cracked Americana, with a touch of Gospel thrown in. On some of the quieter numbers like Union Street and The Morning I get To Hell you could hear a feather drop as the crowd drank in the intonation of the words. Oh yes, that’s another thing - the words, this is no ordinary, bland song-writing. One More American Song and Union Street for example have so much to say, in away that builds up a picture in your mind that haunts your psyche, long after the notes have faded away. The encore is a rocked up version of the Felice Brothers Radio Song followed by a frenzied version of the Beatles’ Don’t Let Me Down, during which a soaked Felice implores the crowd, “Don’t let me down // Don’t let me down – by which time the crowd want the Duke and The King to live on for ever . . . and they’ve only just started their journey up the river. Within seconds of the final number ending, he’s back in the crowd thanking them for their time. The ‘Duke’ on this night is literally poetry in motion! The album comes out on ‘Loose Records’ in July and the tour proper is due for September, taking in the ‘End Of The Road Festival’ – this really is don’t miss material. Long live the King! Oh yes, and long may the Duke continue at his most energetic-poetic best.
|Christy Moore - Sage, Gateshead - 31st May 2009|
Review by Maurice Hope
Irish singer-songwriter Christy Moore spoke of how he first came to the North East some 42 years ago, and during the course of the evening spoke of those who took him in. The Doonan Family a musical family from these parts with a long tradition in traditional music from Hebburn among them. This was when Moore after coming over from Ireland was living in Manchester trying to establish himself as a folk singer — which he subsequently did, the hard way. Playing folk clubs of all sizes and repute.
Sat beside him on stage was famed Wexford guitarist and producer Declan Sinnott, and as ever the former Mary Black sideman was up for it. Alternating between acoustic and electric guitar he was the perfect foil for Moore as the old master dipped into his vast repertoire of wares — both penned by him self and others.
With his heart very much in touch with the thoughts of the workingman, Moore set off in quick fashion and rarely eased off the pedal other than share a host of reminisces. Many of the old days as already noted and others concerning other musicians, songs and the state of the world — his anti-war and equal spreading of wealth have long been issues he has addressed.
Although Christy has made a ton of recordings, solo, with Planxty and Moving Hearts—it as a live entertainer his music raises to another level. Ignited by adrenalin from the audience, Moore gave life and energy unheard on record to the likes of Richard Thompson’s Beeswing. Even a live recording that figures on the expanded version of Burning Times paled into insignificance against that heard at the Sage and there were a bunch more where he outstripped versions on record.
A master at playing on the hearts of an audience and their love of nostalgia, life’s simple oddities and how he takes off faster than a greyhound chasing the elusive hare — that is how the words, the drama spilled from his wordy fare he was near as good as it gets during a performance that topped the two hour mark.
Milking the audience and drawing on his own spirit Christy with the likes of his tribute to the late Hamish Imlach — as he announced now I will do his song, Black Is The Colour. On having a dig at Gateshead’s neighbour Newcastle at the other side of the water he spoke of Damien Duff and Joey Barton in one breath and turn of Terry Wogan, Daniel O’Donnell and Gloria Honeyford to gain a less than honourable mention at a gathering of the clan back on home soil. Where honours were handed out to dignitaries but not himself and Declan he decried —tongue in cheek. As his banter and humour repeatedly spilled Moore gave a little added spice to the songs, either by way of introductory anecdotes or in the song.
Auld Christy may not have the widest range in vocals, but when he hits a groove with his half-spoken, half sung style and the lyrics are good he is likewise up for the challenge. With him moving around the world by way of song as El Salvidor, City Of Chicago that speaks of people dreaming of the hills of Donegal and how they road the railroad cars — and then with a lively lilt to his voice he skipped a merry dance via Don’t Forget Your Shovel. A huge crowd-pleaser, and one that like with his closing effort — Lisdoonvarna he had the audience doing their best to lift the rafters of the venue! Delirium Tremens one of his own best creations was likewise greeted with a roar of enthusiasm, and so it continued as Moore’s grip on the audience held fast. Little wonder the whole audience was standing as the boys walked off stage for the final time.
On showing a great fondness for the west, Clare of course is where one of the land’s strongholds in traditional music, Doolin village lies there and the Willy Clancy Festival is held in the summer. Christy may have travelled the world many times yet it seems like he at his happiest visiting the lesser known spots, exchanging views with the locals and picking up bits of crack concerning how it once was.
By the time it was for Moore and Sinnott to pack up their guitars, and in the case of the former a bowrawn (that made a brief appearance) long after such fare as a terrific version of The Reel In The Flickering Light, old favourite Nancy Spain had shown him in musical and story-telling terms to be more than just an Ordinary Man. Ride On Christy Moore, ride on!
|Steve Forbert - Bush Hall, London - 8th June 2009|
Review by Jonathan Aird
Back to wonderful Bush Hall - it must rate as one of London's nicest venues - just in time to bag one of the last few front row seats, and to find that the all seater configuration is a tight squeeze. At least, I thought, I should be able to get a couple of good pictures before being withered with Steve's "that's enough photo's" look, only here's a strange thing - it never came. I'm getting ahead of myself but this performance was the most relaxed I think I've ever seen Steve.
Louis Elliot is not someone I'd heard of before, but the modern day oracle that is Wikipedia tells me that he was once in a Britpop band - but not one of the three I'd heard of - and is the son of landed gentry. It's little enough to go on - so I wasn't expecting too much - although Steve gets some openers who go on to have a pretty high profile - I'm thinking Newton Faulkner here. As it turns out, he's not half bad. On stage Louis has an easy charm and a flopping mop of hair, and he plays acoustic guitar in a folkie singer songwriter manner. His apparently simple songs contain lyrics with some nice turns of phrase. He sings six or seven songs including "Everyone Loves You When You're Dead" which documents a drug death and a dysfunctional well to do family, it's introduced as having happened nearby. On a lighter note is "Country Life" which sees Louis yearning to leave the big city behind for a Graham Nash style bucolic idyll - a perfect rural retreat with a leaky roof.
Having checked his mikes and his extensive harmonica layout, Steve Forbert is warmly welcomed onstage. He launches straight into “Thinkin' “, from his debut album “Alive on Arrival”, an album he will revisit several times during the night. I've heard many different descriptions of Steve's singing over the years, not all of them kind, but tonight it's unstrained and smooth, more fine malt than moonshine. He bangs out his chords and blows accompaniment on the harp and his feet provide a steady percussive beat. He is the epitome of Folk with a Rock sensibility.
At several points Steve asks for audience requests - leading to a plethora of replies, far too many for one night, but that's to be expected if you have a dozen or so studio albums to your name. Obviously there has to be a showcasing of the new album, and five new songs pepper the set. These include the ironic tales “My Stolen Identity”, in which someone is living a fine life at someone else's expense, and “The Beast of Ballyhoo (Rock Show)” which parodies arena events ("it's me in Section 53") and serves to underline what a pleasure it is to be up-close to the performer. It also comes across better performed solo - the band version on the album uses many of the gimmicks being mocked which makes it hard to listen to repeatedly.
Other new songs stray on to typical Forbert territory - things falling apart or coming to an end - epitomised by "Simply Must Move On". “The Oil Song” - mocking corporate responses to oil spill disasters - is a regular crowd favourite and “Romeo's Tune” is still a beautiful song, and it's delivered as if it's just been freshly polished up. Steve could be forgiven for treating it less kindly as it is his biggest hit to date and so is the one song every audience is going to want. Some other older songs also reappear – “Song For Katrina” off the sadly long unavailable "Little Stevie Orbit" album must be a contender for Steve's tenderest love song in which Katrina's perfection is observed in a series of everyday vignettes. In a nice gesture the old tag of "new Dylan" is tackled head on with a version of Muddy Water's "Trouble No More" which Dylan himself recently reshaped as “Someday Baby” on “Modern Times”.
Through it all Steve seems to be at the top of his game, chatting relaxedly with the crowd, at ease with the setup, at ease with his music and enjoying himself as much as we're enjoying ourselves. Maybe he should make Bush Hall his home for future London visits.
The three song encore opens with a cover of The Who's “The Kids Are Alright”, which naturally here takes a more wistful air than the originals rock attack. Following up with “Thirty More Years”, which accepts the finite nature of human existence and in doing so neither railes at the unfairness nor mourns the time gone. The sentiment of this song nicely blends with the final tune – “You Cannot Win If You Do Not Play”. Everyone has a chance, Steve reminds us, and you either spend your life thinking about doing it or you try to do it. You may not do it, but the thing is to try. On this night he tried and he triumphed.
Set List (think this is complete)
The time and the place
Going down to Laurel
Trouble no more (Someday Baby/poor me)
Beast of Ballyhoo (Rock Show)
Song for Katrina
Steve Forbert's Midsummer Toast
My stolen identity
Blue Eyed Jean
American in me
Write me a raincheck
Sure was better back then
Simply must move on
About a dream
What kinda guy ?
The kids are alright
30 more years
Cannot win if you do not play
After the gig, with a garbled request, I managed to collar Steve for a 10 minute chat. Which was rapidly curtailed to 5 minutes by those who wished to leave (please). Which was kind of delayed by another long time fan who wanted a word, and then once we'd worked out that I didn't have a recording device and also that my pre-prepared in depth questions on his song writing were not really appropriate to the time and the place, the allotted time was pretty much done. I think some of it was quite interesting though, so here's pretty much verbatim what I got :
AUK: You've written a lot of songs - do you have a favourite album ?
SF: Oh, well, ... John Cale 1919...
AUK: I was thinking maybe one of your own ?
SF: And Albert King - Years Gone By.
AUK: Ok, well you did a covers album of Jimmie Rogers songs a few years back, if you were to do another covers album who would it be ?
SF: Brian Jones' Rolling Stones, the Rolling Stones with Brian Jones it's [something] I have an affinity with, that makes sense to me.
AUK: You tour the UK quite often, your music has quite a strong American quality but it's popular here too why do you think that is ?
SF: Oh, I really don't know. But it's ok with me.
AUK: I'd be right in thinking this is the place outside America you tour the most ?
SF: Yes, here and Canada.
AUK: You toured Australia, how was that ?
SF: No, no, I've never been there.
AUK: Oh ? Right - I saw you did some double header concerts a while ago with Richie Havens - what was that like ?
SF: His music, I can relate to, "Here comes the sun" - there's a great acoustic version of "Here comes the sun" on Live at the Cellar Door.
AUK - That's a great album.
SF : Richie just has a great thing going, a very warm person.
AUK: Can you imagine doing a double header in the UK if you happened to both be over at the same time ?
SF :Oh, well Richie doesn’t need my help.
AUK: But that really would be a great gig.
And with that Steve had to go, so we didn't quite manage to get onto how the tour was going or the new album (The Place and The Time) - fortunately there's already a review on the site, with which I concur.
|Genticorum - The Queens Hall, Edinburgh - 28th May 2009|
Review by Graeme Scott
How much fun can you have going to a concert when you end up not understanding one word of the lyrics? Well the answer to that question is actually quite a lot. So it was for me last night when Genticorum came to town playing a support slot. I have always tried to get along to catch acts in the support role, as you never know when a real gem will appear and, after all, most successful artists have to begin their careers in such a position. This trio of musicians, hailing from Montreal, brought their particular brand of Québécois music to Scotland for the first time and they went down a storm. Using a mix of acoustic guitar, vocals & mouth harp (Yann Falquet), flute, vocals & bass (Alex Moulin) and fiddle, vocals & foot stomping (Pascal Gemme) entertained the audience with a fine set of reels, jigs and story songs. Now you may wonder how the story songs went down when, like me, the audience could not follow the text. The guys, by giving the background to the song in advance, overcame this "problem". Mostly they were funny tales and as the songs developed the overall feel of the music helped convey the meaning. There were so many similarities to both Celtic based rhythms and traditional English Folk songs that very quickly the audience got right behind the band. As the tale of a randy monk and the lady, Juliette he has secreted away in his cell, came vividly to life in 'Le Moine Blanc' you really felt for the poor guy when they were discovered and he had to face the wrath of the head priest. Perhaps the rather bizarre story 'La Bibournoise' of being imprisoned where the walls are made of lamb, the floors of ham the roof of other culinary delights and there being loads of wine to wash down your efforts to eat your way out is more to your taste (sorry about that). Certainly strange but it was sung in beautiful three part a cappella harmony. Mix in other yarns about possums 'La Grondeuse Opossum', or trousers belonging to hiding lovers 'Les Culottes De V' Lour' and you will realise that humour was very evident throughout this all too short set. Particular mention has to be made for Pascal. Imagine trying to combine the complex task of singing, playing fiddle and doing steps similar to Irish dancing all at the same time. Never missing a beat it was no wonder he had to make good use of the on-stage towels. Unique these guys certainly were and their warmth and charm won them many new fans.
|Drew Nelson - The Village, Edinburgh - 23rd June 2009|
Review by Graeme Scott
I was so happy to hear that Drew was coming into town and that I would have the chance of hearing one of my favourite albums of the year "Dusty Road To Beulah Land" in a live environment. The evening lived up to my expectations completely. This engaging performer has a fine finger picking guitar style and his slightly husky vocal tones deliver a raft of story songs in a sung and almost spoken way. In a live context these songs, already fairly simple in terms of production on the album, are exposed completely here and it is clear just how strong they are. Opening with the slightly Bluesy 'Waiting For The Sun' Drew has the capacity to just draw you into his world. The tales, 'Stranger', 'Farmers Lament' & 'Highway 2' for example, of contemporary life in today's rural and urban America came at us through two sets with some humorous background interludes. A smattering of cuts from the back catalogue included 'Lovely Day', 'Summer Rain' and 'Immigrant Son'. As always music is a very personal thing so for me the standout numbers tonight were the super catchy 'Grandmother Moon' and the atmospheric look back to simpler times in 'True And Fine'. The sets were closed by 'Will Ye Go Lassie Go' and Huddie Ledbetter's 'Irene Goodnight' respectively with Drew leaving the stage and sitting singing in the middle of the audience. It was a fitting end to an intimate and much appreciated show.
|Neil Young - Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre - 24th June 2009|
Review by Mike Ritchie
IT’S great that Neil Young has decided to play a gig in Scotland once a year following this second, successive, monstrously brilliant performance here. Sadly, that’s just a dream - but his latest Scottish gig was in reality a wondrous, ballsy, grunge and rock extravaganza with achingly intimate acoustic moments effortlessly introduced to demonstrate his power and poise in any musical settings he chose to share with us. It was a spine-tingling affair, two hours of pure, unadulterated drama with the 63-year-old in as fine a form as any fan could wish for.
His paint-spattered suit from last year’s tour must still be at the dry cleaners as he appeared before a sell-out crowd in a soon-to-be-discarded, black shirt, T-shirt and jeans. But it wasn’t his gear that had this metal box hall transfixed: it was his stooping, stalking of the stage as he doled out huge waves of feedback and jaw-dropping riffs from Old Black and other guitars as he rampaged through some of the big-punching heavyweights in his collection like the majestic Cortez The Killer, a historic Down By The River, a blistering Cinnamon Girl (I want the opening chords for my ringtone) and a version of Spirit Road, slightly more restrained in its tempo than its 2008 Edinburgh Playhouse outing.
It was a riotous and rugged glory, underpinned by his Electric Band of Ben Keith (guitar and keyboards); Rick Rosas (electric bass) and Chad Cromwell on drums at the expense of Crazy Horse’s, Ralph Molina. Tight at his musical elbow throughout the roar of it all and then taking a step back to add delicious feather light touches when the going gets mellow on the beautiful offerings of Comes A Time or Unknown Legend, this is a group of musicians of formidable talents.
No matter the track selected, Neil was clearly loving every minute of it, playing his songs with a gleam in his eye, the nurturing approach of a loving father tending to the needs of his offspring. It was captivating. It seemed like he was opening his unique, unrivalled musical archive, not to secrets, as we know the songs, but to his own unbridled enjoyment and pride in them and letting us be part of it all. How lucky could we be?
This show, let there be no doubt, was a colossal achievement, once again a night never to be forgotten. To mix ‘n match such passion in rocking tracks and the tender ones is a skill he has that is unmatched by any other artiste touring today. Hey, Hey, My My was the fiery starting point that had the place bouncing while the “come a little bit closer” interludes of Harvest Moon had us swaying longingly, our thoughts off to where we were when we first heard stunners such as The Needle and The Damage Done or Mansion on The Hill.
No-one else has the set list, to my mind, capable of instilling such a swirl of emotions. He was bold – The Beatles’ Day In The Life as an encore - he was fiery, he was in great voice, in charge of the music and us all. The current tour has no name so maybe it should be called the “It Doesn’t Get Better Than This Tour,” except that Neil would probably disprove that the next time he sets out at a Fork In the Road. A masterclass with a capital ‘M.” Stunning.
|Neil Young - Trent FM, Arena Nottingham - 23rd June 2009|
Review by Patrick Wilkins
There aren’t many performers that command the level of respect and love that Neil Young does, the intensity and ear splitting volume of the audience greeting (10,000 capacity, a complete sell out) as he walked on stage was testament to that. Neil responded in kind, kicking off with a battering ram ‘My My Hey Hey’ complete with heavily distorted riffing and trademark wailing solos. The guitars are back, something we should all be thankful for, as there are few better things in life than seeing and hearing Neil Young lay into his guitar without restraint or moderation. His guitar style is so completely distinct that within milli-seconds it just couldn’t be anyone else.
This was something of a greatest hits set, heavy on the 70s, and just one from his last album, the generally under whelming ‘Fork In The Road’, an actually quite jolly ‘Get Behind The Wheel’.
‘Cinnamon Girl’ in particular was utterly magnificent, seeing Neil, now well into his 60s, body hunched over his guitar, head bobbing up and down crashing out one of the greatest riffs of all time, was sheer perfection, you can’t help but deeply admire and respect the indisputable fact that he’s still got it and still giving it everything.
That was only one of the high spots though, a full of beans run through the alt.country template ‘Are You Ready For The Country’, a transcendent ‘Words’, the audience inevitably singing ‘Heart Of Gold’, and a spacious ‘Down By The River’ with multiple guitar workouts, the playing of Ben Keith a constant joy. The crowd pleasingly raucous ‘Rockin’ in the Free World’ closed the set with four or five false endings, synchronised arm waving, rhythmic stomping and clapping, and the kitchen sink. The encore was the Beatles ‘A Day In The Life’ which was obviously a let down, it’s hard to imagine anyone in the place would have picked that over ‘Cortez The Killer’ or ‘Like A Hurricane’ or ‘Fuckin’ Up’ etc etc., but having said that the song closed with a satisfying screaming feedback solo, strings eventually hanging loose from Neil’s battered black Les Paul. A couple of quibbles on the set list apart (‘Mother Earth’ was pretty horrible, and, from a personal point of view, what no ‘Powderfinger’?), a fantastic show with some sublime moments.
|The Dead Weather - the Forum, London - 24th June 2009|
Review by Patrick Wilkins
The Dead Weather are the newish ‘supergroup’ side project of White Stripe Jack White, in which he plays drums, Alison Mosshart of The Kills sings, Dean Fertita of Queens of the Stone Age plays guitar and keyboards, and Jack Lawrence of The Greenhornes (and the other ‘supergroup’ side project of White Stripe Jack White, The Raconteurs) plays bass. This show was at a very hot and sticky Forum in Kentish Town, and was full of London hipster doofuses all off to Glasto in the morning.
Well this was proof, if it were needed that Meg isnt even the best drummer in the White Stripes. Jack was pretty good as it happens, though the undoubted highlight of the night was at the end of the main set when he came out from behind the drum kit (replaced by the versatile Jack Lawrence) and strapped on a guitar for the closing song (the album isn’t released yet so it’s tricky to apply titles). This number used Led Zeppelin's 'Dazed and Confused' as a template, which Jack sang, between flame throwing solos, with Alison Mosshart up close on the same microphone, as if they were about to trade spit.
If you put your mind to it, it wouldn’t have take too much effort to compare each song to a Zeppelin template, there was one really blatant steal from 'Trampled Underfoot', though Dean Fertita's guitar, played with an odd scratchy trebly tone, did disguise things a bit. Visually Alison Mosshart is the focal point, if you've seen the Kills you'll know the form, pacing up and down, wiry and agitated, as if she's in a cage and about ready to kill something, then throwing herself, and her jet black mane, around in time to the riffage, hair often covering her face. She also occasionally played a very fetching Bo Diddley style rectangular guitar. Dean Fertita heroically wore a rock star black leather jacket through the whole thing, which was staggering given the rain forest conditions in the place.
In general the songs had raw power (!) but lacked form. As you could have guessed in advance, they were of a bluesy rock type, with some indie touches, certainly they didn’t have the instant hooks, nor the inventiveness, of the Kills excellent last album, and there was more keyboard than you might have expected. This was probably more enjoyable than the last Raconteurs show I saw, largely thanks to the strong stage charisma of Ms Mosshart, but as a live entity the Dead Weather are not in the White Stripes league. The album is a promising prospect though.
|Roger McGuinn - The Stables Wavendon - 25th June 2009|
Review by Jonathan Aird
Roger McGuinn - chief Byrd - has for some time reinvented himself as an American Troubadour, touring a one man show consisting of Folk Den favourites from his early days in the music business and a good clutch of Byrds songs. His solo career between the end of The Byrds and the start of the one man folk club style shows can best be described as patchy, a series of albums with up to half or more of filler tracks but still flashes of genius up to the last star studded return to form electric album Back From Rio in 1990. This period doesn't get much of a light shone on it in the show which is a great pity, as when it was good it was great (Russian Hill on Thunderbyrd is a real "where the hell did that come from" track) and the 1974 album "Peace on You" is, a few jokey tracks aside, reminiscent of solo Stephen Stills at the same period and also contains the biographic songs - Gate of Horn (a tribute to the Chicago folk club where he got his first breaks and made his first contacts) and Same Old Sound (with the theme - everyone wants to hear jangly guitar so I play it for them) which are really the template for what he is doing now.
So, tonight at The Stables, and it's a hot one at the little venue which is a little shy of full and with a polite well heeled audience in attendance. The opener was Edwina Hayes, who hails out of Yorkshire but is also a songsmith for Nashville types. She plays a pleasant country tinged folk, with a plaintive voice somewhat reminiscent of Kate Rusby. Her set is a mixture of her own songs and covers - Leave A Light On For You is a tale of lost love, Pour Me A Drink is a bitter-sweet remembrance of her father who's wanderings and dodgy deals she describes as "not nasty, just a bit silly really". Her cover of Richard Thompson's Waltzing's For Dreamers evokes an echo of the original's voice, and is none the worse for that. She has two pieces of "good news" to share - Nancy Griffith has covered Pour Me A Drink on her new album, and Edwina's cover of Randy Newman's Feels Like Home is in the film "My Sister's Keeper" which is due to open in UK cinemas the day after this gig.
After the interval Roger McGuinn, strikingly dressed in black and with his trademark hat in place, comes on stage playing his Rickenbacker and singing the now customary My Back Pages. We are, after all, off on a tour of how Roger managed to so often be in the right place at the right time and how he managed to take advantage of this. It's an interesting story, retold well, and it plays up happy chances over driving ambition especially when describing his initial touring straight out of school with folk boom bands like The Limelighters and The Chad Mitchell Trio. Illustrating this tale with several songs it's Silver Dagger that is the first to really strike home by being the first not buoyed up with a bouncy beat and folk-pop/gospel lyrics. No, here is the real deal - love, the threat of death and ultimate betrayal.
McGuinn is both relaxed - he knows his show backwards after all - but also bouncing with nervous energy. A couple of times he gets carried away and removes his hat to acknowledge applause, but mostly he keeps himself one step back from the crowd. Reminiscing about a (possibly CIA backed) cultural tour of South American he recalls a partial tune that he filed away for later use. Years later it resurfaced when collaborating with Jacques Levy on the ill fated Gene Tryp musical to become Chestnut Mare. A stunning track On The Byrds Untitled, tonight it's a long elegant retelling of this epic tale.
Escaping from a brief time as a Brill Building writer and performer (the minor surf-hit Beach Party is one of his), McGuinn is soon on the way to forming The Byrds, meeting first Gene Clarke and then David Crosby who is allowed to join a non-existent band because he can promise free studio time. Pulled together by a shared admiration for The Beatles - McGuinn was already experimenting with adding "a beatle beat" to folk songs. This hadn't been too successful until the fledgling Byrds tried the same trick on Mr Tambourine Man - McGuinn gives a Dylan impression of the before and then follows up with the after, pure 12 string jangly bliss. This precedes a number of Byrds songs - You Showed Me, Pretty Boy Floyd, Mr Spaceman and a perfect dreamy Ballad Of Easy Rider.
Then there is a sudden shift and McGuinn has launched into The Trees Are All Gone from the superb Back From Rio album. The theme is global warming which for 1990 seems pretty ahead of its time, although The Byrds recorded Hungry Planet back in 1970 so environmental concerns are not a new thing to Roger McGuinn. I got the impression that not many in the room had heard the song before, but since I was one of them I wasn't too bothered. It's a great Pettyesque rocker, not surprising when the aforementioned album features Petty and assorted Heartbreakers on several tracks. A real pleasure to hear something post-Byrds.
Returning to the Gene Tryp songs recorded by The Byrds leads to Just A Season, where Gene looks back on his life and wonders where it all went and how come it went so fast. Always a beautiful song, lines like "if all I was passing time my life was just a season" take on an added poignancy in this arena where McGuinn is retelling and reflecting on his own life. You could feel sorry for him, if he wasn't so obviously enjoying what he does.
As now seems customary Bell Of Rhymney and Turn, Turn ,Turn close out the main set, and once we've worked for our encore we get the magnificent Gene Clark penned Feel A Whole Lot Better, followed up with a Dylan's Chimes of Freedom, and finally the McGuinn co-write (with his wife Camilla) May The Road Rise To Meet You.
It's been a great night - for some reason I can't quite put my finger on it didn't quite catch for for me, but studded with gems none the less.
Didn't get a full McGuinn set list, but the Edwina Hayes set list is
Leave a light on for you
Waltzing’s for dreamers
Pour me a drink
Speed of loneliness
Feels like home
I can't escape from you
|Roger McGuinn - The Cadogan Hall, London - 26th June 2009|
Review by Andy Riggs
Whilst David Crosby is currently touring with Stills & Nash, his former buddy from the hugely influential band The Byrds Roger McGuinn has continued his low key troubadour approach to live concerts.
Crosby & McGuinn parted company in 1968 and although there have been the occasional regroupings they have kept their distance for the last 40 years. Due to ill health perhaps, Crosby has sunk his energies into CSN and become a musical nostalgia act. Roger McGuinn has taken his impressive back catalogue & musical legacy and turned into an immensely enjoyable evening.
Roger took us from his school days through to Sweetheart of the Rodeo, neatly skipping over the Crosby departure and in the process name checking The Christy Minstrels, The Kingston Trio, Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, The Beatles, Tom Petty, Pete Seeger and many others.
He played songs from his formative years through to his time at The Ashgrove, these traditional folk tunes were revolutionalised when he heard George Harrison’s guitar – and the rest is history.
Whilst McGuinn was the The Byrds leader and Crosby supplied many innovative vocal arrangements & songs it was the song writing of the Gene Clark that supplied some of their best songs when they weren’t covering Dylan.
The evenings highlights (as a huge Byrds fan) were My Back Pages, All I Really Want To Do, I Feel A Whole Lot Better and fitting encore with a magnificent electric version of Eight Miles High played on his seven string Rickenbacker.
Roger is an accomplished story teller - modest and charismatic, and whilst the voice strained at times, the sound of that guitar is timeless. Not a nostalgia trip - more like a history lesson of pop/country music 1964-71.
|Jason Lytle - Islington Academy, London - 28th May 2009|
Review by Oliver Gray
What a relief it is for Grandaddy followers that Jason Lytle sounds exactly like his ex-band. He¹s on record as saying he was uncomfortable with the sheen of professionalism forced on them by major label status, but with his current band of downbeats, it¹s right back to the seat-of-the-pants glory days of early Grandaddy, The only slick item on show was the lengthy and dramatic intro tape, leading into probably one of the lowest-key shows this venue has ever seen. Shoulders hunched, with head down and obscured by the omnipresent cap, Lytle crouches stage right, seemingly joined at the hip with main cohort Rusty Miller. It¹s hard to equate the figure with glorious songs like ³Yours Truly The Commuter² and ³Brand New Sun², eccentrically glittering gems from his new album. What with the between song backing-track mayhem, the gear all held together with pink gaffa tape, it took a good kicking administered to a recalcitrant synth to finally allow them to splutter into their rapturously-received original greatest hit ³AM 180². Thank goodness there are still a few true rock and roll characters about.
|Roger McGuinn - Cadogan Hall, London - 26th June 2009|
Review by Jonathan Aird
A second helping of Roger McGuinn in very quick succession, and I was pretty sure I knew what to expect - and I was both right and wrong. On a hot, hot London night Cadogan Hall was filling up with a crowd again of a certain age and again predominantly male. It's a nice sized venue - looks like a converted church and is like a larger version of Bush hall, but with comfy theatre style seats. More usually a venue for classical concerts if the brochure was anything to go by.
The opener was again Edwina Hayes, who delivered the same set as she'd performed the night before at The Stables. She seemed slightly less at ease in the larger hall, but this didn't effect her playing or singing. Having heard her stuff twice now it's starting to grow on me.
So for the main attraction - Roger McGuinn came on stage in his all black outfit and hat (which tonight stayed firmly on his head), and by contrast seemed a lot more relaxed in the larger venue than he had at The Stables. Having the previous night to work from I was smugly writing the set list down in advance, My Back Pages, Silver Dagger, and it was coming along just as planned, tick, tick, tick. And then we got to the Sweetheart of the Rodeo section. This started off again with Pretty Boy Floyd, but then took a wondrous diversion to Drug Store Truck Driving Man and the song that had produced the negative reaction which inspired it - You Ain't Going Nowhere. What an unanticipated pleasure.
After this the set followed on much as before - with the poignant Just A Season again hitting home hard. The slight disappointment that there was nothing from Back From Rio was dissipated when after closing out the show with Road Rise to Meet You the applause was so long and sustained that McGuinn actually came back out for a second encore. To top it all asked for requests as he had time for just one song. King of the Hill was duly played, a fantastic evocation of a life dissolving into a drug fuelled haze, with the added sting that it was inspired by the long decline of Pappa John Phillips - it's like a one song riposte to the whole of Wolf King of LA.
A really great night - McGuinn commented that it was the best time he'd ever had in London, and with the evidence of the almost unheard of second encore I think I believe him.
Roger McGuinn set list
My Back Pages
Chat and Folk medley including Heartbreak Hotel and On Easter morn' he rose
A meeting here tonight
Water is Wide
You Showed Me
Mr Tambourine Man (Dylan demo style)
Mr Tambourine Man (Byrds style)
Pretty Boy Floyd
Drug Store Truck Driving Man
You Ain't Going Nowhere
Ballad of the Easy Rider
St James Infirmary Blues
Just a Season
Bells of Rhymney
Turn Turn Turn
Feel a Whole Lot Better
Eight Miles High
Road Rise to Meet You
King of the Hill