Category Archives: gig

Jamie Lidell Clockwork 2nd May 2008

One of the New Generation of festivals to germinate with decent people and splendid toilets sprouted up last year and flowered. The gig tonight at Clockwork in Bristol was a slight whiff of what to expect from this year’s Bloom Festival in the delightful West Country.

The less said about Clockwork’s toilets the better but everyone from the door staff, to the security guards to the punters, were absolutely lovely. Tonight’s event stays close to its roots by providing us with a bill of pleasingly eclectic electronica. The eccentric Mara Carlyle and the excellent Bonobo both feature – but the main pull is Jamie Lidell.

Though mainstream appeal has always been a step away for Lidell, people who have seen him generally get obsessed with him. Unlike, say, 90% of electronica obsessions it’s not just a man thing either, there’s equally the same amount of women at this gig. This is partly because since the admirable but cerebral Super Collider and the solo album that followed in its wake, Lidell’s journey has been to the centre of soul. This admittedly has been via some admirable beat box show stoppers but nevertheless – everyone loves soul sung well.

The reason for this is clear. Whatever Lidell does, he does with ease. Unlike many who descend into the world of gizmos because they’re lacking in other departments, this simply isn’t true of Lidell. He is a consummate showman. And I’m sure his natty dress sense and rough cut good looks help too. Before we walked back inside I chatted to one girl who mentioned when she last saw him he wore a suit made out of CDs.

I’m quietly happy when Lidell comes on stage that he’s wearing a casual suit jacket and NHS style glasses. He has stepped away from his showman ego and let his newly full size band, among their number Mocky and Chile Gonzalez, add their considerable talents too. Tonight’s set is the only UK live push outside London for his third studio album – modestly named just Jim – and as such, most of the set list is from it. It’s a setup that works extremely well with current single ‘Little Bit Of Feel Good’ getting the gig crowd boogieing. Of course Lidell does become more playful with his desk of gizmos at the side of the table and his beat box segment inevitably gets the biggest cheer. The rest of the band leaves the stage allowing Lidell to unleash all manner of driving techno and funky house with the power of his voice. After an encore he finishes with a evangelical version of Multiply which descends into a funk soul finale replete with stage bows.

We don’t bother with the rest of the night. For us Lidell has absolutely stormed it. We grab a Bloom flyer on the way out. Sadly Lidell isn’t on it this year but we heartedly recommend the festival for this great atmosphere. And if you spot Lidell on any line-ups just go. He’s worth the gate price alone.


Mr Scruff, The Glee Club (Sunday 8th April 2007)

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An open topped double-decker bus rolls into Birmingham, full of badly drawn egg shaped men waving their matchstick arms about and scoffing on fish pies. No this isn’t a chocolate based hallucination, it’s Mr Scruff, of course!

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For Brum based Scruff disciples, Easter has become a special time of the year which is marked by the man’s annual arrival into town. For the last few years his appearance has been at the suitably surreally named Custard Factory. However, following a poorer turnout last year (and actually a total sense of mirth and merriment depletion on behalf of the establishment) he’s found a new home at the equally suitably named Glee Club.

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As you might know, the Glee Club is a comedy venue that differs massively to the overly-branded, unfriendly-bouncer, student and stag holes or pubs with a mic and PA system in the corner. At the Glee Club the priority has always been to present actually funny comedy. However, much of the club’s musical brilliance over the last few years (featuring the best alternative singer songwriters and breaking interesting acts) has been down to promoter: Markus Sargent, who joined the club following the laughable conversion of Ronnie Scott’s into a strip joint.

Tonight, courtesy of Leftfoot, is the first time that the Glee has ever held a club night. As we enter the venue, Scruff is at the decks playing a slick selection of disco tracks. It’s good to see that the tables and candles have been pushed to the back of the room to allow space for one of the friendliest dance floors I have experienced for a good six months. Maybe you have to bear in mind that a lot of my clubbing experience of the last year has been of the drum and bass variety. It’s just a vast contrast for me to dance and not be barged into by a teenager with his tracksuit bottoms tucked into his sports socks.

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The enticing 4/4 beat and glammed up hooks entice us to dazzle – and for a surprisingly warm Easter, the dance floor is inevitably hot. We twirl from disco dancing – to jerking out robotics early electro style. Then Scruff cheekily segues from Soul Sonic Force into a bit of Detroit techno – dropping the b.p.m. of the record right down to meet the beat match. As we slump along I realise it’s time to take a break.

We walk to the stall, stage left, not to buy ‘cool booze’ you understand but, being Scruff, a luvvly cup o’ tea to balance the body heat.

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Fully refreshed we return to the dance floor where the music has now taken a carnival twist. We throw ourselves into a full fiesta as Scruff’s mixing, eclecticism, tune selection and entertaining visuals become matchless.

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At 2:00 we realise we’ve been dancing for six hours and Scruff hasn’t given any let up. His final drop is Could You Be Loved by Bob Marley. The scruffy bunnies group together, some dance in couples, others in big hugging sweaty messes. We’re all on the bus and we’re out of here.

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Regina Spektor, Trinity Bristol (10th February 2007)

Soviet Kitsch to New York nerd to pop princess – the world is at Regina Spektor’s feet. Now it just needs to listen.

“I like his hair,” says the Boho Chick about Only Son, the support act, only one track into his set. For me, Only Son epitomises what is occasionally wrong with the New York singer song writing scene – all hairstyle and posturing, no actual content.

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His voice is also a sticking point. Don’t get me wrong, there are several bands I like who stretch their vocal chords enough to hit those difficult to reach falsetto tones. Even bands who don’t quite manage the ball crushing pitch live, such as Mercury Rev and Flaming Lips, put on a show to distract you from the occasional caterwauling. On his own with only a mini disc player on backing, Only Son is lonely. Plus, when he strains he tends to go a bit nasal and sound like Kermit the Frog’s nephew Robin.

All is thrown starkly into contrast when Regina Spektor (pronounced “Reg-ee-na”…sounds ruder pronounced the traditional English way and it would be just wrong to associate “Regeena” with a vagina), shyly pads onto the stage. Meekly taking the mike from its stand, she taps out a heart beat and launches into Ain’t No Cover. The crowd is mesmerised, even the bar staff at the back take mimed orders. When the diminutive devotchka takes her place behind a full sized grand piano (another reason why Only Son was going it alone), everyone is focused on Spektor’s disembodied head.

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The difference is startlingly obvious. From the piano stool, Regina reigns over the crowd, despite being dwarfed by her massive instrument. Part of Regina’s command comes from her massive voice which oscillates wildly through the musical scales. There’s also a lot to be said for the piano playing – whereas every ounce of teen angst has been strummed out of a guitar, there are few piano players that have plucked heart strings or indeed rocked out. New tracks stripped of studio polish and a lush string finish sound even better live and old self percussion cabaret act Poor Little Rich Boy is still a delight to see – simultaneously playing piano and bashing a barstool with a drum stick, if Regina had pulled a bowler hat out at this point she’d have cleaned up!

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UK bod’s perhaps wouldn’t realise that Regina is not a new phenomena. This may be her second UK release and tour but it’s on the back of years of finely honed performances in un-smoke filled bars across New York. Regina has plonked out her own niche which on the (nearly) male side encompasses Anthony and The Johnsons and Rufus Wainwright. Like these artists, it’s been a case of winning audience over and it’s been a slow and steady rise on her own terms.

Later, a band joins Regina and adds a lift to the second bar of songs such as 10 Years of Snow. Later still, she moves to guitar herself and suddenly there’s an explanation for all the Lily Allen clones around us. Regina is a kooky star who sings pop songs about regular, like, life that smart and inevitably alienated teenagers understand. That Time with lyrics: “Remember that time when I would only read the back of serial boxes?” and “Remember that time when I only ate boxes of tangerines (so cheap and juicy!)?” and finally “Remember that time you OD’d?” qualify this – with her tongue (of course) placed firmly in her high cheekbones.

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Regina finishes with Sampson, one of the new album’s most tender moments, alone on the piano before walking to the front of the stage to deliver a Country and Western song entitled Love (You’re a Whore.) Keeping the chanteuse stance she launches directly into (surely) future single, Hotel Song.

The parting duo of songs make an eloquent point; it would be easy to pigeon hole Regina as the eccentric girl with a piano she’s mastered – but her real strength is in writing quality credible pop music. Just because she isn’t pissed up at awards ceremonies, she shouldn’t be marginalised as a singer-songwriter from New York. Okay, this tour more thought has been put into Regina’s presentation and ‘hair’ but it’s Regina’s uniqueness that keeps us interested.


Peter Bjorn and John (Sept 06)

Young folks, old folks, a chap that resembles Sloth from The Goonies and a shouting crank who doesn’t understand where the bird’s gone, squeeze in and sweat to Swedes. 

Annual tradition states that as the UK Summer festival season comes to a close and autumn evenings draw closer, indie kids leave their bedrooms only to occasionally huddle together in snug pub function rooms for weeknight gigs. Not so this Indian Summer, the incredibly small upstairs room of the Louis is rammed (with a bevy of aforementioned folk) and is extremely hot. Also, it being a week night and all, they’ve shut the shutters to the outside balcony in an attempt to cut down the noise.  

No matter, band Loney, Dear get things into sweet Swedish swing with lead singer Emil Svanängen dancing round the tiny stage. Only slightly off putting is that Emil is unfortunately up-lit by the handful of stage spots which make him look a bit like a pig in a toupee.  

Removing Emil’s spot-lit character traits from the equation, Loney, Dear are excellent and rather typical of current Swedish indie music. The small scene is intimate enough to share similar attributes. Recent bands from the Scandinavian country provide well rendered versions of hypnotic organic groovy tunes in slightly broken English with a tightness that suggests years of practice but an informal homely sound that suggests they’re all still mates.  

Their sound is so complementary to Peter, Bjorn and John that uninformed latecomers to the gig may assume that they are in fact them. The exception obviously being that Emil has brought with him a female keyboardist / tambourine player (Malin Ståhlberg) who sings along with the drummer and pig wig. From a sound point of view, they’re like a more profound Scissor Sisters with Belle and Sebastian on lyric duty and backed by Stereolab.  

The heat continues to intensify and when Peter, Bjorn and John come on. I’ve fashioned a makeshift fan out of a Loney, Dear flyer which I flap in time to the beats and keep my date ‘cool.’ 

One advantage Peter Bjorn and John have by playing an intimate venue, is that rather than cashing in on their summer hit and starting the
UK campaign by playing the mid-afternoon set at a festival, every member of the audience really wants to be there and has a knowledge of the album. Instead of the audience just being in anticipation of ‘Young Folks’ there is polite appreciation and recanting of their other songs. We may not have been following them for the 8 years they’ve been successful in
Sweden, but we’re quick converts to their catchy and varied Writers Block.
 

In fact, ‘Young Folks’ is played 5 or so tracks into the set and the crowd dutifully offers whistling support. Only a few people show dissatisfaction at Victoria Bergsman from The Concretes not putting in an appearance.  

One twat asks them where their girlfriends are. Bjorn laughs it off saying they can’t afford to bring them. Peter gets uncharacteristically snappy and says ‘What a stupid question, people always ask us this, it’s so fucking boring.’ Personally, I think it would have been nice to bring Malin on from Loney,Dear and get her to sing it. They are Swedish scenester mates after all. Aren’t they?  

This aside, the Swedes are on the whole, characteristically polite – particularly Bjorn who doesn’t have much to say (and says as much), so gets by just smiling. His main vocal moments are on ‘Start To Melt’ an endearing acoustic version of ‘
Amsterdam’ and two hander new single ‘Lets Call It Off.’ Though they’re a band that pride themselves in their equality, Peter’s singing voice steals the show by taking the most memorable vocal lines, from ‘Objects Of My Affection’ to the show closer ‘Up Against The Wall.’ His earthy, yet soaring voice rocks like Mega City Four (ask a crusty uncle).
 

With no dressing room to run to, their fake encore is played out by the band facing the wall for a few seconds. They sense the room’s energy but also appreciate the intense heat of the room which is somewhat smothering us – and so ask us to shout whether we’d like a “Chilled song or a rocking one.”  

Thankfully, we vote for chilled – with a touch of rocking – which helps diffuse the room and we gasp out into the street.