Monday, 27 June 2011
Saturday, 25 June 2011
Photo by Kevin Percival
On first glance it seemed that this gig was set to both start and end with a skeletal number of audience members, half of which were supportive parents. With the maximum age of about 16, From Within graced the stage and were fully ready to please, but were halted by some "technical difficulties". This was definately met with a few quiet "awe! aren't they cute"s running through the crowd until they blasted out some heavy-riff noise which all of sudden made me listen. Their short set comprised of the sounds of an American high school prom band; major-chord rock that is easy to bop to. I immediately referenced 'Back To The Future' in my head. You know the scene, where Marty steps in for the injured band member etc. Well, lo and behold, what do I hear? The opening to 'Johnny Be Good'? No way? Yes way. Excellently performed, if not a little jovial, as the crowd began to increase in numbers and also in spirits (either mood or alcohol I couldn't tell). The lead singer/guitarist is an absolute ball of talent, his voice belongs in a young gentleman of 22 nevermind 15/16. You can tell these boys are passionate about music; I'd say check back in a year or two and these guys will undoubtedly keep you entertained.
From Within exited the stage to rapturous applause and were swiftly followed by The Hiding Place. Now, I've wanted to see this band for a while and was admittedly a little apprehensive as to whether they would get my vote. And they did. An incredible start, with undertones of hardcore-gone-by; referencing early Alexisonfire but with a little more swagger. Yes, swagger, I did just use that word. Vocally the lead was a little confusing at times, but not in a bad way. He swung his hips to the beat of his own drum, brought a little flamboyancy to the stage and proceeded to get intimate with the audience by leaping into the crowd and finishing a song. The Hiding Place's tracks hit you in the face with the right amount of force; slow intros followed by exciting verses and sing-a-long choruses. When the new EP drops expect it to sell out like hot cakes; they leapt about the stage wonderfully, and let the audience know that they were having as much fun as we were in the crowd.
In all honesty I hadn't heard of Gravites before tonight, but I was definately impressed. They sound like dirty, Deftones-esque, gritty, low pitched rockers. Very entrancing to watch. An excellent lead guitarist brings the songs from just a few chords to a more interesting sound, with solos at the right times, and then doesn't play them for too long (pet hate). The lead singer believes in the songs; almost singing past the audience, and rather to the person that the song was originally meant for. I truly believe that tonight's performance was only hindered by nerves, as sometimes the vocal range became a little flat. A complete unfortune as these guys really are something to behold. My favourite track of the night is definately 'Motion of Stars'; a beautiful song that rolls around a simple melody with a building undertone only enhanced by more vocal simplicity. Gravities are worth seeing again.
Friday, 24 June 2011
Photo by Simon Bamford
Tonight, Seattle six piece band Fleet Foxes take to the stage of the Civic in support of their new album ‘Helplessness Blues’. Their sound is a fusion of their own take of Americana folk, blues and hints of jazz, forming a mix of what I would call harmonic organic progressive folk music. They return to the venue they played a couple years ago, having seen their star ascend with exposure on Jools Holland, regular plays on Radio 2 and 6music. I do wonder if they are perhaps feeling somewhat uncomfortable with their ascent into the mainstream as their music reaches a wider audience. They are due to play Glastonbury tomorrow for what will be a much bigger crowd than tonight so they certainly are reaching out there taking their music to the masses. Tonight it’s a chance to be a bit more intimate with their audience.
The stage is spartanly lit throughout with warm glows of primary colours as they deliver a 90 minute plus set to a full house tonight. They are extremely talented musicians, which is bought out in the quality of their intricate playing as are the exquisite vocal harmonies, with main man Robin Peckfold leading the way on guitar. The set includes songs from their eponymous debut album including personal favourite ‘Your Protector’ crowd favourite ‘White Winter Hymnal’ and ‘Sun it rises’. ‘Mykonos’ gets the crowd swaying, joining in and singing along with their own “oh oh ohs” giving it an almost congregational feel. The band spend time throughout using an array of instruments including guitars, mandolin, percussion, upright bass and trumpet but without much communication with the audience it slows the pace somewhat and seems to cause restlessness. This is a band who are steeped in Americana and a rich musical heritage therefore their songs reflect this with touches of Crosby Stills and Nash, Van Morrison with almost hints of an acoustic Radiohead. It’s a shame when some of the crowd chat throughout some of the songs which really do need your attention, it’s even worse when some clown throws a beer glass across the audience. This is not what I expect tonight; I expect the audience to respect each other as they’ve all come to experience the sheer joy and passion of the band.....cue ‘He doesn’t know why’ which is sublime.
There is no denying how talented this band are, with their songs allowing you to listen and drift away in your own thoughts interpreting Penkfold ‘s songs of friendship, regret, closure, turmoil. From the new album is ‘Sim Sala Bim’ ‘Montezuma’ and the title track ‘Helplessness Blues’ which ends the night. Tonight Fleet Foxes delivered a strong set but may have perhaps over stretched themselves by cramming such a lot in, as talented as they are the delays between songs to tune up didn’t maintain the momentum. I feel that their music is better suited to more intimate surroundings and tonight the Civic seems too big. We may have got more of that if it had been seated or if – to return to my rant - if people had just listened more, shown a little more respect and simply absorbed the aural delights which Fleet Foxes deliver.
Sunday, 12 June 2011
Image courtesy of National Tevor and Darren Washington
National Trevor – not what was expected at all: a limitless candy jar of an album; a beautiful and transcending journey of the elegant, the educated, the real, the dark, the romantic, the light and breezy, and the wanting qualities of man – yes all under one umbrella. Si Waite, the Staffordshire University lecturer offers songs for the times: songs of the condition of the modern man, and upon listen it’s brilliantly uplifting and liberating.
The first half of the album sees Waite at his eloquent best. ‘Each Time I See Your Face’, the opener, exposes his clean, true, and heartfelt approach, which is continual throughout the whole musical experience. We get to celebrate his multi-dimensional voice, sometimes seeing hints of a husky ‘Beck’/’Ryan Adams’, and then sometimes the finesse of ‘Guy Garvey’ (‘Footprints’), and then again, ‘Sting’, this man manages to pull off the distinction of Sting’s 30 year career in his voice. He goes down like a fine vintage wine: sophisticated and warming. From the first track I refused to believe this was a product from Stoke. Nothing this delicate and ornate could come from this area, no way. Even his words: ‘We move like Heaven, we beings’ are simply divine; utterly moving and awe-inspiring, it must be unforgettable to witness live.
‘Take What You Need’ is a fine example of his very genuine style of songwriting. The tension created in this soulful love song is captured by the music, to lead you on with the lyrics to wonder where this story will lead: ‘Loneliness…waiting in the shadow of another day’. He works up to an almost Wordsworthian ending which puts him amongst Stoke’s elite performers.
A sweeping levity is then brought in by the comically titled: ‘I Love it When You Shave Your Legs’ – a wonderful insight into his quirky microcosm – very true and very modern attitudes to the running theme of love. The track may appear to be outrageous, but it fits into his works perfectly, and actually makes pretty good sense when you give it a spin.
‘The Hand of History’ was an intriguing highlight exploring his darker side, with otherworldly touches that could have nicely fitted on the Blade Runner soundtrack by Vangelis. It’s talented and tangible. ‘Hey You’ sounded hauntingly familiar, that, or I’d already got and understood the album’s ethos entirely and lovingly. It has to be noted, that this track in particular, resonates Jeff Buckley’s ‘So Real’, with wondrous high notes and lifts to create a poetic ballet of sound.
‘I Don’t Want to Sing Along’, and ‘Restless Waves’, are his ballsy and bolshie tracks, like a young, fired-up Adams, where you really get into his rhythm and peaks of great musical magnitude. These songs of resistance and angst are easy to adore and become attuned to.
‘Baby I’m Your Boy’ has a comedown of more light, summery tunes towards its climax. With ‘Sunrise’, all troubles are gone ‘Throwaway your blues’, in this oceanic number, you can almost smell the suntan lotion. More happy acoustics come in the tranquil form of ‘Still Life’, ‘Made of Stars’ and ‘Time in my Hand’ – the finale.
This album can’t come recommended highly enough, so listen for yourselves.
Two offerings from City Reign arrived in my inbox ready for me to deconstruct and analyze in deep thought, but it didn’t take that much, as what was received were two very sweet tracks from this Manchester band, which by the time the choruses kicked in, I was hooked and fully pulled into the soul-force of the songs, fully immersing myself.
Their single “Daybreak’, was released on their own label ‘Car Boot Records’ on May 9th, and these days it seems to be the most productive way for bands to get a step on the ladder into the weird and wonderful world of a music career, and has gained them the backing of XFM and Lamacq.
Upon the first listen, they reminded me of a very early Boxer Rebellion (funny, having the same history RE: labels), with roaring and inspiring guitars filling the airwaves, and the kind of pounding drums that get right into your system, into your blood, becoming in synch to the compelling rhythm. Vocally, Roddy Woomble, Brain Molko and The Cooper Temper Clause inspirations, made prominent flourishes, which really upped their lternative/underground/indie vibe; you know, the good stuff that you can really relish and that would make for a great night out at our Sugarmill. It’s a shame there’s not more material like this about nowadays, it’s so much stronger, educated and mind-blowing than today’s mainstream garbage. City Reign are wonderful for this reason, they don’t conform. Their music is a point, a weapon…
This continued into the live rendition of their song ‘The Line’. This reignited the excitement of the early 00’s, when bands like The Strokes and Interpol were making those fantastic indie rock records, which sounded like no other before; fresh and invigorating. These are the music days I miss, but these guys are out there on the frontline waving the flag.
City Reign sound big, they sound epic, they hold purpose, they’re not just throwaway items of sound, there’s beauty in their cause (‘Trees sway, the leaves begin to blossom’). The clarity in the vocals allow you to instantly connect to what they’re trying to demonstrate and highlights their quality production, seen best in the superb instrumental in the track- all beautifully orchestrated and coming together. For saying it’s live too, they do certainly set the bar high, and hopefully they can make a trip to Stoke for a celebration of cosmic sounds.
Saturday, 11 June 2011
Review by Sian Eardley
Review by Sian Eardley
Imagine you’re standing on the edge of a cliff, ready to plummet and looking for just one thing to hold you back. Imagine you’ve just been handed your first newborn baby…These feelings, these
rushes of emotion and adrenaline are all produced and cumulated by the sounds of The Boxer Rebellion.
Yes, they may just happen to be my favourite band on the entire planet, but to counter my bias, I simply have to remember why I first fell n love with them, and seeing them live tonight, it was always going to be clear why. I’ve been to every performance of theirs at The Sugarmill, stretching all the way back to 2004 when they headlined and Editors were support, and I know for a fact that everyone who would have been introduced to them for the first time tonight would be utterly bewitched by them. The most beautifully flowing guitar melodies come from Todd Howe, Nate’s Tennessee twang makes love to his hushed poetic lyrics and all the while, the prominent bass and roaring drum beats celebrate the early material of The Verve/TCTC; the very finest in alternative
indie and perfect for the size of Stoke Sugarmill.
Even with a new sound engineer in the mix tonight (who happened to do a stellar job by the way), the set was lush. They opened with ‘Step Out of the Car’, the first release off their recent third
album (‘The Cold still’), and grinding indie-grunge number which gets you right into the rhythm and a ‘tapping on the dancefloor. We saw equilibrium with ‘Organ Song’, ‘Both Sides Are Even’ and ‘No Harm’, which are all amazing as finding ‘the one’ in your life. ‘Cowboys and Engines’, a song striking at the media, made a welcome appearance from their debut album ‘Exits’ and sounded as bolshie as ever. ‘Evacuate’ is just fucking brilliant to be blunt. It’s everything you could want from a song: catchy, ballsy, and just fantastically strung together that you’ll be screaming the chorus and kicking yourselves for not being into these guys sooner! The track was cleverly placed mid-set to show that they continue to reach such tremendous heights, similarly found with ‘The Runner’,
their latest single release. I can’t help but fall in love with the lyrics, and it’s Verve (ish) feel, making you proud to witness, believe and be part of the greatest music around today. ‘Goro Adachi’, as featured on the soundtrack for the BBC’s ‘Long Way Down’ was an enchanting close to their set, whilst as always, in every performance, in any part of the country I’ve seen them play it, 'Watermelon’ is the corker of the whole performance. Any of you who have never heard of it, download it now, it’s free from Last.fm, so no excuses. On record it’s sexy, sultry, impacting and
loud, but it’s done a million times more justice live, as you get the intended ‘mmmph!’ behind every cord and vocal, which frontman Nathan Nicholson took advantage of by leaping into the crowd with his mic and really gave it some.
As both a fan and a music lover, it was superb to see them back at one of their old haunts seven years later. They’ve had a fascinating music journey, and through their ups and downs, their triumphs and struggles, not once have they ever stopped waving the flag for Britain’s freshest and most talented indie music. I also got a surge of pride having seen them along their path, I mean they even starred alongside Drew Barrymore last year in ‘Going the Distance’ (good tekkers), to which people were requesting they played ‘If You Run’ from the OST which they especially recorded. This, like the rest of their repertoire, is a stunner, and they promised to play it upon their next return to Stoke: just don’t leave it another 5 years!
And on another note, a big round of applause is needed for The Fears who were the local support act tonight, and they really pulled out all the stops, in terms of warming the crowd up, and delivering the best local music at the moment. Their vivacity, content and consistency really is to be commended.
Thursday, 9 June 2011
Photo by Simon Bamford
For Leicester psyche dance rockers Kasabian this is the third gig of a run of pre -festival warm ups. They stride on stage as they raise their hands to the baying crowd launching into the anthemic Clubfoot. The crowd are immediately up for it, as are unfortunately the beer monsters who are out in force tonight. It simply beggars belief that people who will pay good money to just throw it into the crowd at random, e specially as tonight it doesn’t come cheap.
The audience are entranced and become as one with their band. A people’s band who took the mantle away from Oasis a long long time ago, which if you were at any of the latter’s big gigs (Heaton Park, Wembley) prior to their split you would have to agree; Kasabian have returned to reclaim their Empire, I’m afraid no Beady Eyes can take that from them tonight.
Serge is at command central urging his troops to deliver tonight and to give the audience exactly what they’ve come for. As would be expected in a run of warm up gigs, the set is choc full of favourites from across all three albums with the treat of a couple of newies too. In rapid succession we get ‘Where did our love go’, ‘Underdog’ and ‘Shoot the Runner’ leaving the audience gasping for breath as the guys dance and flow with the rest of the crowd, hitting the familiar and cheeky Deep Purple’s ‘Black Knight’ riff.
It’s arms aloft and cheers from all as they are greeted by Tom saying they feel electric tonight, from the back to the front and across the balconies no one is motionless. We are then treated to one of the new songs tonight ‘Velociraptor’ which gives the audience time to take stock and listen to something unfamiliar. I found to have a more poppier direction than their, however it’s a big thumbs up from the crowd and the band appear satisfied with this performance. ‘Cut Off’ follows taking the audience into more familiar territory as they sway to its hypnotic groove and sing along; it’s all swaggery vibes from everyone involved.
The atmosphere is bought down a level as the band switch to a more acoustic mode adding trumpet to ‘Take aim’ from the “West Rider Pauper” album followed by the waltz like ‘Thick as thieves’. These songs present a different angle from the band; a mellower side to their usual raging beast. They’ve given themselves and the audience a bit of a rest too, before its time to get loose, get looser...!
In a blink they crank it up again with levels reaching fever pitch as they launch into their ‘Empire’; hitting their stride with ‘Fast fuse’ and ‘Vlad the Impalor’. It’s a triumphant return to the stage for Kasabian and the crowd are loving every minute of it, the band themselves are elated too. There seems to be a tangible connection with the audience and none more so when the firm favourite ‘LSF’ is delivered. It’s arms aloft once more, punching the air as the audience go trance like, swaying to the beat, the troops are on fire. These are no lost souls tonight and Kasabian leave the stage as the crowd keep singing the LSF refrain demanding more.
They return for an encours with another new song ‘Switchblade smile’. It’s a monster of a tune and I’m sure it will go down a storm at the festivals with its pulsing rhythmic eastern tinged groove. Following this with a slightly tongue in cheek but superb cover of Donna Summer’s “I feel love” by Serge, Kasabian shows how ecletic the bands are on the influence front, and that they’re not ashamed to show it either. This is something I’ve always admired about them, a wonderful sense of musical heritage and appreciation no matter where it’s coming from. Finally Tom returns to the stage for ‘Fire’ and its barmy time again; the audience are left in no doubt that Kasabian are bringing their music back to their Empire! We have been privileged to have seen them in more intimate surroundings tonight, next time it will be the arenas for the new album and the summer festivals. You’re in for a treat guys.