Thursday 2 May 2013

Milton Jones, On The Road - Salisbury City Hall, 4th April 2013

My son had really enjoyed Milton Jones when we'd seen him at Basingstoke and wanted to go and see him again.

Due to his popularity, the closest we could get tickets was Salisbury (only about 40 miles away, so not too bad).

We arrived early, found the City Hall (not the impressive gothic structure you might imagine, but a bland 70s sports hall type building just off a street) and then had a quick meal in the nearby Weatherspoons.

On returning, we queued for the toilets and then made our way in to the hall, which looked even more like a sports hall. Our seats (in row J) were 'flat seating', but fortunately the view of the stage was pretty decent and we had no problem seeing and hearing the performance. There were rows of terraced seats further back, but they were some way from the front.

As at Basingstoke, "Milton's grandfather" appeared first (on a scooter!) and ran through a brief, but funny and highly Milton-esque, set.

He left and was replaced by James Adcaster, who was amusing, but not hilarious (other reviews I've read have been far harsher), although his final joke was almost worth the set on its own, I felt and then we got an intermission.

City Hall's facilities are pretty limited, so we didn't bother leaving our seats and fairly soon, everyone was back for Milton.

To his credit, none of the material seemed to have been reused from his previous tour and most was typical Milton, punny, funny and often very clever.

The joke about "Fernando" sticks in my mind, but as always they came at you like bullets from a Gatling gun, so not all hit hard enough to register before the next arrived.

There was a slightly odd interaction at the end where Milton picked up some items off the stage and read a letter from 'a member of the audience'. His response to it struck me as rather cruel and not very Milton Jones like at all. I'm unsure if this was a real letter or part of the show, but it didn't strike me as funny at all and was either misjudged or just a bit nasty, depending on which it was.

Overall, though, Milton Jones delivered another impressive performance, although I have to say (even ignoring the letter incident) I wasn't quite as enthusiastic at the end as I had been at Basingstoke, maybe there's only so much of relentless one liners I can take.

Ryan, my son, really enjoyed it though as did most of the audience, it seemed, and I would certainly go and see Milton Jones again, but maybe I'd leave it a few years next time.

Polica, Shepherd's Bush 21st March 2013

Having seen Polica perform a track on Later With Jools Holland, I'd bought their album and when I found out they were performing live at Shepherd's Bush (a favourite venue of mine) I got myself and my daughter a couple of tickets.

I was intrigued to see how they delivered the unique sound of the album (produced partly through a distinctly non-Cowellesque use of the Autotune).

We turned up early and had a quick drink in the pub next door before using my O2 phone to jump the queue (worth getting a PAYG sim in an old phone just for that :D).

First up, about 8 was Barbarosa, who looked worringly like a grunge duo, but produced an interesting (and highly complimentary) performance, I especially enjoyed the Terrence Trent D'Arby cover (as did my daughter as Wishing Well was a song we often played in the car when she was young).

After the near obligatory hour's delay and the venue feeling almost to bursting point, Darkstar appeared.

The lineup consisted of the singer, Channy Leaneagh, two drummers (their USP) and a guitarist.

If I'm honest I thought they took a little time to hit their stride and Channy Leaneagh seemed to agree, apologising (far too much, I thought) for their performance.

They opened with the awesome Darkstar, a bizarre choice, I thought, especially as the lacklustre performance meant it seemed to come and go almost unnoticed.

However, as the evening progressed, they seemed to warm up. Channy was constantly, it seemed, unhappy with something as she continually fiddled with settings on the (I presume) Autotune, but the confidence of their performance seem to build and by about half way they were nailing it.

The set was pretty much the first album, with a couple of new, but very similar, tracks.

The effective use of two drummers was great really driving the beats through your body.

Channy's performance was impressive too after a faltering start. I heard someone leaving saying "She really hit every note", to which someone replied "Yeah, but she could have missed every word".

It's true, Polica is a sound and a feeling (My daughter said it was like a Pulse, the way the drums impact you) rather than lyrics you can relate to (or even hear, live especially).

Enjoyable by the end, but a little unsteady at the start, would be my summary.

I would certainly say they were worth seeing though.

Saturday 19 January 2013

Peter Hook and the Light - Koko, Camden - 17th January 2013

Is New Order, New Order without Peter Hook?

Photos by Gaëlle Beri

Well I'd been pretty impressed with their performance at Brixton Academy last year, but when I saw Hooky and his new band, 'The Light' were performing the first two New Order albums at Koko in Camden, I decided it would be interesting to go and see him at work.

Koko was the Camden Pally and is quite an attractive venue inside with lots of ornamentation, typical of a Victorian music hall, but with the usual collection of modernity a venue that is, presumably, more often a nightclub than a concert venue these days, judging by the layout.

Koko is easy to reach from Waterloo, straight up the Northern line, so I arrived about 7:15.

At 7:45, sharp, the support act, Modern Blonde, came on. I was a bit nonplussed by them. Perhaps they just suffered the usual support act curse of lousy sound balance, but they sounded pretty crap, to be honest. The audience was mutedly polite in response to their performance, which I guess gave them the benefit of the doubt.

After around 30 minutes of that and another 30 minutes, Peter Hook and the Light took the stage and launched straight into a number of tracks not on Movement, including In a Lonely Place, Ceremony and Procession , which was not a bad way to start at all.

They then rattled through Movement, an album which is often referred to as more of a Joy Division album than a New Order one and Hooky was certainly channelling Ian Curtis in his vocal performance, but then that's how the album was performed when recorded, so fair enough, and I'm not complaining one bit.

There aren't the same number of toe-tappers on Movement that there are on Power, Corruption and Lies and aside from the hard core right down the front, few people seemed to be moving much through the majority of the tracks.

I'd imagined most there would pretty familiar with New Order, but it almost felt that people were unfamiliar with the tracks as performed, although they sounded pretty much 'straight' to me, with few embellishments over the album versions.

Perhaps lots of people didn't discover New Order until Power, Corruption and Lies or a fair number of the audience were just out for a bit of mid-week entertainment. The venue was certainly full with the floor and the terraced levels above pretty jammed.

Eventually they reached the end of Movement and after a short break, mere moments really, they reappeared and started with Mesh, Cries and Whispers and the crowd pleasing Everything's Gone Green.

Then they were into Power, Corruption and Lies, which was clearly what most of the crowd were more familiar with and, let's face it, what most people think of as more typical of the New Order Sound.

From the opening bars of Age on Consent through to the soulfull last notes of Leave Me Alone, through the darkness of We All Stand, the poppy happiness of The Village, the Blue Monday-esque 586, the soaring ballad Your Silent Face, iconic Ultraviolence and near instrumental Ecstacy (which I always think of as "Moscow Gold"!) the performance was (as someone commented on Cardiff's 'try-out' event) 'tight', energetic and powerful.

According to a setlist I found online there was an encore, but the gap between Power, Corruption and Lies and the return was a 'blink and you missed it' gap, before they performed Hurt and Temptation (The setlist mentions "The Beach" first, but I don't recall this...).

They ended, almost bang on the 11PM curfew, with a rousing performance of Blue Monday.

This had been the one small disappointment (if you discount the rushed, Love Will Tear Us Apart) to me at Brixton when I'd seen 'the others' and Hooky's crew definitely had the edge here. The track was powerful, soaring and energetic - Everything I remember it being as a 20 something and not the rather sterile track that I'd heard at Brixton and it was the perfect way to end, although I did rather regret (see what I did there?) the chance for an encore featuring "Love..." as I feel sure that would have been brilliant.

Still, you can't feel short changed with 2+ hours of rip-roaring first class New Order and, even if Hooky didn't quite carry off the vocals the way Barney does, that's what we'd got.

Is New Order, New Order without Hooky? Probably not quite, and The Light aren't New Order, but they are 100% worth going to see, this was quality "Whatever-genre-early-New-Order-is" and if you'd gone to see a new band called The Light and they performed an unknown set like this, you'd be telling your friends about it until your dying day!

Roll on Low Life and Brotherhood!