Wednesday 11 June 2014

Sara Bareilles - Islington Assembly Halls, 1st June 2014

Sara Bareilles doesn't come to the UK very often..., we (my 21 year old daughter and I) had waited some time to see her. In fact, we'd rather forlornly promised ourselves that "If she ever comes to the UK, we'll go and see her".

If she'd chosen the NEC or O2, we probably wouldn't have bothered, but when a message appeared in my email saying "Sara Bareilles is playing Islington Assembly Halls" I did a triple take.

First - She was REALLY coming to the UK? Yes, she was! Secondly - where the hell is Islington Assembly Hall? Well, unsurprisingly it's in Islington, but it's hardly the best known venue in London.

Sara Bareilles is, as I write this, still best known in the UK for her early hit "Love Song" (here it is if you don't remember it)

but she's had a lot more success in the US and is a bit of a rising star there.

We arrived at 7 in Islington and found a long queue snaking down the street. It was moving painfully slowly, so we decided to come back. After a quick ice cream (a great shop just across the road) we came back and sat waiting for some time until it had subsided somewhat.

Bouncers were informing people there was no support act (no loss, generally) and she would be on at 9, some 1.5 hours away.

We sat down and waited a bit longer, but by 8 decided to go in.

The venue is very small (ok, not Jazz Cafe tiny, but much smaller than Shepherds Bush), but was pretty much full (A second night had been added after the first sold out quickly).

Pretty much at 9, Sara appeared, alone.

With just an upright piano (and stool) in the centre of the stage (there was a drum kit and electronic keyboard hidden away at the back) it was fairly clear this would be a fairly 'stripped' set.

Sara arrived and started with "I know, I don't come here enough!", which was warmly received by the audience who looked about 70% 20 something women with a fair number of men and older women there too.

She started with "Uncharted" and, after being joined by a couple of musicians, followed it with "Love On The Rocks" and the iconic "Love Song", all to rapturous applause. She was good, don't get me wrong, but it was clear a lot of people were just happy to be in the same room, listening to her.

Between songs, Sara foul-mouthed bantered, good-naturedly with the crowd (To those in the seats upstairs - "I guess you didn't get here early enough, did you? Don't hate me!"), which was a bit of a surprise (although probably not to those who follow her on Facebook), but she smiled sweetly and got away with calling her audience "Fuckers" at least twice.

The set was pretty much a 'greatest hits' one, with some tracks from the most recent (is it really "new" still?) album, including the massive US hit "Brave" and "I Choose You", which is a bit twee when you read the lyrics, but just seems joyous when you hear it (especially live), and some from her previous two albums.

"Hercules" and "Gravity" (quite personal songs) were performed with feeling and then we had a couple of covers - "Blood Bank" by "Bon Iver" ("My favourite band", Sara told us, but neither my daughter nor I recognised the song) and "Sittin' on the Dock of The Bay" (If you don't know who that is, hang your head in shame!). Both were quite moody and dark, but the latter was a worthy (and different) cover version (I hate straight covers).

"Parking Lot" was performed for someone in the crowd and I'd never heard it before, so I've no idea if it's Sara's material or another cover, but she rounded out with "King of Anything" and "Brave"

Of course, we went through the tedious pretence of an encore, but oddly, she came back on alone and performed just one song, "Come Round Soon", which was a great performance and a worthy (if short) encore.

So, no support act, a long trip to North London and a short encore - Did I feel short changed?

No, it was a rare chance to see a great Singer/Songwriter do a pretty intimate concert. When she comes back she'll be at the O2 or the Albert Hall and I won't go, so I'm more than happy to have made the trip and, most of the time, support acts are terrible...


Love On The Rocks
Love Song
Chasing The Sun
Blood Bank (Bon Iver cover)
Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay(Otis Redding cover)
I Choose You
Parking Lot
King Of Anything

Come Round Soon

Thursday 5 June 2014

The South - West End Centre, Aldershot - 4th June 2014

This was a rarity - I went to a concert with my wife!

She's not a fan of late nights or most concerts, but when I saw "The South" (a large remnant of "The Beautiful South") were playing at our local venue, I asked, as I often do, if she fancied coming along and expected her to say no, but to my surprise she was very enthusiastic.

'The South' are fronted by original vocalist (and former Housemartins drummer!), Dave Hemingway, and Alison Wheeler, who's been in the band since 2003 (when it was still "The Beautiful South") as the female-vocal in the band.

There are plenty of other members of the band who were there in the "Beautiful" days, but the band isn't all about nostalgia as they've released an album, "Sweet Refrains", of original material recently and very good it is too.

They started out with a track from that album, "Stick It In and Turn It", which certainly set a positive tone and got the fairly crowded (albeit tiny) venue (more than once Alison commented she'd never been THAT close to an audience before) straight into the mood.

A couple of lesser know songs followed and then the massive hit, "A Little Time" which I thought was better than the single release as Wheeler's voice is less scratchy (in my opinion) than Jacqui Abbott's on that track (which appears to have been a conscious thing on her part, to be fair)/

'Pigeonhole' was a stand out amongst the newer tracks, but the tempo and buzz didn't flag all evening, getting better as things went along, if anything.

Crowd favourites like "Old Red Eyes Is Back", "Song for Whoever", "One Last Love Song" and "Rotterdam" were mixed in with less well known tracks like "We Are Each Other" and "I Think the Answer's Yes", but all were well performed and enthusiastically received.

The original set ended with "Don't Marry Her" and "Perfect 10", much to Mandy's delight.

They vanished for a few moments and returned to give us 3 more songs, ending with "You Keep It All In" and "Good As Gold".

You often wonder if a band missing a key member or two will be a bit of a pale shadow, but "The South" certainly deliver the goods and, most of all, know how to put on a show that entertains and engages an audience.

It was a bit of a masterclass in a 'feel good' gig and I'd happily spend a night with them again anytime!

So much so, in fact, that I'll go as far as to say I think you should, too!


Stick It In And Turn It
From Under The Covers
This Will Be Our Year
A Little Time
Prettiest Eyes
Old Red Eyes Is Back
I Think The Answers Yes
Second Coming
Song For Whoever
We Are Each Other
One Last Love Song
Dream A Little Dream(Papa's Culture cover)
Pretenders To The Throne
Don't Marry Her
Perfect 10

Woman In The Wall
You Keep It All In
Good As Gold

Finally a word on the support act, "Steel Threads". It's usually a thankless task being a Support Act, but they were engaging and entertaining (asking the audience for requests of covers as well as doing their own material). Laura is a great fiddle player (although I'll concede I've not spent a lot of time listening to fiddling) and also a lovely singer. Their cover of The White Stripes "Seven Nation Army" being excellent (I heard the lyrics for the first time!), but they were very good value all round!

Wednesday 28 May 2014

Lloyd Cole and the Leopards - Shepherds Bush O2, 31st January 2014

A lot of the music I listened to in the 80s was, I can now see, a bit rubbish,

but Lloyd Cole and the Commotions were most definitely not.

As the years roll by, I find myself listening to stuff I used to listen to with new ears and some gets the thumbs up, some new regard and some quietly filed under 'best forgotten'.

The first two Lloyd Cole and the Commotions albums were big favourites of mine and I've gone back to them many times over the years and never come away feeling they were anything other than quality music that continues to stand the test of time.

Oddly though, I lost touch with Lloyd Cole (musically) after the Commotions broke up and it was only an idle Googling moment that revealed he'd been busy in the intervening years.

Some online listening led me to discover he was playing Shepherds Bush (my favourite London venue) on 31st January and I booked a ticket well ahead.

When the evening rolled around, it was going to be hectic as I later booked a skiing holiday departing from Gatwick early the next morning, but after toying with the idea of trying to sell my ticket I drove up to Shepherds Bush and walked from Westfield to the O2.

I can't even remember now if there was a support act, which, if there was, is probably an indication of how memorable they were!

Cole's live performances (I'd discovered) in recent years tended to be acoustic solo affairs and it had been some years since he'd performed with a full band, so this tour was a new experience for many of the, many, hardcore Lloyd Cole fans there.

The venue was full and many of those around me clearly knew all the songs, whereas I was only familiar with about a half.

It started well, for all of us, with the iconic "Rattlesnakes", which was performed in rousing fashion, setting the tone for the evening (Lloyd's birthday it transpired).

Lloyds laconic voice ran through all the songs, but, on the whole, the Commotion era songs were faster tempo and more upbeat, the work of an angst young man, rather than the later songs, which echoed of experience some bitter, some sweet. It was no surprise that the mainly middle-aged audience were lapping it up.

Favourites, of course, for me were the Commotion songs, "Perfect Skin", "Lost Weekend", "Forest Fire" (the encore finale) and "Rattlesnakes", but "What's Wrong With This Picture?", "Myrtle & Rose", "Tried To Rock" and "Women's Studies" were unfamiliar to me, but stood out as great tracks.

Even with an early start the next day, to go Skiing in Wengen (I know, life's hard...), it was well worth making the trip to see Lloyd Cole at Shepherds Bush. The Commotion era tracks I knew were great and I came away with a much broader knowledge of his work and even a few new favourites (and a few weeks later, a few new CDs in my collection).


Weeping Wine
Opposites Day
That's Alright
Perfect Blue
Another Lover
Blue Like Mars
Period Piece
Brand New Friend
Women’s Studies
Perfect Skin
Myrtle and Rose
My Alibi
Tried to Rock
What's Wrong With This Picture?
Lost Weekend
No Blue Skies
Jennifer She Said

Like Lovers Do
Forest Fire

Monday 26 May 2014

The Rutles - Farnham Maltings, 23rd May 2014

The Rutles was a spoof span out of Rutland Weekend TV, itself a spin-off of from Monty Python's Flying Circus.

What lifted it above a lot of music 'spoofs' was Neil Innes' (sometime of the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band and various other projects) remarkable gift for crafting songs which so closely resemble Beatles songs that you sometimes find yourself wondering if you're listening to a Beatles song or one of his.

At the time "The Rutles" was aired, I was a huge Beatles fan (even though I'm a generation too old to remember them in their heyday) and, such was the skill of the song writing and performing and clear affection for the originals, I loved "The Rutles".

I bought the album at the time and a few years ago I picked up a VHS copy of the TV programme, but I was amazed when I saw an email saying "The Rutles" were performing at Farnham Maltings as part of a small tour.

I was a bit sceptical at first, wondering if this was a 'tribute' band, but, no, Innes was front (along with the drummer, John Halsey - AKA Barry Wom) and centre of the project, so I snapped up a ticket.

The audience wasn't huge, although nearly all the seats at the back were taken (An indication of the average age there, I suspect), with a smattering of people standing at the front.

The band arrived and, if I'm honest, it really bought home how long ago The Rutles was, as Neil Innes is, dare I say it, quite portly and shaven headed these days, I expected the trim handsome chap I remembered.

Still, no matter, I was quite different back in the day too and as soon as they started playing the years rolled away.

They started with "We've Arrived" and then rattled through a good number of the tracks from the original TV programme/album and the later, possibly cleverer, Archaeology, which had been released to coincide with the Beatles "Anthology" TV series and album.

The band were all gifted musicians and Innes and Halsey introduced "Rutles" like humour to the event, with their "Sponsors' jingles" and banter.

As things went along, both the band and the audience seemed to warm up and some of the tracks were absolutely epic with "Piggy in the Middle" (Clearly 'inspired' by "I am the Walrus") being particularly good, but I struggle to think of a duffer either in the original material or the on-the-night performance.

Paul McCartney's certainly not this good any more!

Barry Wom (or "Wom.I.Am" as he apparently likes to be known now) also got to perform ("make Mouth noises", as Innes described it) his hits of "Living in Hope" and "Rendevous" (You'll know what they parody if you listen to them - and very well they do, too).

There was a short interval (none of us is getting any younger) following "Love Life" (another cracking performance) and then they returned to give us "Shangri-La", with it's very "Hey Jude like ending, where Innes asked us all to get out our mobile phones and wave them 'lighter like' ("no matter what the house rules, say!"), "Double Back Alley" and then a few "Rock 'n Roll" numbers from the "Hamburger Years", including "Goose Step Mama" with the immortal line "You've got nothing to eins, zwei, drei, fear".

They finished on "Get up and Go", the song, apparently, that Lennon thought was a 'little too close to the real thing' and didn't originally feature on the album (although not at Lennon's request, according to Neil Innes) which was a great track, but really is VERY close to "Get Back".

There was no pretence of leaving and coming back "It's all too exhausting", but Innes asked if we wanted one or two more songs and was cheered to the rafters (Farnham Maltings really has rafters!).

The 'encore' consisted of George Harrison's "All Things Must Pass" (following a touching tribute to the Beatle, who had helped the TV project considerable, getting talking heads like Mick Jagger and Paul Simon involved), Eine Kleine Middle Klasse Musik (very apt in Farnham) and finishing on the nostalgic "Back in '64", which was probably the perfect way to end a brilliant night.

We'll never see the Beatles again and, I suspect, this tour may well be the Rutles swangsong (not least because Innes has so many other projects), but they certainly didn't go out with a whimper.

A great evening's entertainment - Thanks Dirk and Wom!

Setlist from Newcastle, but I'm pretty sure it's the same:

We've Arrived! (And to Prove It We're Here)
It's Looking Good
Hold My Hand
I Must Be in Love
Good Times Roll
Absurd Reductions At Fiasco
Cock A Doodle 'Tatoes
Four In One Hand Floss
Major Happy's Up and Coming Once Upon a Good Time Band
With a Girl Like You
Another Day
Piggy in the Middle
Living in Hope
Love Life

Absurd Reductions At Fiasco
Four In One Hand Floss
Shangri-La (including Cock A Doodle 'Tatoes)
Doubleback Alley
Goose-Step Mama
Hey Mister!
I Love You
Easy Listening
Cheese and Onions
Joe Public
Eine Kleine Middle Klasse Musik
Get Up and Go

All Things Must Pass (George Harrison cover)
Let's Be Natural
Back in '64