Monday 3 December 2018

Jess Glynne - BIC, Bournemouth - 2nd December, 2018

I must admit it was a with a little trepidation that I joined the crowd flooding into the BIC to see Jess Glynne...

Don't get me wrong, I've admired her strong vocals and found many of her songs catchy and enjoyable, but I did wonder if maybe this wasn't going to be 'my thing'.

The Bournemouth International Centre (a 'big' venue for us, but the couple next to us commented how 'small' it was - Different strokes!) was the last stop on her UK tour in support of her second album, which, if I'm honest, I didn't really find as enjoyable as her first although there were a few good tracks, but I figured there'd be a fair selection of old and new tracks for me to enjoy.

I treated my daughter to a ticket as an early Christmas present, too, and we settled in to watch the two support acts.

The first, Moss Kena, was more enjoyable when he didn't insist in singing in an extreme falsetto voice, but I guess it's his USP and some must like it.

The second, Not3s ("Say Take...","Notes" as his DJ got the crowd to respond), is best known (my daughter tells me) for his rapping over tracks by Mabel (Someone else I'd never heard of!). Rap is undoubtedly a musical black hole to me - I neither like nor understand it, although, to be fair Not3s was more melodic than many of his contemporaries and he and his DJ seemed to be having fun. Not my cuppa, but not the worst experience of my life.

The plain black backdrop for the support acts was lowered to reveal a more complex set with a huge screen behind the stage and smaller (but still 12ft or so high) ones either side of the stage.

Just after 9PM, the larger screen displayed "Always In Between" (the title of her second album and the tour) and then 'Summer' as the band, dancers and backing singers appeared and struck up the familiar chords of "Hold My Hand", which made a perfect opener with the lyrics "Are you ready for this?"

Moments later Jess appeared wearing a white outfit (I'll let the photos explain, I'm no fashion guru!) and some funky looking sunglasses (So we remembered it was Summer I guess...).

"Hold My Hand" was a great opener and from the off, it was clear that we were getting a 'big show', with fireworks, shiney ticker tape and dancing and giant screen shots. We were quite near the front, with a good view of the stage (for once we avoided the giants who inevitably tend to cluster at the front of the floor at gigs blocking the view for everyone else!), but the side screens provided close ups of the action (both Jess and band and dancers), while the large backdrop screen provided set dressing and close-ups at various times. It was very professional and added to the sense of event.

Jess commented that Bournemouth was like a 'home from home' for her as she'd spent a lot of her childhood with her grandmother her, as my daughter had (I grew up in the area), so we found common ground.

As the gig progressed, the big screen progressed through Autumn (well done Jess, no 'Fall' faux Americanism!), Winter and Spring and Jess migrated through a number of costumes.

At one stage, and I can't remember which song now, Jess left the stage and appeared in the audience on a lifting platform with a pianist to do a number of songs, illuminated by a single spotlight from above, which was particularly popular with those in the first few rows of the balcony as she got closer to them. It wasn't 'Christine and the Queens' level interaction, but it was a nice touch, especially as these songs were, mostly, more intimate ballad style ones.

After these songs, she was back to the stage to finish the main set with All I Am (one of the best tracks on the second album, I think).

Highlights for me were "Don't be so Hard on Yourself' (my favourite of her songs), recent song "Thursday" , "Take Me Home", "Ain't Got Far to Go" and, actually, quite a few others - It was all eminently enjoyable.

Unsurprisingly, she was back for a 2 song encore, the popular "Right Here" and recent single (although not one of my favourites), "I'll Be There".

Overall, We'd had a great time. Jess' voice came over well live and the whole show was slick and brilliantly delivered. The setup of a band, dancers and backing singers was quite 'old school', but the quality delivered was excellent and Jess Glynne is a personable and confident performer in both the upbeat and slower numbers.

A class act from beginning to end and one of the best shows I've seen this year!


Hold My Hand
No One
You Can Find Me
These Days(Rudimental cover)
Ain't Got Far to Go
Don't Be So Hard on Yourself
Take Me Home
So Real (Warriors) / Real Love
My Love / Rather Be
All I Am

Right Here
I'll Be There

Friday 23 November 2018

Christine and the Queens - Hammersmith Apollo - November 21st, 2018

Christine and the Queens first came to my notice via the BBC's coverage of Glastonbury a couple of year ago.

With a distinctive sound (I'd say unique, but Lauren reckons she sounds quite like Haim - I can't see that!) and their intricate modern dance routines, they were certainly different and songs like Tilted and Science Fiction were also catchy enough to enjoy in their own right.

We'd missed her on the tour she/they (for the dancers are an intrinsic part of the performance) did around that time, but when a tour was announced for 2018, Lauren and I got tickets.

The venue was the Hammersmith Apollo, which on a second visit (after seeing David Byrne earlier in the year) I have to say I really like as a venue.

The support act was a young French guy who sang over his synthesiser pre-canned tracks - It wasn't my cup of tea at all and Lauren and I even went to get a drink towards the end of his set, where the busy bar suggested we weren't the only ones to not mind missing some of it.

I must admit, we worried that maybe Christine and the Queens would be equally disappointing during the interval, but we needn't have worried.

At more or less spot on 9PM the band and dancers appeared in front of a backdrop featuring a stormy and moody mountain scene.

Opening with Comme Si, it wasn't (as is often the case) always easy to be sure if Christine was singing in French or English, but that's not really the point, although I'm sure she feels the lyrics are important.

I suspect more than a little, though, are lost in translation from French to English as evidenced by the next song, 'Girlfriend' which is 'Damn, Dis Moi' (Damn, tell me!) in French, but you couldn't complain about the performance, visual or audio.

Some tracks were, to me, more familiar than others, but Lauren commented on the way home that she recognised more than she expected and I was the same.

During the performance, the mountain backdrop fell away to reveal a stormy seascape and then a black drape at various points. It even 'snowed' at one point!

The complex choreography is definitely a big part of a 'Christine and the Queens' performance and definitely added to the overall experience, but Christine sang well and the band provided a good sound.

Christine obviously eschews convention, even to the point of not bothering with a conventional encore (kudos for that from me, it's become a cliché to finish the encore on your biggest hit!). A few moments after the stage lights went out, she was up on the balcony to sing Saint Claude and then was running downstairs to perform her last song 'A lullaby' (it wasn't!) Intranquillité from amongst the crowd on the floor.

By coincidence she ended up mere feet from us for much of this performance, before being borne away to the stage and then the house lights went up.

All around us women, young and not so were in floods of tears, one near us uttering 'I touched her!'. It was a rather strange and a little unsettling experience, to be honest. I thought this kind of adoration was dead! Judging by the number of women eating each others faces before the performance, she has a pretty dedicated Lesbian following, but the audience was very mixed, both in gender and age group.

For us it had been an enjoyable performance (Lauren gave it an 8.5 and I'd agree) which left us content with our evening and chatting about it on the way home. If I'm honest, I'm not sure I'd put her on the must see again list, but I definitely enjoyed the show.

Christine had chatted happily with the audience throughout and seemed a clever, witty young woman who certainly has a different way of performing and that can't be a bad thing.


Comme si
Le G
Science Fiction
Make Some Sense
Les paradis perdus (Christophe cover)
Feel So Good
5 dollars
The Stranger
Goya Soda
Damn (What Must a Woman Do)
Nuit 17 à 52
Doesn't matter
The Walker

Saint Claude(Sung from the balcony)
Intranquillité (Mostly sung from the downstairs standing area)

Thursday 18 October 2018

Editors - Southampton Guildhall - October 7th, 2018

There are some bands that I like, but don't actively follow. Editors are definitely in that category

Some of their early stuff is reminiscent to me of New Order at their edgiest, which can only good in my books and, after thinking about seeing them a few times before, I bought tickets to see them at Southampton Guildhall, a venue that's not far from home, but I'd not visited before.

The hall is one large room, far smaller than somewhere like Brixton O2 or Alexandra Palace, but a lot bigger than the Academy O2 in Bournemouth or Sub89 in Reading. The only downside was, with a city centre location, that parking nearby seemed very expensive (£4.50 in a multi-storey - If I visit again, I'll try and find somewhere close, but cheaper in advance).

I was pretty near the front, arriving early, but by the time Editors appeared, it was packed (I believe it was sold out).

The support act, Talos, were surprisingly good, even having decent sound (far from usual) and got a good reception from the audience.

About 9PM Editors appeared on stage.

As I said, they're not a band I actively follow, so the tracks I knew were those from the first couple of albums, but I was pleased to find that a lot of the tracks I didn't know were pretty enjoyable, too.

The set was lit quite moodily, with a backdrop of the naked forms that feature on the cover of their most recent 'Violence' album.

Someone had commented on a forum I frequent that they 'weren't so keen on their newer stuff', but to be honest, I didn't find there to be a particularly marked difference in style, personally.

They were pretty good, I thought. Energetic and sounding good.

Around me, the hard core fans certainly knew all the words to all the songs, but even those unfamiliar to me (especially from the latest album) seemed to fit the overall set well, which featured at least one track from all of their studio albums (with more than a few from Back Room and An End Has a Start, probably their most popular, and first two, albums).

Unsurprisingly, they finished their de-rigeur encore with their biggest hit and best known track, Munich, which is still my favourite, too.

I left happy and humming, a good way to finish a weekend, especially as I only had a 30 minute drive home, rather than running for the last train as I often do with London gigs!


The Boxer (First time since 2010)
Hallelujah (So Low)
All Sparks
An End Has a Start
Someone Says
Darkness at the Door
No Harm
A Ton of Love
Ocean of Night
The Racing Rats
Smokers Outside the Hospital Doors

Monday 3 September 2018

Electric 6 - Sub89, Reading - August 28th, 2018

"Gay Bar, Gay Bar, Gay Bar!" - For many, it's all they know of Electric Six (or Electric 6 as their "merch" reads)

I'd heard a couple of albums, so my knowledge went a bit further, but I figured they were worth a few quid for a trip to nearby Reading one mid week evening.

The only time I'd been to the small Sub 89 venue before was to see the Beat, but I remembered it being a good venue where I'd really enjoyed the band.

I didn't rush, but being only about 30 minutes drive from home, I was there for the support band (whose name I was sure I'd remember, but I can't now - It was something pompously heavy metal like "The Last Testament of Garth", but not quite that).

Now, everyone has different tastes, but these were probably the support act I've enjoyed the least ever - It was just noise to me, although some people clearly enjoyed it.

At about 8:45 another group appeared. With a shirtless, heavily tattooed guitarist, a female guitarist, a bloke on a synthesiser and a lead singer who looked like a cross between Paul Calf and Frank from Shameless. As their set progressed, the singer leapt from the stage and stalked through the audience looking like a menacing Freddie Mercury.

Musically, I think they were OK in a slightly retro-80s way, but it was the singer's behaviour that sticks in the mind - Undoubtedly the most unusual support act I've ever seen, but despite the rather unsettling manner of the singer, the crowd (me included) loved them and they got a rapturous send off, leaving us with the question "Are you ready for Electric 6?"- After that, I think we'd been suitably warmed up for anyone!

Electric 6, by contrast, ambled onto the stage (such as it is) nonchalantly (and looking, a bit like me, rather middle aged) and took their places.

The lead singer, Dick Valentine (the sole member from the Fire days), thanked us for coming and told us that their 14th album was just out (or out soon), which surprised me (A quick Google reveals that they've made an album nearly every year since 2005!).

I can't remember the set order or most of the songs to be honest.

There were a few in there I recognised from the first couple of albums (Including 'Naked Pictures', 'Improper Dancing' and 'Syntheziser'), but basically they were just a lively, fun rock and roll band.

At one point Dick Valentine remarked that they'd played the (much larger) Hexagon 13 years before (which must have seemed a bit of a come down), but that they were glad to still be working in the 'dirty business' of gigging.

Of course, the absolute highlights were "Danger! High Voltage" and "Gay Bar" (the opening bars of which would crown any bands repertoire) and the crowd (a mix of students - either heading back to Uni elsewhere or back in Reading for the next Uni year - and older people who remembered the band from their heyday at the turn of the century) went suitably wild for both.

Electric 6 are enjoyable enough and I left, ears ringing for some hours after, happy enough with my modest investment in gig - I doubt I'd go to see them again, if I'm honest, but not because they weren't entertaining, just because I feel (for me) once was probably enough.

That said, I'm glad I've heard those opening bars to "Gay Bar" live once! Maybe, that's worth the time to see them again alone!

Rock and Roll Evacuation
Naked Pictures (of Your Mother)
Satanic Wheels
Down at McDonnelzzz
The New Shampoo
Gay Bar
How Dare You?
Arrive Alive
Randy's Hot Tonight!
The Hotel Mary Chang
Infected Girls
Improper Dancing
(Who The Hell Just) Call My Phone?
Danger! High Voltage
Dance Epidemic
I Buy the Drugs

Devil Nights
Dance Commander
Showstopper(The Dean Ween Group cover)

Tuesday 14 August 2018

Joan As Policewoman - Omeara, London - August 13th, 2018

I went to see Joan Wasser (Joan As Policewoman) do an acoustic appearance at Rough Trade East earlier in 2018 (In fact, I'd only seen David Byrne in the meantime, looking back) and was very impressed with her voice and easy manner.

After that I saw she was doing a tour with a band, but London's appearance was at the Royal Festival Hall, which didn't really appeal and was the day after I returned from a long-haul holiday, so I gave it a miss.

Coincidentally, she was performing in Venice when I was there for a few days with my son, but it was a treat for him and he's not really into concerts, so again I had to give it a miss, but vowed that I'd go and see her next time around.

Luckily, that turned out to be much sooner than I expected, as a few extra dates were added to her tour, including one at a venue I didn't know, Omeara, in London.

I snapped up a ticket and found out it was near to London Bridge, so I figured I could get home OK (I live an hour's train ride south west of London).

The day rolled around and I made my way to Omeara, finding one of the smallest venues I've been to with a tiny stage.

It's not as small as the Boilerroom in Guildford and maybe not quite as small as the Jazz Cafe in London, but it was certainly not what I expected after the previous London venue was the Royal Festival Hall!

Support was by a duo called Dirty Nice. They were OK, the singer had a decent voice, their sound was OK (if a bit disjointed at times, with electro pop intros giving way to hip-hopish main parts - I'm really out of my musical comfort zone here, so that may not have been the style at all!) and they were joined by a young woman with a pleasant enough voice for one song, but, whilst not offensive, they weren't really my thing.

At almost exactly 9, Joan and her 3 band members came onto the tiny stage.

I'd ended up at the very front as the hall had filled to capacity (at least - I was rather glad to see a fire exit a few steps away!) and so got a great view of the stage.

They started with Wonderful (which is, in my opinion) and then worked through a mixture of tracks from 'Damned Devotion' (the latest, and excellent, album), including "Tell Me", "Warning Bell" and "What Was It Like" and back catalogue material such as "Eternal Flame", "Human Condition" and "The Silence".

Throughout the performance, Joan chatted with the crowd and her bandmates and some time of the full set was undoubtedly lost, so there was barely a moment before they returned for the inevitable encore.

This included the excellent "The Magic" and ended on a slow paced version of Prince's "Kiss" (The most covered song of the last 30 years?). Sadly, my last train was 11:15, so I had to leave part way through this (promised to be the last song), but the performance had been excellent.

I was glad to have seen Joan perform with a band. I'd been mightily impressed with her at Rough Trade, but ultimately I guess I just prefer the sound of a full band and the songs were more familiar in this form, too.

The venue was, I suspect, perfect for them. Joan commented that this sort of venue was their favourite and the set was moodily lit throughout, with plenty of smoke giving the atmosphere, but thankfully not the noxious fumes, of a smokey jazz club from the '70s, helped by Joan's gold lame jumpsuit and glittery eye shadow. It was though, stiflingly warm - I dread to think what it would have been like a couple of weeks earlier in 30C+ heat!

When I told a friend I was going to see Joan As Policewoman, she had no idea who I meant and asked how I'd even got to hear of her, which is typical of Joan As Policewoman's profile, at least in the UK. There are a group 'in the know' (some clearly huge fans) about her, but otherwise she's almost unheard of, which is a crying shame as she has a great voice, writes some great songs and puts on an excellent live performance.

If you get the chance, go see her (and the band if possible)!

Setlist: From another gig, but not a million miles off, although I know "Start of My Heart" was in there.
Warning Bell
Tell Me
Eternal Flame
Honor Wishes
What Was It Like
Steed (for Jean Genet)
Rely On
Valid Jagger
Damned Devotion
Human Condition
Talk About It Later
Silly Me
I Don't Mind
The Silence
The Magic 

Kiss (Prince cover)

Monday 25 June 2018

David Byrne - Hammersmith, Apollo - June 20th 2018

People sometimes ask me what the best gig I ever saw was and I never know what to say...

The memory plays tricks over 40 years of gigs. I can recall ones which exceeded expectation (Suzie and the Banshees at Poole Arts Centre in 1981, Franz Ferdinand in Bournemouth in 2009, New Order at Brixton in 2015, The Beat at Sub89 in Reading in 2015, too) and a few which disappointed (Bob Dylan, massively, a few years ago. Madness and Spandau Ballet, somewhat, in the 1980s), but mostly I've enjoyed them and so it's always seemed hard to say that any one was 'the best'.

That, I think, has now changed...

I've always liked David Byrne from his Talking Heads days (A couple of TH albums in my LP collection - and a later solo CD - testimony to that, as I've not yet boarded the vinyl revival train, so they're all from the late '70s to early '90s), but I wouldn't call myself a diehard fan, but he doesn't tour often and for a few years now, since starting to go to gigs again, I've definitely had him on my radar, so it was with some pleasure that I bought myself a ticket to see his "American Utopia" tour at Hammersmith.

I'd heard, and liked, the new album and seen his assertion that this tour was going to be his 'most ambitious since Stop Making Sense' (The film of which I have somewhere on DVD and the CD, too, and think is a pretty amazing piece of work), but that seemed a mighty claim for a man now in his mid '60s.

Still, he's never dull, as more recent stuff like "Lazy" and the latest album proved, so I figured it'd be an entertaining enough evening.

I arrived early and queued for about 20 minutes before getting in.

The support act was Laura Mvula, who seems to have a good reputation, but I'm afraid her performance left me unimpressed, but, as so often seems to be the case, the sound for her set was dreadful, so I'll just have to say the guy on stage with her, Troy someone, was a pretty impressive drummer.

Hammersmith Apollo (I'd not been before) has a surprisingly low stage, with a floor that is flat for about 20 metres and then slopes up towards the doors to the lobby, overhead is an area of seating, but who wants to sit when you can dance?

As Laura left, the stage hands moved away her equipment and untangled a curtain of fine chains around the stage, leaving a wide open area with nothing, but a small table and a lone chair in the middle. A large brain sat on the table...

At about 8:45, the lights went out and then a spotlight illuminated a steel grey suited David Byrne in the chair, contemplating the brain and it began.

The first song was 'Here' from American Utopia, which is a fairly slow, melancholy song, and as it progressed he was joined by similarly dressed singers and musicians, the latter who were all carrying their instruments, no impressive, fixed drumkits or banks of synths, there were 4 or 5 people carrying a single percussion instrument (In fact, during an encore EVERYONE had a drum!).

The minimalist set was impressively lit, given lie to the fact that you need loads of lazers, lights and pyrotechnics to make an impressive set. The chain curtain let his fellow performers swim in and out of the stage. It sounds a little silly, but the effect was rather magical and I was just simply mesmerised - I think I could have watched the performance with no sound and enjoyed it immensely!

Fortunately, that wasn't required and David moved swiftly into one of the many songs from his back catalogue that he included, starting with the recent-ish 'Lazy', which changed the pace, invigorated the band and snapped the audience into another frame of mind.

'I, Zimbra' and 'Slippery People' from the Talking Heads period, followed and, if anyone in the audience was wavering (aside from the man near me who never seemed to so much as tap a toe!), got them firmly into the mood for a great time.

The response to most songs (especially the better known ones, such as 'This Must Be The Place' and 'Once in a Lifetime') was rapturous, more akin to that you experience at the end of a gig, but this was after nearly every song!

'Everybody's Coming to My House', his most recent single, stood up well amongst the classics, but there were some songs in there I was less familiar with, but all the better for it.

'Burning Down The House' was the main set finale and nearly bought the house down, but, of course, everyone does an encore these days, and we got 'Dancing Together' and 'The Great Curve' (A Talking Heads song which I didn't know, but was truly magnificent!) and then a second encore, which was 'Hell You Talmbout', a Janelle Monáe song that lists Black Americans killed by the police. Somehow, I suspect it has more resonance in the States as, to be honest, most of the names meant nothing to me, so the odd few that were familiar stood out.

Personally, I think that might have been a bit of a miscue, but in a way it was a perfect ending, as the whole team were lined up, drums in hand, taking an equal part in the performance. Yes, we'd come to see David Byrne, but there was no doubt that everyone on the stage played their part.

If I had any complaint, I might say a few of my favourite TH songs (and "Gasoline and Dirty Shirts", my favourite from American Utopia) were missing, but this isn't an artist doing a 'greatest hits' tour (or a reprise of the 'Stop Making Sense' tour, much as I suspect most would have loved that), so the fact that back catalogue material was liberally sprinkled amongst the new stuff was to be enjoyed, not moaned about.

At one point, David made a remark that a friend had asked him if the performers were miming earlier in the tour., but, no, he said, everything we heard was coming live off the stage, by the performers there.

However you look at it (And you can find plenty of videos of the tour online - I was glad I hadn't bothered to check them first though, as I suspect some of the impact would have been lessened), it was a remarkable performance.

The presentation, choreography and lighting were imaginative, even breathtaking at times and the sound and, indeed, David Byrne's voice, were excellent.

Maybe I'll feel different in 6 months or a year's time, but I think I've just seen the best gig I've ever been to!

After writing this, and a month later still mesmerised by this gig (I was looking to see if a DVD was going to be available of this tour at all), I found this NME article, which pretty much agrees with what I tried to say, but says it more eloquently!


I Zimbra
Slippery People
I Should Watch TV
Dog's Mind
Everybody's Coming to My House
This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)
Once in a Lifetime
Doing the Right Thing
Toe Jam
Born Under Punches (The Heat Goes On)
I Dance Like This
Every Day Is a Miracle
Like Humans Do
Burning Down the House

Dancing Together
The Great Curve

Encore 2:
Hell You Talmbout(Janelle Monáe cover)

Tuesday 13 February 2018

Joan As Police Woman - Rough Trade East - February 12th 2018

I went along to see Joan As Police Woman at the Rough Trade East shop.

This wasn't a 'gig' as such, but a record signing with a bit of live performance as a bonus.

The far end of the shop was cleared and a tiny stage setup, in front of which we all gathered (I'd guess there was around 200 people there, maybe less).

Joan came on wearing a fake fur jacket and red leather trousers and sat at her keyboard (A guitar was also placed on the stage).

She said "Hi" and explained she would perform as much of her new album, "Damned Devotion" as was 'possible and appropriate' to her performing solo.

This equated to about 2/3rds and she sang for about 45 minutes.

I'm quite new to her material and I was very impressed with her voice in such close proximity, you could really her every note and even the whispered passages seemed on key to me (I wouldn't claim to have any professional skill in this respect, but there was no hiding place!).

The songs, too, were good with the familiar "Warning Bell" and "Tell Me" being accompanied by other tracks from the album.

For most of the songs, including those she didn't perform, she explained the background and what they song was about.

It was quite different to your usual, bigger venue performance and all the better for it.

Even better, we only paid the cost of whatever format of the album we bought (I got a CD for £10.99, others bought the vinyl for £19.99) and there was a chance to get Joan to sign them, but as I had a 2 hour journey home, I decided not to wait, as I'd really come along primarily to hear her and I left happy that I had.

Someone videoed the event and put it on Youtube.

An excellent performer, who I shall make a point of seeing again somewhere.