Sunday, 26 September 2010

Fun Lovin Criminals @ Wulfrun Hall Wolverhampton 18th September 2010

Review by John West
Photo by Simon Bamford

Wolverhampton seems to be the second home for gigs for this particular team of Stoke Sounds reviewers over the last few months, having recently caught Mark Lanegan and Exit Calm at venues in this fine Midlands town. I do question at times why we do not attract the calibre of artists in our own fair city and as music fans we have to travel to venues outside Stoke, it never used to be such a desert for gigs as I remember a time when Stoke would attract many varied artists . Its not far to travel here, be it by road or a convenient rail network, however it can be a bit tight getting a last train back though at 10.45! It’s been a while since I last came to the Wulfrun, and I reckon it was an acoustic performance of Spiritualized a couple of years back. Tonight it will be Fun Lovin' Criminals who are a band not usually on my musical radar but well worth checking out all the same, it’s hard to believe its been fifteen years since their first release.

Wolverhampton boasts some fine venues of varying capacity, be it the intimacy of the Slade Rooms and Little Civic to the larger venues of the Wulfrun and the Wolves Civic, all catering for different audiences and offering something for everyone for a great night out everyday of the week regardless of your musical tastes.

As we arrive at the venue The Chemists are on stage warming up the relatively mixed audience and are well received by the crowd. This Bristolian five piece have been supporting FLC throughout the tour in support of their debut album ‘The Theories of Dr Lovelock’ and they do a fine job of it with their guitar driven rock. There is a hint of early U2, INXS and Editors about them to these ears, as they keep the crowd entertained.

For FLC this is their second UK tour to promote the new offering ‘Classic Fantastic’ having returned to the live circuit after a five year hiatus following a hard fought legal battle with their former manager. Prior to FLC re-engaging with their audience again, Huey Morgan has carved himself a successful little niche on TV and radio as a presenter, celebrity guest and host. He is a genuine all round good guy. He is intelligent and humourous with his banter and delivery, which the audience lap up as they take in every word. cannot help but love the guy he is sincere and has to be applauded - he is certainly no fake celebrity he’s one of us.

The massive backdrop to the stage portrays Manhattan, New York which being a FLC gig is appropriate as Huey and the boys hit the stage to rapturous applause. For the next 90 minutes plus they deliver their own distinct familiar brand of music, fusing funk, hip hop, rock, and latin rhythms. Their sounds reflect something of a seventies film and TV soundtracks with their well chosen samples and themes taking us on a funkadelic latino dance vibe trip. Huey, Frank Bembini (drums and acoustic guitar) and multi instrumentalist Brian Leiser are all fine and talented musicians, who certainly know how to keep the crowd interested. There’s no filler at all in this set as they roll out ‘Korean Bodega’ ‘Smoke em’ ‘King of New York’ etc. with Brian Leiser effortlessly switching from keys to horns with a blink of an eye to help maintain that FLC groove.

Huey is both a charismatic front man and a mighty fine guitarist too, taking his own slant on the blues a la BB King licks, and Santana like rhythms with just a slight nod to the late Randy Rhodes as he straps on a replica guitar for added texture in the rock territory. He has the audience in the palm of his hands and with his open friendly humorous banter he keeps this reviewer smiling throughout the performance as they deliver their songs of the underbelly of everyday life, love and the big city. Surprisingly they put ‘Scooby snacks’ roughly mid set and as expected the crowd go bananas for it, FLC are beaming with the response. So who did let the dogs out? No pun intended there folks! However just beware the ‘Scoobies’ just keep ‘em safe from the kids know what I mean, haha! Seal the biscuit tin. They can bite back unexpectedly.

As they hit the home stretch with the crowd chanting back ‘Barry White!’ for ‘Love Unlimited’ they are clearly having a great time and the audience will go home happy for it or simply find a club to soak up yet more sounds, after all it is a Saturday so party time, and yes they “have all the time in the world”. For tonight everyone is and maybe for one night only we are and they certainly are –‘Fun Lovin’ Criminals’ and 100 per cent Colombian! Who wouldn’t want to be, it may be cold outside but Huey and co have warmed us all up and kept us grooving with their sounds. Welcome back FLC, you may have played to the faithful here tonight, but hey everyone deserves and needs a good night out and you did not disappoint.

Listen : Huey Morgan on BBC Radio 6

Classic Fantastic

Scooby Snacks : Collection

Monday, 20 September 2010

Adam Green @ The Sugarmill 14th September 2010

Review by Sian Eardley

Bloody Hell! What an extraordinarily-fabulous-spectacularly and delightfully top-notch, spiffing, and tickety-boo evening the Adam Green performance of tonight was.

Stoke support act: ‘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 – for so long, hopefully to result in their own show debut soon! Tonight was destined to be superb anyway, even the long-standing and dull Paramore backing CD used for the intermissions, had been put aside for some Old School Biffy Clyro and The Spinto Band. As we would say here: ‘Mint.

But anyway, we digress from the fantastical operetta of tonight, courtesy of New York lovin’, and ‘Strokes’ buddy Adam Green; himself looking somewhat of a cross between Julian Casablancas and Albert Hammond Jr. He truly graced the ‘cultural part of Stoke’ with a show like no other – I’d go as far to say as like no other on this earth.

With a seductively instrumental opening; resonating NYC cool with a sleek edge of Jazz properly placed amongst the indie streets of the Big Apple’s Soho, the plodding tunes showed he’s ‘got the funk’. In fact, the plunky, plonky ‘Buddy Bradley’ oozed reminiscences of the ‘Old Gregg’ episode of The Mighty Boosh (you know the one!), where Green scooped up the funk and made pure love to it right there on the stage. Imagine that for a scene… then juxtaposed with the bold, resonating, vocals similar to Ian Curtis along with his sporadic shuffles, further progressing into Vic Reeve’s fashion of pub singing, to eventually elude into a more serious ‘Richard Cheese’ protégé, and you’ve pretty much got a good idea of how tonight went down.

The concept of Adam Green certainly boggles the mind as a ravishing rollercoaster ride of stand-up, cabaret, drunken social engagement and musical talent; I had likened it to a night in Baz Luhrman’s visualization of ‘The Moulin Rouge’. The songs themselves varied into a magnificent array, exploding as a cosmic love affair with the night, right from the slap-bassing start, to the acoustically breath-taking mid set which marveled the crowds (like they weren’t already bowled over enough), transgressing to the more sadistic side of Green, with his later songs of “Carolina’ whose ‘breasts taste just like breakfast’, the short and sweet ‘Baby’s gonna die tonight’, and the rather degrading Jessica’, slating Miss. Simpson!’

It’s hard to pinpoint any particular highlight of the performance, as the delectable evening comprised of a perfect host, non-stop entertainment, and our own piece of Indie Americana for sampling. However, it has to be said that his serving of ‘Morning after Midnight’ and ‘Emily’ (note: both not off his current album ‘Minor Love’, but to be found on his older catalogues), were stunning. This man can wail!

Flinging out some of his old works from times as ‘The Moldy Peaches’, it was tantalizing to be in a ‘real’ music-loving crowd in awe of these guys who’d you’d just want to party with to have a damn good time, and this is exactly what they delivered. Whether his straw hat was on or his top was off – an orgasmic, side-splitting and pleasurable musical experience was had.

If you’re up, if you’re down, you can’t help but be moved by the presence of Green – guaranteed to be lifted by his musical genius; presenting itself humorously, but gaining validity for it’s very ‘real’ approach at lyrics and matters, opposed to the many pretentious offerings by bands today, who merely tweak on the heartstrings of angry teenage girls.

So if you’re bag, baby, ideally consists of a Lou Reed sound, a Jeff Healey bluesy rock-house vibe, brought to you by apparitions of Howard Moon and Vince Noir; prepare yourself for a magical night with Adam Green, who’ll sing, talk drugs (specifically ‘Special K’) with you, gamble and downright charm the pants off you.

10/10 – The finest night in a very long time indeed.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Watchet Festival 27-29 August 2010

Review and Photo's by Simon Bamford

Almost accidentally holidaying on the Somerset coast I was a little surprised to find that the sleepy harbor town of Watchet was hosting it's own festival. Unexpectedly, a short walk down the esplanade provided me with a little more insight. Overlooking the harbour are two bronze statues. Firstly, The Ancient Mariner, subject of Coleridge's epic poem. Coleridge stayed in the area and was inspired by the town that had been a harbour since ancient times, to write his tale of the doomed seafarer. The poet, a rock star of his day, was a man who could probably out excess any of today’s hedonistic stars. His narcotic visions are an acknowledged influenced on artists and musicians to this day. Secondly, a statue of Watchet seaman Yankee Jack Short, lesser know than Coleridge but arguably a greater influence on the music we listen to. Jack a sea captain and shanty man travelled to America bringing back songs and creating a trans-Atlantic musical exchange three quarters of a century before rock n roll reached our shores. The sea shanties that he and others sang, an important evolutionary step towards modern song writing. It seems that music and poetry are as much in the blood of the Watchet people as rocket fuel Scrumpy. But that's enough of the history lesson.

The festival itself took place on a hill overlooking the town providing the finest view I have ever seen from any event. The clear blue Bristol Channel, Bridgewater Bay and South Wales with the islands of Steep Holm and Flat Holm breaking up the expanse of water. At night you could see a bright moon and a winding coastline of tiny lights across the black water.

The festival site was quite small, about the size of three or four football fields and by my experience, the smaller the venue, the better the experience. I wasn't disappointed. I watched some great performances over the weekend. Mostly acts seemed to be from around the West Country and rightly so. Drone Rebels, Shadows Burn, Penthouse Shed, Zoltar Speaks and The Surfin Turnips to name a few, appeared over 3 days and two stages. Friday night's headliners were tribute act The Stones. Saturday saw The Beat headline the main stage and Sunday Ade Edmondson’s folk-punk act The Bad Sheppard’s. Metal, punky and western (Surfin Turnips), folk, ska, ska-folk, folk-ska. The list of genres seemed as endless as the varieties of cider on sale. There were the usual craft/clothes stalls, food drink and children’s entertainment. There was always a good natured and friendly atmosphere. The best of the festival for me was The Something Else Tea Tent, run by Watchet musicians and friends, it kept us warm from the occasional cold winds, kids occupied, fuelled up with caffeine and charmed by the hospitality. Their open mic sessions were brilliant!