17 September 2008
17 September 2008
|Willard Grant Conspiracy and Steve Wynn - Bedford Shed - 3rd May 2006|
Review by Keith Hargreaves
A balmy night in Bedford was treated to a rare genuine double bill last courtesy of the East /West Promotions and a fullish house was there to enjoy it.
Steve Wynn returning to a venue he played 6 months previous with a full band took to stage with just a guitar and a back catalogue any tunesmith would envy . His stated â€˜californiaâ€™ mood filled his songs with a joy and a snap as he performed both recent and established numbers . A couple of songs in he was joined by a couple of co-conspiritors on guitar and stand up bass and the fleshed out sound gave the songs that extra dimension they didnâ€™t necessarily need but certainly benefited from .Stand out tracks â€“ The Deep End, Merritville ( I think) and Amphetamine . The songs were punctuated by witty conversation and the audience reaction by the end of the set highlighted how much he was appreciated although time did not allow for the requested encore.
Robert Fisher started the evening sitting at the back of the hall selling cdâ€™s and chatting with all who approached , an obviously erudite ,intelligent, engaging personality .When the band took to the stage he also revealed himself to be a powerful songwriter and performer of some of the darkest yet uplifting material you are likely to hear this year. The between song preambles centred round death, suicide ,war, protest and, if I recall correctly, death again. He promised to start gently and finish in a â€˜very brutal way â€˜ and he was good to his words , starting with the lilting Dance with Me and moving through most of Let It Roll until the tumultuous title track finished the set with a mighty wall of sound that was wonderful to behold. The set was peppered with older tracks but the extended songs of the new material dominated especially as a vehicle for the old testament wail of Fishersâ€™ vocals and the stark beauty of the violin/viola. The band were excellent ,clearly enjoying playing and clearly enjoying playing together-well drilled but loose and funky around the the rooted figure of their leader .
Mr.Fisher said he heard the bandsâ€™ sound described as â€˜ garage â€“folkâ€™ and liked it ;with this performance ,with this material, garage folk should be the new sensation that sweeps the nation. If you can- see this show!
|Willard Grant Conspiracy - ABC2, Glasgow - 6th May 2006|
Review by Mike Ritchie
â€œWeâ€™ll be back in the Fall with something unique, something special,â€ promised Robert Fisher as he brought this hugely satisfying gig before an almost full house to a close. To my mind, on the three occasions Iâ€™ve seen them, WGC always bring â€something unique, something specialâ€ to their performances and tonight was no different. With the sound balance almost just right the songs, old and new, have never flowed better. And Fisher, full of smiles and wry comments, clearly revelled in his main man and band leader role with unerringly good back up from those gathered around him on stage for the occasion. Slow, dark and deep, as always, Fisherâ€™s voice is one of the most notable in the business, telling his brooding stories with gravitas. On Breach from new release â€œLet It Rollâ€ â€“ the gigâ€™s opener - and The Ghost of the Girl in the Well and River In the Pines from the marvellous â€œRegard the Endâ€ he sang masterfully, totally at one with the lyrics and melody.
On tracks where he upped the tempo â€“ Soft Hand and Flying Low (Steve Wynn joined in for this) â€“ the vocals were honeyed and languid, effortless. It was only when extra power was brought to the proceedings that his voice got somewhat lost. And that was a pity. Having said that, the cranked-up output yielded some cracking moments. Title track from the new album, â€œLet It Rollâ€ is a bit lumpen and listless on CD but here it thundered on not unlike The Bad Seeds pushing and pulling, spitting and firing between Fisherâ€™s almost spoken verses. The band â€“ Jason Victor(lead guitar); Josh Hillman (violin); Yuko Murata(keyboards); Erik Van Loo(upright and electric bass) and drummer Tom King â€“ were excellent throughout and they thrived on Fisherâ€™s arrangements. At one point, he quizzed his musicâ€™s placing in the Americana/alt.country category and said he preferred a friendâ€™s description on their music as â€œfolk, garage.â€ Whatever. What delights heâ€™ll return with later in the year, we canâ€™t wait to find out.
|Blue Rodeo, Corb Lund and the Hurtin' Albertans - Mean Fiddler, London - 11th May 2006|
Review by Jonathan Aird
Corb Lund - either he's following me around, or I'm following him around, but anyway, here he is, the opening act again (he opened for Green on Red earlier in the year). This time with his band, the Hurtin' Albertans (acoustic bass - electric guitar /pedal steel - drums). Enjoyable. Highlight was a song about settlers in Canada, but he seems - on the basis of this set - to prefer quirky -jokey country-folk tunes (fun, but not memorable). He also seemed to have brought his fan club with him, most of whom left the area in the front of the stage before the main act appeared.
I never realised there were so many Canadians in London. If Blue Rodeo are gigging in London to pick up new fans and raise their profile in the UK, well they got the wrong crowd tonight ! Blue Rodeo is a fairly new band to me, but they've been going about 25 years as far as I can make out, so they're not exactly young men. They also have a habit of producing long floating guitar solos and manic organ riffs. Would it come as a surprise then that the audience were about half female, and mostly 20something years old ? Distinctly odd. Not bad odd, just unexpected.
Anyway, from my albeit brief acquaintance with a couple of Blue Rodeo albums I'd noticed that on songs like "Are you ready" there is a highly pleasing Beatlesesque (Bass-line) / Byrdsesque (guitar) feel, and a general Buffalo Springfield air hangs around as well. They do have a flaw to my mind - too many ballads. As a live act they appear to be much the same, except on about half of the ballads they pull a nice trick - verse/chorus/extended guitar solo that lifts off through the roof/chorus. This is a good thing. The ballads that just stay ballads are a bit flat, nice enough if that's what you like. Fortunately there is only a couple of them.
The pedal steel player tends to get a bit sidelined - and initially didn't seem to be properly miked up - as the lead guitar (Greg Keelor) and other lead guitar (Jim Cuddy) and bass player cluster around the keyboard player (who incidentally is really very good) to trade solos, whilst the drummer whacks away at the back with a solid intensity. This could be the fifth best bar band in the world at these moments! Whilst the live performance is faithful to the studio performance this tendency to (for want of a better phrase) "rock out" is also definitely "a good thing".
So, now armed with a little live experience and a couple more albums I'd be tempted to see Blue Rodeo again. They certainly leave the ears ringing, which is no bad thing either.
|Howe Gelb and the Voices of Praise Gospel Choir -The Arches, Glasgow - 18th May 2006|
Review by Paul Kerr
Ever the maverick, Howe Gelb continues to astonish with his ever-changing persona. According to his occasional on line tour diary this is a man who tours carrying guitar and hand luggage and gets around Europe with a Eurostar train ticket. Yet here he is with a full band and gospel choir in tow and one suspects this may be his tipping point. The first thing that hits on entering the Arches venue is the surprising number of people here. Despite Gelbâ€™s history and reputation he has continually flown under the radar of public acclaim. Whether itâ€™s the publicity engine of Glasgowâ€™s Big Big Country Festival or that his latest album has touched a nerve with the public, a lot of people wanted to hear him and by the end were not disappointed. With the choir requiring fairly tight arrangements there was little of Gelbâ€™s oft displayed sonic tinkering and the show was for the most part straightforward renditions of songs from the Sno Angel album and the Giant sand back catalogue. There was little to differentiate between the two, the choir inhabited songs such as Mountain of Love and Chore of Enchantment as if they had always been there. The sound was excellent and Gelb displayed his prowess on guitar, knocking sounds out of beat up instruments effortlessly. While the mood was on a whole uplifting there were quieter moment also with Astonished creating an intimate moment with the band excelling on the arrangement and Gelb crooning in his wonderful voice, Obviously enjoying himself he proved a master at engaging the audience, at time Chaplinesque in his physical presence and using his love of language to introduce songs and band members with a unique stream of consciousness. By the end the crowd were eating out of his hand and ending with Oh Happy Days and My Sweet Lord we felt as if we were in a sweltering Southern Baptist church. Ever the gentleman Gelb took time to introduce each and every member of the band and choir and took time at the end to meet and greet the crowd. A tremendous show. Support act Cortney Tidwell from Nashville appeared nervous at first but after a fairly unique performance which included her playing a full drumkit one handed while playing an omnichord with the other hand won the crowd over.
|Richard Hawley - Shepherds Bush Empire, London - 18th May 2006|
Review by Nic Fildes
The Shepherds Bush Empire has rarely felt so warm. Bathed in red spotlights, Richard Hawleyâ€™s rich singing voice had the large crowd swooning. Hawleyâ€™s latest record â€˜Coles Cornerâ€™ is his best by far and judging by the reception he received, the word is spreading. Yet Hawley has been around the block a few times and knows how to keep an audience enthralled. The beautiful tone of the songs contrasted dramatically with his stage banter, delivered in an almost unintelligible Sheffield accent. Although many of the songs on show last night seem very romantic, the singer peppered each pause with crass jokes, euro-vision baiting and even a little intimidation when provoked. He got his biggest laugh when asking a girl in the audience where she came from â€“ â€œRotherham? Hey, gimme six!â€
The intoxicating â€˜Coles Cornerâ€™ opened the set and most of the songs Hawley played tonight were culled from the record of the same name. â€˜Just Like the Rainâ€™ skipped along almost too quickly while Hawley cranked up the riffs on â€˜Born Under A Bad Sign,â€™ a woozy warning about the perils of drinking to excess. Hawley, however, admits that he has ignored his own advice. The country number â€˜(Wading Through) The Waters of My Lifeâ€™ would hold its place against some of the finest songs of the last forty years. Shez Sheridan provided some nice lap steel playing on what Hawley claimed to be Sheffieldâ€™s oldest electric guitar. â€œWe didnâ€™t have guitars in Sheffield before then. Or electricity,â€ he said.
Hawleyâ€™s climactic performance of â€˜The Oceanâ€™ stole the show, his voice soaring over the swelling music. A touching tribute to Grant McLennan of The Go-Betweens who passed away this month was also moving. Yet Hawleyâ€™s strength is to switch effortlessly between styles. One minute, heâ€™s crooning tender ballads, the next heâ€™s playing scatter-gun lead over music best described as indie. Before long, heâ€™s singing â€˜The Long Black Veilâ€™ and a tear-inducing version of â€˜Whoâ€™s Gonna Shoe Your Pretty Little Feetâ€™ with only Sheridan supporting. Then itâ€™s Hawley the rockabilly as he closed the show with â€˜Mystery Trainâ€™ and â€˜Thatâ€™s Alright Mama.â€™ Yet no one could accuse him of being a mere Elvis impersonator. His songs are magnificent and his delivery is pitched perfectly to appeal to fans of many different types of music.
|Howe Gelb and the Voices of Praise Gospel Choir -The Arches, Glasgow - 18th May 2006|
Review by Mike Ritchie
THERE was a moment in this scintillating show â€“ on â€œThatâ€™s How Things Get Doneâ€ - when the choir went through a range of turns and hand movements as they cruised through their lyrics. They smiled, they clapped, they shimmied and Gelbâ€™s chunky guitar worked its magic and you were glad you werenâ€™t anywhere else. It was a pure heavenly joy amongst, it has to be said, a hundred minutes of dazzling delights. Glasgowâ€™s Big Big Country American music festival maestro, Billy Kelly had done it again capturing the tried and tested virtues of the man from Arizona who has hit renewed and deserved critical acclaim with the choir he met at the Ottowa Bluesfest. Desert rock meets evangelical sounds from the urban jungle, hallelujah.
Uplifting? You bet it was. Fun? Yep. Big, clever guitar sounds and glorious choral harmonies merging and flowing with bite and beauty? Yes, definitely. Giant Sandman, Gelbâ€™s â€œâ€™Sno Angel Like Youâ€ CD should have forewarned us that we would be in for something truly special. The album is all downtown Lou Reed growls, Leonard Cohen asides and great dirty guitar work scraped from the bottom of a sand pit and cleansed by choral work thatâ€™s tenderly powerful and flowing. And live the effect was equally striking, once the initial sound balance between Gelb and the choir at the back was established. His teasing songs â€“ he sounds less like Reed live - are shot through with dry humour that he continued during the between-tracks banter. Up tempo songs were belted out with controlled gusto and the more stripped back, when the choirâ€™s harmonies swayed and swooped, filled the audience with a glow and warmth youâ€™d get from a good malt. We didnâ€™t quite hug each other, but, hey, this is Glasgow.
The bulk of the set came understandably from â€œâ€™Sno Angel.â€ Howlinâ€™ A Gale threatened to derail the trains that passed overhead and Chore of Enchantment, the CDâ€™s final offering, encapsulated all that is good about the recording, wonderfully translated to a live setting. Get To Leave, Neon Filler and The Farm brought an intriguing array of dusty moods and honeyed backing vocals. None of the offerings was less than enchanting, uplifting. With guitarist, Jim Bryson (who also plays with Kathleen Edwardsâ€™ band) plus Fred Guignon on pedal steel, Dave Draves on keyboards and Andrew McCormack on drums, Gelbâ€™s musical congregation was complete and hugely effective. This was a performance those on stage seemed to be enjoying as much as the crowd, especially on the gospel-style finale, which was a gem â€“ Lou Reedâ€™s Walk On The Wild Side was a brief cheeky intro to George Harrisonâ€™s My Sweet Lord and then we soared to O Happy Days made famous by the Edwin Hawkin Singers. The choir was then left to close proceedings as Gelb led the band off for a beer. He really deserves all the praise being heaped on him for this inspired collaboration and for persuading the choir to go on tour with him. It was a great night, thatâ€™s the gospel truth. Big, big country â€“ big, big music fun.
|Josh Rouse - Milton Keynes Stables - 30th May 2006|
Review by Keith Hargreaves
The Stables is a purpose built music venue where everyone can see and a seated audience treats the artists with an almost reverential air â€“ you can hear a pin drop between songs after the applause has died down. I saw Lambchop here a couple of years ago and it was perfect for their layered sound and delicacy and after seeing Josh Rouse at the Junction in Cambridge last year I knew this was going to be a different gig altogether to that full band gig.
First up Strays donâ€™t Sleep on their last gig with JR after an American and European tour .Obviously knackered and perhaps partied out (their second guitarist/pianist had broken his arm two days previous) they still managed to make an interesting noise â€“each song tended to be cyclical rhythms ( a la Blue Nile/Coldplay) with piano or guitar motifs providing the melodies and dual cracked vocals from Nelson and/or Mark. It worked but the sound mixing was appalling and the drums overpowered everything. Shame - as there is great potential for crossover success here.
Speaking of crossover success if ever someones oeuvre demanded it then Josh Rouse it that person .If the O.C. or One Tree Hill picked any of his songs for soundtracking he would be huge .As it is he is playing to Â¾ full theatre in the shires . The (power) trio took the stage and launched straight into It Looks Like Love but the sound was awful - vocals and guitar drowned by the thundering drums and the bass muddy . The band also appeared listless (perhaps tired too?) The sound mix remained awful for the first four songs â€“ the audience was starting to get antsy ( it was after all Â£18.00 a ticket) and then the band and the mix all changed gear . It was a subtle but massive change. Everyone - both players and audience started to grin as each song sounded better and better. The trio obviously relishing the material ripped through 1972, James, Summertime, Dressed up like Nebraska, Late Night Conversation amongst others and encored with Love Vibration (complete with dancers from the audience) and Itâ€™s the Nighttime . The band exited to loud and long applause. Long may Josh continue to write such beautiful and compelling songs and play them with such talented and sympathetic musicians. On life s highway sometimes the middle of the road is exactly where you need to be.
|Sleater-Kinney - Oxford Zodiac/Bristol Fiddlers - May 19th/29th 2006|
Review by Patrick Wilkins
In the modern musical world of constant retreads and revivals itâ€™s far rarer than it should be to see a band that sounds like themselves, its rarer still to see such a band moving into their second decade of existence playing the best music of their career, and so absolutely, explosively, at the top of their game. Such were these two scorching shows from Sleater-Kinney. The current tour is a fulfilment of dates scheduled for last November but cancelled due to an illness that prevented guitarist Carrie Brownstein from travelling. With the band back in the country as curators of the ATP festival these dates were slotted in around the Camber Sands bash. (Its been a year since the album â€˜The Woodsâ€™ was released, its an incredible record of intense, wild and angry songs born out of on-stage experimentation on a support slot for fellow Pacific North Westerners, Pearl Jam, that, and a visceral discontent with the condition of modern America. â€˜The Woodsâ€™ tour will end in the US in August.)
The Oxford show kicked off with â€˜The Woodsâ€™ opener â€˜The Foxâ€™, initially the sound wasnâ€™t clear and Corin Tuckerâ€™s searing vocals were not cutting through, but by the fourth song, â€˜Jumpersâ€™, one of the most striking from â€˜The Woodsâ€™, the sound had settled and the crowd had become a lively, swaying, bouncing, bellowing horde. â€˜Jumpersâ€™, like many of the bands recent songs, packs in more ideas than some bands manage in a whole album, it doesnâ€™t sound flattering to refer to it as â€˜rock operaâ€™ but musical drama it is. As a three piece, the noise the band generates is staggering, drummer Janet Weiss is arguably the star of the show, her unerring bass beat is topped with a cascading percussive wall of sound so intense that it makes you question whether she has the same number of limbs as the rest of us! A â€˜Woodsâ€™ era â€˜Bâ€™ side, â€˜Everythingâ€™, is a perfect example at this show, as Carrie Brownstein wrings a squall of feedback from her guitar, a wash of cymbals gives way to a driving bass drum, then augmented by a machine gun snare and tom-tom volley, as the guitars furiously kick in. The whole sound is constantly on the brink of careening out of control. (Itâ€™s this edge of chaos style of performance that makes Sleater-Kinney so utterly compelling.)
The sound problems at Oxford were not replicated at Bristol, despite unforgiving high brick walls, fortunately every wail, thump and chord was gloriously audible. The audience was more volatile than at Oxford, and Corin at one point asked them to â€˜be nice in their dancingâ€™! Possibly because of the excellent sound Carrie Brownstein really shone here, particularly in the show stopping â€˜Lets Call It Loveâ€™, right from when Corin hit the depth charge opening notes, Carrie was flinging her guitar around punctuating long haired 70s rifferama with taut solos. The song grew into a gripping expanded jam that must have registered on the Richter scale. This approach also enhanced the â€˜One Beatâ€™ songs such as â€˜Light Rail Coyoteâ€™ at Oxford and the 9/11 tale, â€˜Farawayâ€™, at Bristol, both songs getting a roaring power surge. Even though the crowd inevitably responded wildly to the older material, for example the classic â€˜Words and Guitarâ€™ from â€˜Dig Me Outâ€™ was greeted with flailing arms and writhing bodies at both shows, really it was â€˜The Woodsâ€™, material that burned brightest. At the opening of the exhilarating â€˜Whatâ€™s Mine Is Yoursâ€™ with the line â€˜Sit down honey, lets kill some timeâ€™ Corin, grinning, raised her arm and flicked her hand in that â€˜Matrixâ€™ come-on-then gesture, the mob surged forward in response, as Janetâ€™s drums came crashing in like a runaway train.
Both of these shows were stunning displays, and Bristol is in pole position for my â€˜concert of the yearâ€™ nomination. â€˜The Woodsâ€™ songs, far from being tired after a year on the road, were played with such exuberant clout and confidence that it was bliss to see a band not resting on their own, or anyone elseâ€™s, laurels, but constantly challenging and pushing each other fearlessly into new and untamed territory. So whoâ€™s the current best band on the planet? Its Sleater-Kinney, and Iâ€™ll fight anyone that says its not.
|Billie Joyce with BJ Baartmans - The Riverside, South Shields - 30th May 2006|
Review by Helen Mitchell
One Willing Heart, to quote the title track of her current CD, is what Canadian native, 13 year Nashville resident demonstrated on this, her first visit to the North East, though by no means her first time in the UK.
Dutch label mate BJ Baartmans, who also produced Billieâ€™s recent CD on In Betweens Records, opened proceedings with a collection of songs from his catalogue, mostly his current Cd, Where Lovers Go. Before BJ even began to sing, it became apparent that he is a storyteller, having worked for a while as a journalist, and in fact, Billie describes his work as â€˜poetry.â€™ BJ interspersed songs such as Only Lovers Know, What Goes Around, Pretty When Youâ€™re Sick, and One Way Street, with stories of the songs origins, all told with a great sense of humour. Also immediately obvious is what a stunning guitar player BJ is.
After the break, in which they both mingled easily, Billie took to the stage with her guitar, accompanied on his guitar and background vocals, by BJ. Billie was immediately at ease as she thanked everyone for coming out â€˜not only the day after bank Holiday, the day England are playing football!â€™ She launched straight into the stirring Season For Being Alone, which begins with some beautiful guitar work. At times the lyrics bring to mind The Byrds Turn Turn Turn, in the comforting idea that there is a time for everything; They say for everything there is a time/ Well if thatâ€™s true, this must be mine/ When all Iâ€™m holding are the memories of loves Iâ€™ve known/ Must be my season for being alone.
This was followed by songs such as Real Good Man, Bring Him Back, Original Sin from Billieâ€™s first album, Love Tone (iwhich contains some very clever lyrics) Fire and a haunting new track, The Other Side inspired by Billieâ€™s work as a counsellor at a domestic violence centre and her ensuing involvement with the annual Independents For Independence benefit concert for domestic violence. Artists such as Gretchen Peters, Jim Lauderdale and Jonell Mosser have also been involved. As Billie ended this song she told us "We all know the staggering statistics of domestic violence in our culture...one in every three homes, every six seconds. At this everyone in the audience drew in breath â€“ the song had been given a whole new meaning. The lyrics On the Other Side of that door/ Is the life I was created for could, however apply to any situation, not least from Billieâ€™s own life experience.
Billie was born in Saskatchewan, Canada, and grew up on the praries. At seventeen she went out on the road and gave it up to settle in Thunder Bay , Ontario, for love, before her move to Nashville, where she has also worked as a prison guard among other things. This period of her life is chronicled in the incredibly beautiful Thunder Bay which for me, hearing live, was the highlight of the evening. I never dreamed that you would break my heart/ So soon after our first night beneath the sea of stars/But I knew my life would never be the same/On the day you moved away from Thunder Bay/You canâ€™t go back, thatâ€™s what they say, but I left the best part of my heart /With a man in Thunder Bay. In discussion with Billie, I commented on the line You canâ€™t go back and she said that is what motivates her to enjoy every moment of what she does and every new experience whilst she is on the road, especially over here. In typical lyricist style she went on to tell me that as soon as each moment is over, you canâ€™t get it back and it becomes a memory; thatâ€™s what makes them so special. So that song to me represents not only her journey, but also the transience of time, and performed live it brings chills.
Billieâ€™s website describes her album as Twelve tracks that let you glimpse into the personal journal of Billie Joyce's past three years....Honest, bittersweet, and hopeful.....I have doubt that seeing her live lets you even deeper into that journal; her songs and stories take you on a journey which is all of these things and more. Ralph MaClean of BBC Radio Foyle, described her as Nashvilleâ€™s best kept secret. I think the UK and certainly those present at the Riverside have unearthed that secret and will be eagerly awaiting her return to our shores, hopefully early next year.