Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Primal Scream perform Screamadelica @ Olympia London, 27th November

Review by John West

This was an eagerly anticipated event for me, having seen the Scream on numerous occasions, but this was the BIG one, big in all proportions from vastness of the stage, to the lighting, projections and huge video screens. Prior to our arrival it was bitterly cold as we left the coach in Knightsbridge, I must say thanks to the driver for allowing us to do that. There were Christmas celebrations in Oxford circus and the Capital was ground to a halt, I began to ask myself would we arrive in time for the concert. A quick word and we were given the all clear from National Express control to hit the streets and be on our way. Busy it was too, as the traffic meandered its way through the glistening glittering streets of London town.

Mission number one - to find a welcoming hostelry to quench the thirst and meet up with fellow fans who had travelled far and wide. The venue itself is a cavernous affair holding 10 thousand, and 20 thousand fans would witness over two nights Primal Scream’s biggest gigs to date. This was to be a celebration of an album which hits it’s 20th anniversary next year and the first time it would be performed in its’ entirety. The previous night the concert was beamed across the airwaves on BBC6 with Steve Lamacq holding court wetting our appetites for the event to come. The audience were clearly here as music fans of one of the most important albums of the last twenty years and a classic in its own right, certainly ranked amongst one of the greats, and in certainly their finest hour.

Within moments of entering the massive arena the band hit the stage to perform a first half of hits

including ‘Accelerator’, ‘Burning wheel’ ‘Country girl’ ‘Kowalski’ ‘Jailbird’ .On stage Bobby Gillespie throws his spider like shapes clad in his obligatory black suit, madly clapping, as the ever beaming Mani throbs his bass lines to his right. They work the faithful keeping them warm with their assault, then they lunge into the anthemic ‘Rocks’ from the ‘Give out...’ album but call a brief halt as Mani and guitarist Andrew Innes mess up, Gillespie asks the band to stop wryly quipping as the crowd sing along stating they know the words better than they do. They kick in again this time getting it right exchanging humorous glances towards each other across the stage.

An interval follows as Andy Weatherall hits the mixing desk to throw in some sounds to reflect the mood of the evening as the band take a break in preparation for the main event. Weatherall was responsible for some of the production of the album adding ambience and texture to the initial recording, therefore its only right that he should share in the glory tonight.

As the lights dim the familiar backdrop of the Screamadelica album cover is there in all its glory as the familiar Stonesy riffing of ‘Moving on up’ is belted out. The crowd are ecstatic as this is what they came for; this is a celebration of a great musical moment. Whereas some bands have rested on their laurels Primal Scream has continued to push the musical boundaries embracing all genres and soaking it up like a musical sponge. This is not merely a night of nostalgia its highlighting what is a masterful recording, and to hear it live in its entirety it works on all levels and beyond taking the audience higher than the sun for the experience.

Primal Scream has been together for well over twenty odd years with the ever controversial Gillespie at the forefront. They’ve taken on board all their eclectic musical tastes from the garage sounds of MC5, the Stooges, via the swagger of the younger Stones through to punk then embracing the ‘Krautrock’ of Neu and here with this airing the sounds of dub, coupled with acid house vibes and beats. It is the moment where the indie rock audience of all ages fused with the ravers of the chemical generation. Everybody wanted to dance and groove along whatever their personal musical bent, a unison of sound and vision. It’s a testament to the Screamadelica album that it cuts across all the musical snobbery that goes on, the rock kids were allowed to dance after all, they had moved to the dance floor.

Gillespie and co are first and foremost music fans themselves, they simply acknowledge what they hear and bring to the mix a sound that is very much their own. They are a true rock band, a gang, a collective who have led a much documented hedonistic lifestyle, but they have the ability to deliver here tonight they do not let us down. It is not a simple run through, the band have rehearsed this to maximum effect replicating the original and taking it even further, much to our delight.

The original running order has been mashed up and despite it being a massive venue for them, the sound fills every corner of the arena. With added vocals from the extremely impressive Mary Pierce and the addition of a wonderful gospel choir for added effect they can do no wrong. The climatic airing of ‘Loaded’ and ‘Come Together’ emphasises the point, the band have taken the time and space to deliver on all levels, with the psychedelic backdrops, hi tech lighting, and great musicianship the audience are left overwhelmed by their sheer power and majesty. Screamadelica won the inaugural Mercury music prize, it’s debt is somewhat owed to the masterful production and mixing qualities of both Jimmy Miller and Andy Weatherall, the music however is pure Primal Scream.

If you haven’t got this in your record collection you need to. This band don’t hide behind stylists they are pure rock n roll they are the Xtrmntrs of the Xfactor wannabes. Thank goodness we have bands like them who are original and groundbreaking , they continue to reinvent the rock ‘n’ roll rule book with their innovation and influence on a musical landscape which sadly currently is more concerned about the look and celebrity status – to coin a familiar phrase “just what is it that you want do?”

Primal Scream will be taking to the road in Spring at smaller venues across the country, get inside the house while you can. The album itself will be re-released and re-mastered for a March release with extras.



Dirty Hits

Monday, 29 November 2010

Don Vito / Lamo / That Fucking Tank / Part Chimp @ Fat Cat Hanley 26th November 2010

Review by James Winter-Samuel

Image Courtesy of Wrongpop

It’s very, very cold outside and the way things generally are when it’s like this, people tend to stay in the warmth of their own homes. Thankfully, this has not stopped the Wrongpop faithful from venturing out to enjoy one of the strongest line-ups Stoke has seen for a good while. The place is full and happy, expectant of a bill that promises much and will deliver more.

Don Vito are a late addition to Wrongpops already stellar line-up. Placing themselves on the dancefloor a la Lightning Bolt and inviting the assembled throng to share their performance space almost as if the band need the audience to perform, like some voyeuristic parasite. Song titles are meaningless and those songs seem to snake into one another, coiling and twisting like an aggravated boa constrictor. Off kilter, skittish stop start rhythms combine with rolling grooves to great effect, for when these guys hit that groove, it nearly takes your head off. That’s a good thing.

Lamo seem rusty. Seeming like a band who haven’t played in a year, and deciding to pick up their instruments and just dive straight into a gig, crash landing but coming up unscathed. Maybe slightly in awe of the other bands they share the bill with, which the lead singer embarrasingly tells us they worship, the bass heavy duo rattle a few teeth and grind away with a youthful exuberance. If this is Lamo at their rustiest, I can’t wait to see what they are like at their best!

That Fucking Tank! Good band name. Good band. As soon as the first notes are wrung out of the guitar, they bombard you with a repetition of riffs and fret-noodlery and controlled but powerful drumming. No vocals. They don’t need them. The riffs are so huge that anything resembling a vocal line would get swallowed up by the mass of mudslide like power riffs. Another member of the Don Vito like stop/start brigade, it’s as it the duo seem to rely on telepathy when arriving upon new rhythms to contort and reshape to their liking. Excellent!

Finally Part Chimp take to the stage with all the laid back cool that most bands would kill for. They plug in, take their places, and then an unleash absurd explosion of noise that rumbles off the stage and through the room. It’s like some sort of sludge rock ‘n’ roll party in here as the audience lurch and sway to the grooves but the members of the band are unaware, focused on the task at hand, which is to basically obliterate every venue they can with riff after riff of bomb like detonation. This is thunderous stuff and I’m surprised the bar upstairs hasn’t landed in our laps by now. Part Chimp have mastered the ability to create amazingly heavy heavy songs that don’t rely upon any basic structure or conform to any genre but still retain an accessability that will appeal to a broader spectrum of open minded music fans. Quality, Quality stuff across the board, it’s a shame Stoke will not see a gig like this again for quite some time.

Friday, 26 November 2010

The Fragrant Vagrants Take High Tea, EP

Review by Sian Eardley

So following the thoroughly enjoyable gig of Adam Green, I’m sent this EP ‘The Fragrant Vagrants Take High Tea’ from the Congleton based band who supported the eccentric genius that night, my precious recollection of them:- "The Fragrant Vagrants’ blew me away from walking through the door, let alone the headline act. Where have this band been hiding? Stoke shows us their defiance in delivering quality indie rock of a high caliber; the kind we’ve been crying out for," pays homage to their brilliant little EP. Well-produced and well put together, it’s rather good for a local effort. Not cheaply printed with somewhat of an art deco design, it’s obvious that this band have something, substance; they quite clearly take care in the quality of their productions, releases and material.

The name itself ‘Take High Tea’ suggests they have something to say, whilst giving the sweet bohemian image that so many of today crave and love – the Alice in Wonderland image bombarding the highstreets (Topshop/Miss Selfridge etc.) However, (recalling my last views), I do feel that The Fragrant Vagrants have to be seen live to do them full justice. They gel together well on record, but even more so in their raw performances, and personally that’s where I think their real essence lies, and if you haven’t got your stage shows nailed and on a par with the recorded stuff then there really is no hope.

‘The Duke’ – a fantastic and roaring opener reminiscent of guitars from the Pumpkins, with the defiant vocals of the likes of The Clash and The Jam. A pure exploration into a punk indulgence. TFV are living proof that punk is alive and well in Stoke, exhilarated by their soaring angst and energy to pack out local venues.

We progress go the stomping ‘Common Ground’, spunky, punky and full of in-your-face attitude. They can’t be ignored – fitting for their Adam Green appearance and fitting for their impressionable state of beautiful varieties of bass amplitude sensations and ‘two fingers’ lyrics. A talented bunch.

‘Blood’ offers something fresh in its insanity of the main guitar riff, which you can’t help but love with every listen. With its heavy and prominent bass lines it’s a guaranteed crowd pleaser and I’d guarantee you’d be nodding along to it in seconds and feverishly if live.

‘Blinkers’ for me is a tribute to the legendary Ian Curtis, back in his early ‘Warsawza’ days. It’s definitely haunting, but in a good way. ‘Left, right, Left right’ they roar, reminiscent of Joy Division’s hypnotic ‘Digital’. The aged vocals make TFV more distinctive than any poppy preppy effort from a band of 15-year-old youths.

The closing ‘Useless Generation’ ends on a high note indeed. Funky, fresh riff shredding injects a hedonistic rhythm into your body, sounding like an advert for Garnier Fructis’ hair wax but with more bites and more balls – if you will a more amplified version of Dogs/Subways.

What you see is what you get here, and if decent punk music set up to 21st century speed isn’t for you then sod off; a little treasure on CD, but an intense spectacle on stage.


The Fragrant Vagrants

Monday, 15 November 2010

Cut out Dreamers / Faux Feet @ The Sugarmill 13th November 2010

Review by Charlotte Lunt

Photo by Simon Bamford

As I arrived at the venue on Saturday eveningthere were just the last few chords ringng out from tonights openers - so apologies all round for missing them. However, as I stepped out of the drizzle into the familiar surroundings of the mill it was clear that the majority of tonight’s audience were also unfortunately running late, with the 50 or so assembled audience being firmly glued to the walls or hiding behind the sound desk.

Nevertheless, Cut out Dreamers took to the stage to deliver their bass heavy melodic to the assembled few. I was struck initially by the brevity of their songs, and also by the slurred vocals, which made a couple of the tracks difficult listening. This was short lived however, as their third song ‘Changes’ really raised the bar. This is a strong song musically echoing the indie-guitar vibe of 5 years ago, and the delivery of the vocals was far more confident.

I was beginning to see that Cut out Dreamers, have specialised in a very simple formula, and this is not intended as a criticism. They are clearly driving their music and there is plenty of variety in their set with their influences showing in very subtle ways rather than wearing them on their sleeves like so many bands do. There is also a marvellous feeling of summer about their melodies, which on a rainy Autumn evening in Stoke is not a bad thing at all.

Heading full tilt into their final two songs, the lads gave us a glimpse of their inner punks, and front-man Eddy Hollinshead released his inner Dave Grohl, before covering a particularly U2-esque version of ‘Helter Skelter’. If these two songs indicate the bands aspirations then they have drawn their line in the sand, however a word to the wise, don’t show your hand too soon. There is definitely a strong bond within this trio and as their steady progress over the last two years has shown and it will be interesting to see where they take it.

The main event tonight was Faux Feet, who I first saw playing in Fat Cats as part of the Oxjam Festival, and I was mightily impressed so this gig had been firmly in the diary since then.

It was clear that I wasn’t the only person anticipating the performance as the audience gravitated to the front of the stage and within the first 10 seconds of the opening number people were dancing. Frontwoman Sian Matthews plays a good game on stage, appearing coy whilst maintaining full control and being a natural performer. Perhaps let down a little by the PA this evening, her vocals were not as crisp as when I saw her last which is a shame as for me it is Sian’s voice that makes this group stand out.

The most commercial song of their set was ‘Don’t look back’ which for me is a song that seems to capture the band at their best, with solid playing from Ben Carl and Jamie creating a bedrock platform which allows Sian’s precise vocals to add another ethereal dimension to their music.

What I find striking about Faux Feet is not only Sian’s vocals and stage presence, but their entirely unassuming nature; these guys all appear to have their feet firmly on the ground and it is difficult to identify an ego between them. While the lads seem almost ambivalent to the audience, Sian interacts almost at an individual level with the first few rows, and relays her stories to them through song, making her performance more of a shared experience.

Finishing the evening with ‘Circles’, a definite crowd pleaser, Faux Feet have shown again that they have a spark about them that is not often seen. For my money they are definitely one to watch.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Robert Plant / Band of Joy with Justin Adams and Juldeh Camara @ Manchester Palace 31st October 2010

Review by John West

Photo by Simon Bamford

I’ve travelled to many, many gigs in Manchester and visited numerous venues across the city but this is the first time for the Palace. It’s a wonderful grade II listed building dating back to 1891, a fascinating structure of architectural significance with a warm atmosphere extremely pleasing to the eye boasting two balconies,royal boxes and a warren like environment. It was originally known as the Manchester Palace of Varieties which is rather fitting for tonight as the music and performers will certainly offer a variety on stage tonight.

As the lights dim Juldeh Camara and Justin Adams enter the stage bathed in a red glow plugging in their traditional African instruments the Ritti a one stringed fiddle and the Kologo a two stringed African banjo. There has been a line up change since I last saw them with Dave Smith replacing the colourful intriguing character of Salah Dawson Miller on percussion. Justin Adams will be familiar to Robert Plant fans as he is one of the guitarists in Strange Sensation and a mighty fine musician he is too. Juldeh is a Gambian ‘griot’ meaning poet, tonight wearing traditional robes he again excels in his own musicianship too. It is a perfect fusion of blues; rhythm and African tradition taking rock ‘n’ roll music back to its desert roots. Justin is a world music and blues enthusiast, being responsible for producing the music of Mali band Tinariwen along the way on his own musical journey, and he is in buoyant mood tonight.

Their vibrant hypnotic trancelike tunes take the listener on a musical journey utilising the electric guitar against a backdrop of percussion and traditional handmade instruments from the African continent. It’s an almost unworldly sound as they bring to the fore their individual strengths with mainly guitar and the virtuoso playing of Juldeh on the Ritti and singing in his own language Fulani. Their unique sound may not be as familiar to many in the audience here, however it is a real pleasure to see these two masters of their craft perform tonight. This is joyful music too, with Justin humorously remarking that we ought to see them in a smaller venue in Wales where everyone will be guaranteed a good time, offering more than a hint for people to get up on their feet to dance. I couldn’t agree more, as I could easily imagine myself transported to the hills to witness this perfection of fusing the musical styles of the western and African continents. It’s their unique take on tradition with familiar blues and Bo Diddley riffs which is a joy to behold, especially with ‘Sahara’ and ‘Feluni Coochie man’ and judging by the queue to buy their CDs during the interval they certainly turned on and won over more fans tonight.

On Friday evening the Band of Joy performed in London for BBC radio and recorded a soon to be televised Electric Proms, if you heard that performance you would have had an insight into what to expect tonight

Initially I was a little concerned as to the direction the ‘Golden God’ was taking with this new project and I personally hoped that after the collaboration with Alison Krauss and T Bone Burnett he would reconvene with the excellent Strange Sensation. However having heard their take on the Los Lobos song Angel Dance’ prior to release it was a relief when I heard that arrangement and when the album finally arrived I was knocked out by the sound of it and the choice of eclectic covers.

This of course is not the Band of Joy with which he performed in the 60’s with his best mate the late great John Henry Bonham, no this is a different engine entirely, a newly assembled outfit of some of the finest musicians from Nashville and beyond and back home to Kidderminster. On Fridays’ Radio 2 live broadcast he was quick point out that it was playing with the Band of Joy as Jo Whiley had only introduced him to the nation. This modesty is justified, as he fully acknowledges their individual input to the BoJ throughout the night, an affinity which is warm and fully appreciated by the man, who is willing to take a back seat allowing the others to shine, much like he did with Alison Krauss and T Bone a couple of years back at the Apollo down the road.

Casually dressed in jeans and open necked shirt he takes to the dimly lit stage following the BoJ collective to rapturous applause, the legendary rock hero had returned. They open with ‘Down to the sea’ from the ‘Fate of nations’ album, it’s a much heavier sound than the previous live outing with swampy wah wah guitar from the awesome Buddy Miller. This flows into the mandolin led ‘Angel dance’ featuring a fine display therein from multi instrumentalist Darrell Scott and singing accompaniment from Patty Griffin. Robert dances and throws a few familiar shapes with the mike stand, with all the band beaming and thoroughly enjoying themselves. He recollects previous visits to Manchester name checking a few places including the Twisted wheel and the Domino club, recalling the blues greats, Sonhouse, Bukka White and the Reverend Gary Davies as inspiration - a misspent youth as we all surmise, ha ha.

He always comes across as a very humble person, not one for chasing celebrity status and escaping down the cabaret route unlike some of his peers, always allowing the music to speak for itself. This is his path now, a quest to continue and pursue his roots once again reinterpreting his muse in his own way. With calls of “I love you Robert”, he laughs and quips “I thought it was all over for us”.

Naturally the audience wonder when one of those songs will appear and it’s not long before a radically reworked version of a little played ‘Misty Mountain hop’ appears. Other songs to feature from the mighty Zeppelin cannon later include Houses of the Holy, a superb country tinged acoustic and peddle led steel guitar version of Jimmy’s self penned ‘Tangerine’, a hint of ‘In my time of Dying’, a more roots version of the traditional blues folk song ‘Gallows pole’ and the audience participation which is of course the encore ‘Rock and Roll’ complete with the obligatory “ah ahs” in response.

One of my favourites from the BoJ LP is their version of Richard Thompson’s ‘House of Cards’ which tonight is sublime. This is one of several highlights this evening from the BoJ release another being Low’s ‘Monkey’ which is dark and brooding in its delivery echoing U2’s Edge guitar style as Robert and Patty almost breathlessly bounce off each other taking the song to epic atmospheric proportions. There’s a humorous plug for the new single ‘Can’t buy my love’ as he says it is after all being played on the Ken Bruce show. The music takes on an almost gospel like quality with ‘Satan your kingdom must come down’ with banjo and echoey guitar sounds. The musicianship on stage is organic and faultless as is the mandolin, banjo, guitar and pedal steel five part harmonies. The BoJ is one musical living working body allowing individuals to take time in the spotlight to shine as Buddy Miller, Darrell Scott and the “hillbilly princess” Patty Griffin are all allowed their chance as Robert moves to the side of the stage or behind, also giving him the opportunity to play some harmonica in the background.

There’s an outing of ‘Please read the letter’ the song originally on ‘Walking into Clarksdale’ which he recorded with Jimmy Page and later to be featured on ‘Raising Sand’. However this is more akin to the former with a slight nod to the Walker Bros to these ears. As the band brings the night to a close they finish with an acapella ‘Goodnight’. As they line up and embrace each other the audience give them a standing ovation before they make their exit having witnessed a master class in musicianship and performance from start to finish.

Where Robert Plant’s journey takes him next is anyone’s guess, but wherever his travels take him I’m sure it will be one of integrity and quality, just don’t expect any reunions, sorry but we just have to accept that one now; just let it go as those images are clear but sadly they are over the hills and far away in the misty mountains.


Justin Adams and Juldeh Camara: Tell no lies

Robert Plant: Fate of Nations

Robert Plant and Strange Sensation: Mighty Rearranger

Robert Plant: Band of Joy

Online: www.tbl.com Tight but Loose – The Led Zeppelin magazine